Whether it's your starter home or the dream home you plan to stay in forever, you want your house to be a peaceful refuge where you can retreat at the end of the day. A bully neighbor can rob you of that relaxing feeling and turn your neighborhood into a nightmare. Figuring out how to deal with neighbors who are bullies depends largely on the behaviors you're seeing and the resources available in your neighborhood.
As soon as you realize you're dealing with bully neighbors, start documenting all interactions. Write down the dates and times of all incidents involving the neighbor. Take photos or videos of the problems the neighbors cause. If you involve the police, keep a copy of the police report, and document the date and time the police are called. This documentation can be useful if the situation escalates to criminal charges or any type of litigation.
It's easy to get caught up in the emotions of the situation, but keeping a cool head helps you make the best decisions. It may also prevent escalation of the situation. Avoid the temptation to retaliate, to call your neighbor names or to lash out in response to something your neighbor does or says. If you lose your composure, the bully has the upper hand and enjoys knowing he pushed your buttons.
Try Talking it Out
In some cases, it's best to keep your distance from a bullying neighbor. In other situations, expressing your feelings can help improve the relationship. Avoid emotional accusations, ultimatums and blaming your neighbor for the situation. Instead, bring it up directly, and explain exactly what the problem is. Be assertive without acting like a bully yourself. Have the discussion on the sidewalk or on the property line instead of going onto your neighbor's property where he has the upper hand. Focus on working together to solve the situation.
Get Help From the Homeowners Association
If you live in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners association, contact the group for help in dealing with the bullying problem. If the neighborhood conflict relates to a neighbor violating a neighborhood covenant, the association may be more likely to take action.
You may also find some power in banding together with other neighbors. Perhaps you're not the only one who has dealt with the bullying behaviors. If you stand up against the bully as a group, it's more difficult for the neighbor to continue the bullying activity. Having another neighbor witness communication you have with the neighbor can also keep the situation under control and give you more evidence if the situation escalates.
If you can't work out the situation by communicating directly with your neighbor, consider help from a mediator. A third party may be able to help resolve conflicts that are causing the bullying situation. For the best results, look for a mediator with experience in disputes between neighbors.
Call the Police
Bullying behaviors that put you in immediate danger or break laws warrant a call to the police. Your local police department can't act as a mediator or choose sides in the situation. However, the police can protect you if your neighbor turns violent, damages your property or threatens you in a way that makes you feel unsafe. Your local police department may also be able to suggest local resources for mediating the situation.
Pursue Legal Action
When you've exhausted your options, it's worth considering legal action against your bully neighbor. You may need to get a restraining order or press charges if your neighbor continually harasses you. You may be able to sue your neighbor if you decide to sell your house and she intentionally tries to stop the sale. Keep in mind you need evidence of your neighbor's behavior when you pursue legal action, so your documentation is very important. Discuss the situation with your lawyer if you're ready to take legal action. Your lawyer can advise you on potential legal options.