It seems as though a dispute with the neighbors started to become a major problem within the last two decades, and some of the ways people have making others miserable in their own homes can be practically sadistic. Living next to an uncooperative neighbor is awful on many levels. Financially, it can affect the property value of your home (think unkempt lawn and shrubs, old cars everywhere.) Emotionally, it can threaten your sense of well-being and safety.
The good news is: There are many actions you can take before moving or declaring war. If you find yourself in this situation, consider these below before a dispute arises:
- Think about where you’re living. Since this time of life is often about downsizing and moving, really assess the area around your new house or apartment. If the noise of kids playing irritates you, you‘ll probably be unhappy in a neighborhood of young families. If having cars in front of your house bugs you, don’t live near a popular park. Bottom line, think about your needs before diving into a neighborhood where you’re odd man out.
- Introduce yourself. If you’re new to a neighborhood or have lived there 35 years and have seen turnover with new families, introduce yourself and then say “hi” to everyone by name, even the young kids, whenever you see them. Familiarity can go a long way in defusing future problems. (And the kids won’t think you’re the old crank who won’t let them retrieve fly balls from the backyard!)
- Don’t make assumptions. The overgrown yard next door may be the result of sloppy neighbors. Or it may be because someone is ill or recently widowed. Visit your neighbors to ascertain why the lawn is untended. (You’ll quickly know if it’s the former or latter.) If it’s someone who needs help, offer to mow for them. Or suggest getting a kid in the neighborhood who’s started his own mowing business.
- Know the governing laws in your neighborhood. What are the regulations for noise, junk cars, un-mowed lawns, and trash in your municipality or homeowners’ association? (You can go to your local city or county homepage or try a site like Knowledge is power. If talking about your concerns in person with your neighbor doesn’t work (always the first step), call the authorities and file a complaint with your local police, homeowners association, or county office. The neighbor can be fined for non-compliance and may not appreciate your interference, but you are within your rights.
- Gather evidence. If a problem persists, keep a journal of dates and times of ongoing offenses. It may sound extreme, but you may want to consider installing a surveillance camera. The neighbor with hard evidence of harassment or infractions is always in a better position with authorities (the homeowner’s association or the municipality), than the out-of-control nut who rants.
- Consider mediation. Assuming your neighbors aren’t sociopaths, consider using a mediator (like Atkins Mediation Services, right here in Boise) to help resolve your differences. Mediation won’t assign blame; it will try to help you find a win-win so each of you gets what you need to live more harmoniously.