You’ve just moved into a your new home and have nearly gotten settled. You’re getting familiar with your new neighborhood, your new home, your new life. But one dark secret your real esate agent can not possibly prepare you for is the unthinkable: a nasty neighbor. One of the most delicate parts of owning your own home is navigating the ins-and-outs of neighbor relationships. Too often, minor disputes with a neighbor get blown out of proportion and can lead to legal trouble for everyone involved. Communication is the simple answer to many of these problems, but it is unfortunately often the last thing people turn to in order to resolve the situation. Here, then, are some ways to handle problems with neighbors.
- Meet the Neighbors. One of the easiest ways to head off problems with neighbors is simply getting to know them. Learn their names, speak to them when you see them, offer to help them if you see them working in the yard. Doing this shows that you see the neighbor as a real person and will head off problems that may arise.
- Head Off Problems Early. Treat your neighbors as you would want to be treated. If you are planning to have a party, tell your neighbors in advance so they won’t be surprised or inconvenienced by the heavy traffic or noise. Also, invite them to the party and give them your phone number. That way, if a problem does arise, they will call you instead of the police.
- Communicate. If something happens that upsets you, talk to your neighbor. Be plain and to the point when you do this so that there is no ambiguity about how you feel. Try to work on a compromise while being calm and polite.
- Take Notes. If a problem does arise that you cannot fix by talking or heading off the problem, take notes of what is going on. This will help you take stock of the severity of the problem and give you documentation if you try to talk to the neighbor or, as a last resort, talk to the police.
- Vent. Find a way to vent your frustration by talking to other neighbors or even going online to chat rooms and message boards. Maybe they can offer advice or give you some perspective as to how to handle the situation. It may also just give you a chance to talk about your frustration and get it out of your system.
- Go to a Mediator. If you need a mediator or someone who can help your case along, go to the Homeowner’s Association or some similar neighborhood group to see if they can help bring about some resolution.
- Get Legal Advice. As a last resort, you may want to contact a lawyer to find out your options. If necessary, take your neighbor to small claims court to avoid heavier legal fees.
- Contact the Authorities. If something illegal is going on, document what you see and then turn it over to the proper authorities. This should be only if something illegal is happening or if it is truly unacceptable behavior that cannot be modified in some other way. Calling the police will probably generate animosity that will be awkward, as you still have to live near these people.
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