When you’re an adult, you get the luxury of choosing who you live with. But no matter how old you are, you always face the luck of the draw when it comes to your neighbours. Good or bad, your neighbours can make a profound impact on your day to day life. Today we’re looking at a few useful ways to deal with bad neighbours.
Whether you live in a detached home, a semi, a townhouse, a condo or an apartment, bad neighbours can negatively impact your quality of life. While many people just grin and bear it, there are actions you can take to improve just about any situation. Our main recommendation is to try to resolve your neighbour woes peacefully and respectfully first. If pleasantly conveying your message doesn’t improve the situation, then it may be time to take legal action depending on the circumstance. Here are a few ice breaker solutions for bad neighbours.
Meet the neighbours
Many people have never formally met their neighbours by the time they discover an annoying problem, making it much harder to communicate the issue. Break the ice with a friendly knock on the door in the early evening (between 6pm and 8pm ideally). Don’t dive right into a complaint. Explain who you are and say you just wanted to introduce yourself. Let a week go by and if your problem is still an issue, plan another visit and gently let your neighbour know about your gripe—they may be more receptive to you after a polite introduction.
Explain the problem to your neighbour gently
The chances are your neighbour may not even be aware that their actions are negatively affecting you. Pay your neighbour a visit, or if you know them give them a call at a respectful hour. Gently explain the issue you have been having. If you can see a clear cut solution to the problem, pleasantly suggest it to them and say that you would greatly appreciate their cooperation. You catch more flies with honey.
Mindfulness can improve so much in life. It goes a long way when it comes to neighbour relations. Ask yourself honestly if you are a good neighbour. Are your actions respectful or inconsiderate? Is there anything about your behaviour towards your neighbours that could be improved? Positive energy can be infectious. Be the change you want to see in your neighbourhood and amazing things might happen naturally.
Two way street
Sometimes neighbours go bad when they believe that their neighbours (you!) are being disrespectful. If you visit or call your neighbour to convey your issue, be sure to inquire if they have any issues with you as well. Explain that your goal is for you both to feel respected and at ease at home. If your neighbour has an issue with you, be open minded and hear them out. Try to take the news with grace and convey that you will do your best to resolve the matter in future. Take appropriate action to resolve your neighbour’s issue with your behavior and it's more likely that they will do the same.
Here's an example of a two-way street neighbour dispute where right and wrong are difficult to assess:
My son applied for a variance through the town to change his attached carport into an attached garage with complete new roof on the home. Letters were sent to all surrounding neighbours and meetings at the town were attended by many. He got the permission, permits, etc. Construction took a couple of months and then [it] was inspected by the town. More than two years later his neighbour has filed a complaint against him demanding he pay for a survey. The town has complied by sending my son a letter to have one done. My question is why doesn’t the complaining neighbour have to pay for the survey? It’s like gathering evidence for the prosecution. My son had no reason to assume there was an issue.
If a passive approach doesn’t resolve your issue and you just can’t take it anymore, it may be time to talk to an authority. Follow these steps to initiate a more formal resolution.
Who to talk to
Depending on your living situation (house, townhouse, apartment, etc.) your choice of authority to confide in may vary. Renters, apartment, condo, and townhouse dwellers should start by speaking with a landlord or property manager. Keeping the peace in the property is a big part of their responsibilities and they have the authority in the building or complex to enforce necessary change.
Homeowners have a different situation. You most likely intend to live in your home for many years and your neighbours may be neighbours for that same amount of time. Be careful when taking more serious action. Ask yourself, is it worth the trouble? You may be creating a permanent rift between you and your neighbours so be sure you’re ready for the subtle and unpleasant consequences (dirty looks, etc.) that may ensue.
If you can’t handle the situation any longer then it may be time to start documenting the problem. If the problem is visible, snap some pictures or take a short video. This won’t help you in a noise complaint situation but may in other situations. You will need to collect pieces of evidence like these before talking to a lawyer or the police so you have some ground to stand on. Some extenuating circumstances can arise where you are unable to collect records—in this case, consult your lawyer or the police regardless of obtaining evidence.
Here is an example of a drawn out and extreme neighbour dispute where evidence could not be obtained:
I have been living in my Toronto home for nearly 10 years. I bought it while it was getting built in 2004. My neighbour [has lived] in her home for nearly 30 years. Not only are we having a property line dispute, she is also causing property damage. She has cut all the vent pipes on my wall, and stuffed it with garbage, plastic bags, rocks, etc. She also damaged my rain gutter/downspout pipe. Unfortunately, all the vent pipes, water meter, and rain gutter pipes are all faced on the side that she has easy access to. I have [had] a recent survey of my home, and 1.5 feet from my wall is mine but she doesn’t allow me to use my space. She also doesn’t allow me to put up a fence (I’ve tried numerous times, she tore it down). I am not able to prove the damages is caused by her because she is breaking the surveillance camera by hiring masked men. What can I do?
Turning to the law
Is the law on your side? Are you neighbours’ actions illegal? These are a few of the preliminary questions you need to ask yourself before bringing in a lawyer or the police. Do some online research to see how other people have dealt with similar situations. If you have a lawyer it may be worth calling them to talk about your potential case. If your research demonstrates that you do have grounds to pursue legal action, call a lawyer or the police to discuss your options.
Before you call the cops
While you may be tempted to call the police right away after your neighbour ignores your polite complaint, take a deep breath and wait. There are other people you can call before the police that won’t make your response seem as extreme. For example, if you are dealing with excessively loud music, call the non-emergency police number. For crazy yards, call the Homeowners Association (where applicable) or a city nuisance abatement officer. Your neighbour may be violating municipal codes and it is the officer’s job to investigate the matter.
If you decide to call the police, warn your neighbours. Let them know how serious you are—they might back down from the threat alone. It's also best not to catch them totally off guard with a visit from the police.
End of the line
Calling the police should be your last and most extreme course of action in a neighbour dispute. By calling the police you are almost guaranteeing a poor future relationship with your neighbours so it is to be avoided at all costs for the best outcome in this situation. That being said, extreme situations call for extreme measures. Consider talking to a friend who can offer you an objective point of view first. Would they call the police? Do they think the situation is as bad as you do? Perspective is key when making decisions you can’t take back. Here's an example of a neighbour who called the police which only made matters worse:
I have been dealing with bad neighbours for the past eight years or so. Mine have been known for drugs and alcohol but the local law enforcement have been unable to "catch them in the act" aside from this: the older kids, over the past few years, have cut holes in my fence, destroyed my gardens and flowerbeds, thrown garbage and broken glass onto my property, and have harassed me while I have been out cleaning up the aftermath of their destructive behaviour to my property. I have made several complaints to the local RCMP but I feel that even their coming over to "defuse" these situations have done no good and have only added fuel to the fire.
Create the best home environment possible by forging friendly relationships with your neighbours. Dealing with bad neighbours doesn’t have to be impossible or even painful. When you treat others with respect you can usually resolve most issues without great difficulty.