Your home is supposed to be your personal sanctuary; whether you live in a house, townhouse, apartment, or condo. While you can control what goes on inside the four walls of your personal space, a neighbour, good or bad, can make or break the quality of your living arrangement.
Two years ago we posted a piece brimming with helpful tips on how to deal with bad neighbours. Since that time we have been contacted by a number of people looking for advice since they are struggling to cope with bad neighbour problems that have spun out of control and made things unbearable.
The advice offered in the first article provides excellent general preliminary steps on how to work your way through most problems through an open dialogue and conflict resolution. While all of these situations are best dealt with mature face-to-face conversations, there are particular scenarios when you feel like you need to take things to the next level.
In order to help those who are dealing with escalating neighbour problems, we’ve created a part two to the series that dives a little deeper into some common neighbour related issues, and offers practical solutions to implement in early stages of conflict and after the communication lines have faltered.
I have a bad neighbour, who is very against me doing an addition and a second level top up. They even tried to appeal to the committee of adjustments approval, but to no success.
I’m about to get permits for construction, but I was informed I may have to breach into their property because we sit so close to property line. I've looked up the permit to breach, but that is for old construction for safety & health. Is there anything I can do so even if the neighbour complains I could just shove it in their face?
Major renovations are an inconvenience for everyone involved: they’re messy, costly, and loud. When undergoing a large project (demolition, extension or addition) that is going to create a significant increase in traffic, noise pollution, and some days that the exterior of your home isn’t going to look pristine. It’s best to warn your neighbours ahead of time.
Once you have ‘greenlit’ your project plans, visit all of your surrounding neighbours (and the ones directly across the street). Provide them with all of the details you can surrounding the final result of the project, time-frame, as well as your contact information and your contractors for the time during the renovation (this is particularly important if you’ll be moving out temporarily).
Show your neighbours places where the view from their home will be particularly different after the renovation to help prepare them for the change. It’s also a good idea to show them these plans before seeking permit approval since this shows them that their input is valued (also make sure that you respectfully listen to their input towards project while realizing it’s your house and your money).
As long as everything you are moving towards is legal and reasonable, most neighbours won't mind. If you notice that your new balcony overlooks their pool, odds are you can find a way to give everyone the privacy they deserve. If not, try to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. It never hurts to show up with some fresh baked cookies or another peace offering to show that you’re a good neighbour who cares.
Keep in mind that your project will be annoying, and will be an inconvenience to your neighbours. If you’re not living in the house during the renovation to monitor closely, you need to be particularly sensitive. When the project is underway it’s a good idea to check in with your neighbours. Approach them honestly about any delays and respond swiftly to any complaints they have.
Make sure the work team cleans up at the end of each day to avoid debris ending up in your neighbour’s yard. If their cars get covered in drywall dust, pay to have them washed. Make sure that the work crew is abiding by the standard construction time guidelines for your neighbourhood. Small gestures can go a long way towards keeping the peace! After the renovation is over, don’t forget to invite your neighbours over for some tea or cocktails so they can see the final result.
The alternative to playing nice is your neighbours complaining, a stop work order being issued, and your contractor potentially being warned and/or fined. If one neighbour does complain, odds are the solid relationship you’ve worked on building with your other neighbours could help keep your project running in the agreed upon timeline.
Bullying In The Backyard
I live next to a neighbour from hell, they have lived next to us for 8 years. We have had property damage on our house, crotch-grabbing, damage to vehicles. They would smash their car into ours.
They were yelling, calling the police stating we assaulted them even when we were not there. They are making things up!
The police don’t take us seriously, they say it's just a neighbour dispute. I fear for my children and husband that they will somehow harm them. The list is very long for what they do. Today the police came and started accusing my husband of following one of them. We have a son with leukemia and I have thyroid cancer, we don’t need the extra stress and who has the time for this? We need help but from whom, we don’t know. We would love to move but financially we can't. They won't leave us alone.
My niece has a neighbour who is making her life a living hell. This neighbour (thought to have alcohol/chemical dependency) has called Children’s Aid saying that the children are not fed properly and are not dress appropriately.
Children’s Aid visited my niece and found the complaint unfounded. A few days later this same neighbour called SPCA complaining that the dog for foaming at the mouth and vicious. The visit from SPCA was again unfounded. My niece has been accused of egging her house, which she did not do. In fact her house was egged as well.
I should mention that this is a townhouse. This neighbour also complaints constantly to the landlord about my niece as well as other tenants. My niece approached this neighbour to find out why she is doing this and her comment was that "I will do whatever to get you to move".
My niece has done nothing to this neighbour to be treated like this. The landlord (who I might add is a slum lord, but that is a different subject) contacts my niece every time this neighbour complains even though there is no basis for her complaints. What can be done? She does not have the ability to move.
Bullying, unfortunately, doesn’t stop in the schoolyards. There are a number of grown-up bullies, and even worse they could be your neighbours. In 2013, a legal case between Ralph Scala and father Felice, known as the "Junction Bully", justice was served to 28 neighbours who had been terrorized by this unneighbourly creep. Former neighbours suffered through over ten years of stress and fear at the hands of Scala who damaged cars, threatened them, threw rocks at windows, and flooded lawns. The ruling of the case led to a restraint order which forced the Junction Bully to stay outside of the area from St. Clair to Lakeshore and Jane Street to Landsdowne, in addition to remaining at least 500 metres away from the neighbours he once intimidated on a daily basis.
Thankfully, most neighbour issues don’t reach this level of scope and trauma, however there are certain steps you can take if you are being bullied by your neighbour. First off, if you aren’t fearing for your safety, try to talk it out calmly and civilly like adults. If that is not possible or you do and nothing changes, make sure you keep detailed notes about the issue and your meetings. If you’re renting, contact your building management company or landlord to see what they can do to help with the issue at hand. Because you are providing specific evidence they will be better able to address it.
Mortgage Broker and Landlord Simmer Principio says,
I want to keep my tenants happy because it’s in everyone’s best interest. Happy renters stay in the property longer and may even provide referrals to other friends looking for a place to live. If I have a neighbour or a tenant driving others away, it’s not just a community problem, it’s a business problem that is impacting my bottom line. Building management can’t ignore complaints of bullying or harassment, period.
Another option is to contact your city or building for mediation to help mitigate the problem and find a reasonable solution for everyone. If that fails, you could always go the legal route, which can be costly, time consuming, and damage the relationship beyond repair. Sometimes it’s just not worth it, particularly if it is impacting your health and quality of life, and you’re better off considering a move.
Yard Maintenance & Garbage
I live in a townhouse and between my unit and the next unit, there is a grass area about 5×12. The new neighbour, a tenant, moved in October 2016. They are using this area as a dumping ground. (plastic bag, pots, plastic bottle, paper, old furniture, you name it.....).
I can’t speak with them as I get furious each time I come out of the house, so nothing good will come out of it. So I wrote them a letter instead. Within minutes they cleaned up.
They have so much out now, that the garbage piled up to about a 2ft tower. With the snow covering it, I have not idea if the city will pick it up. I am a single woman living alone and kind of worried that if I take action they might retaliate, but I don't have a choice. Would you know who to contact on this matter? I have pictures to show too.
I’ve been living in my house for the past 16 years. None of my neighbours on either side maintains their properties. I cut their lawn, dig their weeds and water their grass, and things were going ok until last year when we had a downspout put in between our houses.
Everything is to code, but apparently, the water spout which is nowhere close to their property is jumping onto their driveway and causing it to crack. It was raining and we caught her damaging our spout kicking it. We had to call the police and we had no evidence but they spoke to her to which she replied she was kicking the stones close to the spout!
The police basically said they can't do anything to contact the city anyways. Then they called the city who then told us to put an extension to the spout so it goes directly onto the grass which we did. The city guy came checked everything is in order and we were hoping this chapter is finally closed. But no, now that snow has fallen she has dug like a well in the middle of both our lawns. She knows how I like the property maintained and does these things to provoke me. I feel I'm living in my home on my own property with no peace. She's always trying to do things to provoke us. What can we do? Please help it's driving us crazy!
It’s best to tread lightly when it comes to dealing with your neighbours, particularly when it comes to how they maintain their yards. Often people are unaware that a problem even exists, and many are happy to resolve it. Some people prefer to remain anonymous and send a typed letter via the post to complain about an unkempt lawn or pile of garbage that needs to be cleaned up. This also potentially protects your anonymous identity should you need to go to the city about the problem. If the neighbours are renters, consider contacting the homeowner directly, since it is their responsibility to ensure their property is properly maintained.
Before you complain, in person or via anonymous note, do your homework. Research your area’s zoning laws and protocol so you know if you are within your rights to complain.
If all of this fails to work, keep detailed notes on the events that have happened, including dates and times, take pictures and/or video of your evidence, and take note of other neighbours who have also voiced similar concerns. If you wish to file a complaint about your neighbour’s grass and weeds exceeding the height of 8 inches or 20cms, you can call 311 to voice your complaints, and the city will send your neighbour a notice providing the offenders with two weeks to maintain their lawn, or they will provide the maintenance and add it onto their property tax bill.
For neighbours who have lawns littered with garbage, you can contact 311 to complain using Chapter 629, Property Standards 9, 10B and 22A which , "requires all yards and any other part of a private property be kept free from garbage, pests or conditions that may attract pests or constitute a health, fire or other hazard. Garbage that is kept on private property has to be stored in containers."
For your litter bug neighbour chapter 548, Littering and Dumping, Section 548-3, "makes it an offence for anyone to dump garbage including organic waste (including fresh, frozen, dried, cooked, prepared foods and leftovers) on any piece of land in Toronto."
This is the reason you don't want Harry Potter as your neighbour
I live in Vaughn. My neighbour has a big and very loud dog. They put their dog in the backyard as early as 6:30 am when it's still dark outside. The dog barks constantly.
We can’t sleep at all. My doctor put me on antidepressants because of it. I filed a complaint with video evidence with the city. The inspector from animal service phoned me after few days that we left a notice at their home to call us. The barking is still going on. Can’t sleep. Trying to contact city but no response from them. Please, what actions can I take?
I have some neighbours that just recently bought a puppy. They deliberately pick up the puppy from where it wanted to do its business (which is beside their property, on their lawn), and move it/train it to poop on our lawn!
I’ve even looked out and opened the window, and they saw me watching them let their puppy on our lawn, but they just ignored me (they usually do this at night when they think no one can see them, but also in full daylight).
I live in a single, detached home so there shouldn’t be any reason for them to push their dog on our lawn (as their lawn is equal in size to ours). I love dogs, and it’s not the puppy’s fault for their disrespectful behaviour. Please help, as this is quite stressful!
What a nightmare! Pets can enrich our lives, but our neighbours don’t always feel the same way. It is a pet owner’s responsibility to make sure that your pet does not disturb your neighbours. Toronto has anti-noise bylaws to help people file complaints surrounding repeated barking, whining or noise-making of any animal in a residential area under Municipal Code Chapter 591. Fees for these offences on the first conviction can clock in at a maximum of $5,000. Most noise complaints received in the city are related to dogs. If an approach to your neighbour about their noisy pet doesn’t improve the issue, call Toronto Animal Services at 416-338-PAWS or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and report it. If the problem continues, legal action can be taken against the pet owner, and Animal Services can educate you as the complainant about next steps.
Neighbour letting their dog defecate on your lawn? A lot of people don’t realize that even if they clean up after their dog it can damage private property. If talking isn’t working you can contact the city at 311. Tickets are generally around $250 for owners who fail to take proper action to remove excrement left by a dog.
Bit by a neighbour’s dog? If you are not satisfied with your neighbour’s response to this bite, after getting any medical attention you need you can report the dog who bit you to Toronto Animal Services, seven days a week between 830AM to 730PM.
What do you do with three annoying neighbours?
I have one next to me who is renting and they do not care for their lawn. They have BBQs and throw their bones in the backyard causing rats to run in and out of our backyards. We had asked them to split the cost on our fence that separates our backyards due to the fact that it’s not stable and they refused. We do not have any information about the people who own the house.
Then on the other side, there is a lady who calls to give anyone and everyone tickets on cars that park on the side of the curb after three hours. She also gets another lady who lives a house down to measure people’s driveways when people are home. I find these people ridiculous. Also, the lady that calls to ticket people has dogs. Her dog bit mine through the fence. I filed a complaint and she said we will not get a cent out of her cause she knew people in the city of Mississauga. To this day I have not received any information or email back on the case with my dog and it has been three years. Any ideas to deal with the trio that torments our neighbourhood?
I have rodent issues, they seem to have multiple entry points into my house! I had pest control over and they stated my two major issues are 1) my neighbour feeding the rodents peanuts and birdseed and 2) the neighbours tree that is over my house.
When I confronted my neighbour she appeared to listen! But five days after this day of discovery, she is still feeding the rodents! As stated, I have multiple rodent entry points on the house, all within 15 feet of where this lady is feeding the rodents. They have also damaged the interior drywall in one room.
I had a tree company come out and look at the tree, but they wanted her commitment to cutting it, or they wouldn’t get involved with it. They also stated that the rodent food is the number one issue I’m facing. Any advice would be appreciated...
If your neighbour doesn’t understand the consequences of feeding wildlife, even when you try explaining it to them, you should be aware that they are breaking city bylaws in Toronto and Hamilton. Animals who are fed by humans can become dependent on artificial food sources and will lose their natural fear of humans and domesticated pets, which becomes a riskier situation for everyone involved.
This can also lead to unwanted animals who become aggressive when they don’t get the food they’ve become accustomed to receiving. Complaints can be made to the city by contacting 311, where the city will take the time to educate and warn residents. If the feeding does not stop Municipal Licensing and Standards will start an investigation and charges can be laid under City of Toronto Municipal Code such as Chapter 608, Parks, Section 608 - 36.
My friend's neighbours have a camera pointed directly at his property (his driveway and door entrance). The camera is not pointed at the owner's property at all. This neighbour is situated on the left of his detached home and they watch when he and his guests come and go and call the police should any perceived infraction occur, such as parking for more than three hours on the street most of which are proven to be false. These calls and complaints happen sometimes more than three or four times a day! As a friend I have driven in and caught the neighbour peeping around looking in and around his property because I assume, his car was not there, so they assumed he was not home and did not recognise my car. They have also uttered discriminatory slurs towards him because he is gay. My friend is renting this house....moving is not an option, what can he do?
Some areas are really competitive when it comes to readily available parking spaces, which means that at any point and time you could be vying for that perfect spot with the person who lives next to you. Sometimes this can lead to heated parking disputes, whether it’s guests parking for too long, or parking too close to a neighbour’s driveway.
Even if you aren’t technically blocking a driveway, you can also be fined for parking within 60 centimeters of a laneway or driveway if someone is going by the precise letter of the law. It’s often best to let these situations slide, particularly if you and your guests are parking for longer than the regulated time. As annoying as this can be, when a neighbour calls the parking authority, they are within their right to do so. Try to problem solve around this.
Have a neighbour with a driveway? Consider asking them if you or a guest can park in their driveway during your next soiree to avoid your guests getting ticketed. Don’t forget to thank your neighbours who lend their driveways with some flowers or chocolates.
Not Respecting Boundaries
My neighbour is a retired city employee. He was, at best, surly when he approached us to tell us what he thought about something in the past. I had to tell him not to bother us anymore; then police had to get involved...a few years ago he widened his driveway – more than a foot onto our property - something I pointed out but was not given the time of day. I was forced to build a fence without resolving the driveway issue due to his constant incursions into our yard and garage – we would’ve built the fence anyway for the sake of our kids and dogs.
I cannot find a suitable location to run the water away from my house and when I dig trenches along the other side of my fence, he fills them in (the fence is not built up to the property line; he parked a truck on the encroached driveway portion that hasn’t moved since – and can’t. City won’t remove it as derelict because they’re buddy-buddy). All I want is the encroached driveway removed so I plant some small hedge-type trees to offset the fence being farther off the line. But I couldn’t talk to him about it – he hit me when I tried (police said that was ok since I was at his door).
I’m worried about legal costs – or at least my wife is. I’m worried we have waited too long. We have a survey and performed a boundary mark up before we built the fence – the survey is on record with the city. Why do we need to pay money to have him removed from our property? How can we deal with this?
Sometimes neighbours won’t respect property boundaries. After you’ve tried looking at your respective deeds to see where the property lines are, if no resolution is reached you’ll need to pay for a survey of the land. Depending on your relationship with the neighbour you can split the cost. If tensions are high, it’s likely worthwhile to pay for it yourself.
Once you know what the boundaries are, you can notify them and they should make the required changes/ move their things. If this does not work you can contact the City of Toronto and submit a fence dispute application where the fence viewers will help you decide on an appropriate and logical space to place a divisional fence, and even make a call on who pays for what.
After you know exactly where your boundaries are, they should move their belongings. If not, try going to mediation. Many homeowners associations offer mediation services. If yours does not, you can hire a private mediator to help you work through the encroachment issues. Otherwise, you will have to go to court and have a judge order the guy next door - to keep his things next door.
What If You’ve Had Complaints Called on You?
I have been living in this furnished apartment in an upper unit for a few months now with my husband and three children aged below 6 years. My neighbour below is retired. He has been complaining to the management about noise.
I did all I can to reduce the children noise to the minimum. But it seems he has taken it so far and I think he has depression so he is overreacting. He fires a horn every time someone steps a foot on the floor. But tonight I heard him shout after I dropped the mobile on the floor. I am terrified. I don't know if he has gone mad and if he may harm us. I'm not in a position to move now, what can I do?
If your neighbour is complaining about you, take heart and think about it from their perspective before you react. If you’re in a building with thin walls and ceilings, take off your shoes when you get home and try to walk with a lighter step, and put down a carpet. If it seems unwarranted, connect with your building management to see if there is something they can do. Pick up after your pets, and be kind before you start a war with your neighbour. For tips on building a better relationship with your neighbours from day one, consider reading some advice here or here.