Things with your neighbor have been rocky pretty much since you moved in. They’ve tossed garbage and grass clipping piles over the fence into your yard, they allow their dog to run loose onto your property, and they crank up the music late at night while you’re trying to sleep. But when does a frequent annoyance cross the line into your neighbor harassing you?
And if your neighbor is harassing you, what can you do about it?
FREQUENT TYPES OF NEIGHBOR HARASSMENT & CONFLICT
Living close together with other people isn’t always easy, especially if you and your neighbor have polar opposite personalities or lifestyles.
While living in close proximity with anyone requires some measure of compromise and can lead to annoyances, there are some cases where a pattern of behavior is more than just a personality clash and instead becomes your neighbor harassing you.
Here are some common ways that your neighbor may harass you:
- Boundary disputes
- Animal issues
- Property damage
- Nuisance, such as leaving garbage about or not mowing the lawn
- Violence or physical contact
Many neighbors experience occasional or even frequent tension over one or more of the above conditions, but that doesn’t mean the relationship has risen to the level of harassment.
HOW CAN I PROVE I HAVE A NEIGHBOR HARASSING ME?
To rise to the level of harassment, you must be able to prove that your neighbor is causing the problems in an effort to frighten or frustrate you. If, for example, they have a dog that continues to escape their yard even after you’ve spoken to them about it, it doesn’t count as harassment unless one of your neighbors is purposely letting the dog out of the yard into yours when no one is looking.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I BELIEVE MY NEIGHBOR IS HARASSING ME?
If you believe you have a neighbor harassing you, there are several steps you may take.
- Talk to your neighbor: If you don’t feel your neighbor poses a physical threat to you, the first step is to try talking with them to see if there is an amicable way to resolve the situation. Try approaching your neighbor in a friendly, neutral manner and keep control of your emotions as best you can. You may want to have someone else present, such as a friend or another neighbor.
- Document the problems: Any time you have another incident relating to your neighbor, or you attempt to talk with them to resolve the issue, write down a narrative of what happened in a dedicated notebook. If there is the opportunity to take photos or video of any damage or threats, keep these safe on a computer.
- Get mediation: Sometimes, a neutral third party can help with some of the more minor – but still frustrating – situations, such as boundary disputes or animal issues. You and your neighbor will sit down with the mediator in an attempt to come to an agreement.
- Protective orders: If you feel that your neighbor’s harassment poses a threat to your person, your property, or someone who lives in your home, you can go through the courts to get a protective order or a no-contact order.
- Demand letter: Hiring an attorney should be among your lines of last resort, as initiating legal action can make your neighbor more hostile and likely to harass you further. However, if you do hire an attorney, they can write a letter outlining exactly what action you want your neighbor to take (paying you back for damage to your property, keeping noise levels low after a certain time of night, etc.) and a deadline for taking this action.
- Litigation: If all attempts at talking to your neighbor, mediating the issue, and having your attorney send a demand letter have failed, you may need to file a lawsuit. This will require all the proof you’ve gathered and can be a lengthy process.
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