Tips for Dealing With Neighbors

SEATTLE ( Zillow) -- Your home may be your castle, or your refuge or your treasured investment, but those warm and fuzzy feelings can sometimes, unfortunately, be rudely intruded upon by your neighbors.

Rusted cars strewn about the property, right in your line of vision?
You can try and turn a blind eye to the things driving that you nuts or take some steps to mitigate frustrations born of a nuisance neighbor.

Unkempt grounds, which make you consider volunteering for clean-up duty so you spruce up your view?

A dog that barks incessantly at passers-by, gusts of wind or its own shadow?

A fence or garden lawn sculpture that pushes the boundaries of good taste?

Any of these nerve-wracking scenarios is enough to sour your domestic tranquillity and prompt unpleasant thoughts of revenge or moving far away, fast.

While you can try and turn a blind eye to the things driving that you nuts, there are a few things you can do to mitigate frustrations born of a nuisance neighbor. The key goal is to not aggravate the problem or make a tricky situation any worse.

1. Communicate first
How well do you know your neighbor? Have you considered that they may have a good reason for not mowing their lawn or a broken-down vehicle in their driveway? It is easy to jump to conclusions or harbor feelings of anger. But sometimes it's impossible to know or anticipate what your neighbor's situation might be. Before you do anything, including call the police or municipal code enforcement agencies, it is wise to talk face-to-face with your neighbor. Approach your issue respectfully and see if any amends can be made. You may get an unfriendly response, but sometimes the mere act of your concerns may prompt a positive response you would have never anticipated.

2. Talk to other neighbors or a homeowners association
If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners' association, it may be most appropriate to address your concerns in this group setting. You can vet the problem, including steps you've already taken to try to mitigate the situation. If you don't have an association, it can still be be helpful to seek the counsel of other neighbors. If you are renting, you may also take the issues to your landlord, who may have ties to the neighborhood that can achieve better results.

3. Research your rights
While you may hate the color your neighbors chose for their home, it probably isn't something you have any control over. There are other issues, however, that can be brought to your city or local government. Contact your code compliance departments to see what issues they have addressed in their jurisdiction. If there's a potential safety or health violation, local authorities will want to be involved, especially around these issues:
  • dilapidated structures, fences
  • abandoned vehicles, either in the street or on properties
  • outdoor storage or junk
  • yard maintenance
  • trash disposal
  • vegetation overgrowth
  • vacant buildings
  • parking or common area issues

Issues of noise and animals are usually delegated to the police and animal control, respectively.

Some cities will even offer a mediator to come to your neighborhood and work with the opposing parties to find a solution.

>>Dealing With the Neighbor From Hell

4. File a complaint
If your own attempts to mitigate an issue have failed, you can take it a step further. In most instances, photos, notes and dates will be necessary to document your case. Each municipality will depend on the amount of time they'll take to deal with the complaint. Most cities will first send a formal warning and inspector to follow up with the neighbor. While some cities allow anonymous complaints, you may have to identify yourself in further proceedings.

5. Municipal court and beyond
It's rare, but some neighborhood problems will be directed to the civil or criminal court system depending on the severity. Obviously any illegal activity will fall under the jurisdiction of the police and homes that are determined to be a health hazard can be torn down by the city.

End problems before they start
The easiest way to avoid neighborhood issues is to build a good rapport with your neighbors. You don't need to be best friends with the people living on either side of you, but waving and making an effort at small talk can go a long way.

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