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12 Steps That Can Help You Deal With Bad Neighbors

Some of us are fortunate to live next door to the late Mr. Rogers. Neighbors, on the other hand, can range from annoyance to terror for many people. What options do you have? Because of a lack of communication, many neighbor issues wind up in court. If something hazardous or unlawful is going on, the cops are the obvious choice. However, if issues develop that are more ambiguous, communication is the greatest approach to save money and time. Here's how to be a nice neighbor while also dealing with a terrible one.

1. Let's get to know one another

Being a nice neighbor does not imply going on family vacations. Trust and understanding can be built simply by knowing someone well enough to say hello, or by borrowing a cup of sugar or lending a gardening tool. Strangers are far more likely than even casual acquaintances to escalate problems.

2. Prevent problems from becoming problems

If you're holding a party at your house, walk around to all of your neighbors who could be affected and give them both a verbal invitation as well as a card with your phone number. If the noise becomes unbearable or another issue arises, your neighbor can contact you instead of the authorities.

3. Take note of the issue

Start taking notes as soon as an issue arises, including times, dates, and images if necessary. This can be beneficial in three ways. First, it assists you in determining the severity of the problem: When you write it down, you could discover it's not such a huge concern, or you might find a solution. Second, you'll have evidence to back you up when you tell your neighbor about the incident. Finally, if necessary, proper record-keeping can demonstrate to authorities that you are serious and organized, rather than emotional and whiny.

4. It's time to talk about it

Don't assume your neighbor knows what's upsetting you; tell them what's bothering you. Instead of being passive-aggressive, be open and direct. Inquire about their opinions, and if possible, provide a solution that bridges the gap and indicates a willingness to compromise. Even if they aren't, maintain your composure and optimism.

5. Look for advice or comfort on the internet

Message boards on sites like Neighbors From Hell allow users to discuss their problems and help one another. This one is free to read and is full of common difficulties and sound advise, but if you would like to ask about a specific problem, you'll have to register for $50. Try sites like if you really want to vent.

6. Consult other neighbors

Check to see if anyone else on the block is having similar problems; they might be able to assist you. If one of your neighbors is closer to the troublemaker, invite them to join you in your discussion.

7. Ask around to see if anyone else agrees with you

If talking doesn't work, seek other assistance. If you're a member of a condo or homeowner's association, talk to them about the issue to see if they can address it faster than you can.

8. Consult a lawyer

You can seek legal advice and have them send a letter threatening legal action if you've exhausted all other options. Warning: Not only will this set you back a few hundred dollars, but it may also add fuel to the flames. Make it a last-ditch effort.

9. Obtain the services of a mediator

A neutral third party with dispute-resolution experience might be able to help you where you can't, but only if your neighbor is willing to discuss. It is, however, much less expensive than going to court — in some situations, it may even be free. The National Association for Community Mediation will help you find a local mediation program.

10. Compose a report

Do some research, write it up, and submit it to the relevant authorities if you feel your neighbor is breaking city rules. Municipal law can be found at, and information concerning code enforcement can be found on your city's website. If your neighborly conflict involves code violations, the city may be able to help you. But don't try reporting your neighbor's code issues anonymously. Not only will your neighbor discover out who "snitched" in the end, but they may detest you for being a passive-aggressive bother, making future circumstances more difficult. Keep in mind that you still have to live with these individuals.

11. Make a police report

If you've tried everything in good faith and still haven't gotten anywhere, calling the cops is the next step. You can describe the situation and demonstrate how you've attempted to work things out and taken notes, but keep in mind that they won't be able to do anything unless there's a violation of a law or ordinance. This is for things including excessive noise and criminal activities, not a tree branch that has fallen into your yard. Nonetheless, a police presence may demonstrate to your neighbor that you are not willing to let the problem go unsolved.

12. You can file a claim in small claims court

Because you may defend yourself, this is far less expensive than a larger case (which can cost $10,000 or more). However, you must do your homework — you must spell out the situation, offer facts, and calculate a reasonable damage estimate that you can defend when questioned. The amount of damages is normally set at a few thousand dollars, though this varies by state. And don't try to be Judge Judy: no fabrications, no pettiness.

What's the bottom line? Being a good neighbor – or dealing with a poor one – is all about communication, just like any other relationship.

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