Even the best of neighbors don’t see eye to eye all the time. To help you make peace with those who share your property line, here are five tips for how to handle neighbor disputes. Use them to settle your differences before things get out of control.
- Understand the problem. Before things escalate, make sure you completely understand the problem. If it is a property-line dispute, check your deed to see where the line actually lies. If it’s a noise dispute, keep a detailed record of how often this problem occurs and for how long. It’s possible that the problem may not be as bad as you think. If it does require action, documentation will strengthen your case.
- Know thy neighbor. It's common these days to know very little about our neighbors when compared to previous generations. Learning more about your neighbor could be beneficial to your long-term relationship. Discuss things you both have in common, such as your families, your neighborhood, your hobbies or sports. If you and your neighbor know each other as people apart from any complaints, any concerns will be easier to resolve.
- Be respectful. When it comes time to voice your concern to your neighbor, the manner in which you do so will have a huge influence on the result. If you yell at your neighbor or are visibly angry, you can expect to receive the same treatment in response. If this happens, neither side wins. Instead, it's best to voice your concerns in an even tone and take the time to listen to your neighbor. Maybe he simply isn’t aware of the problem. Or maybe he is and has already taken steps to fix it. If your neighbor is not aware of the problem, seek his insight by asking what he thinks can be done to fix the situation. Offer your own solutions, too. Working together is the best way to ensure a good outcome.
- Consult with other neighbors. If the issue is known all around the neighborhood, other neighbors may share your concern. Take the time to discuss the issue with your fellow neighbors and see if you are all in agreement. There is strength in numbers, after all. Just be careful not to “gang up” on the unsuspecting neighbor.
- Seek professional help. Unfortunately, not all situations can be handled amicably. If a disagreement with a neighbor can’t be resolved, it’s best to get professional help involved. Police, city employees or lawyers can all help explain the law and clear up the situation. Doing so may be uncomfortable, but a final resolution will keep you and your neighbor on good relations.
Some disputes may involve your insurance company in addition to your neighbor. In the next post, learn how insurance works when the issue involves both you and your neighbor.