There are a few ways to negotiate and reason with a difficult neighbor
Neighbors can be excruciating (so can their pets and kids). But how you approach a neighbor dispute can have a big impact on your future relationship and happiness at home.
Unless you live pretty remotely, you probably have a neighbor somewhere. When people live in close proximity, sometimes there are disagreements—this is natural, and hopefully easily resolved.
We can’t usually choose our neighbors, though. Like with family, sometimes there are people you don’t get along with and there’s not much you can do but deal with them. Hopefully, you can handle a dispute with kind words and mature conversation, but that’s not always the case.
Here are some tips for how to handle a neighbor dispute, and what to do if you can’t reach a resolution.
Handle a neighbor dispute
Communication is key!
The first step is to initiate a polite and cordial conversation with the neighbor. Be prepared with a proposed solution or compromise so that you can make suggestions. Try to approach the conversation at a time when everyone is calm and agreeable to talking. Be sure to take their perspective into consideration—every dispute has two sides, and a compromise means accepting both.
Maintain written records.
If your complaints are about specific incidents, take notes. Note the type of incident (with details), dates and times. You should also take notes of conversations with the neighbor or any attempts to resolve the dispute. This might help you later if you need to involve a mediator or prove that you acted in good faith.
Consider a neutral third party.
If a direct conversation with your neighbor hasn’t helped the matter, you might consider enlisting a mediator. This doesn’t need to be a legal proceeding; if you belong to a Homeowners Association (HOA)—or even if you don’t—there might be someone who can act as a neutral party. This person can review both parties’ points of view and help guide you to a resolution without being the decisionmaker. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a facilitator who can guide the conversation, help brainstorm ways to compromise, and assist in reaching a mutually agreeable solution.
Know your rights and applicable laws and regulations.
If your homeowners association has rules or if there are local laws or ordinances applicable to the situation, be familiar with them. This can help if you believe your neighbor is violating a rule, and can guide you if you are in violation.
Keep your cool.
It might sound obvious, but not everyone thinks this part through ahead of time. Any conflict can become emotionally charged. In a neighbor dispute that might involve pets or children, this could be even more so. But if you lose your temper, it’s going to make it more difficult to reach resolution. Definitely don’t seek vengeance or retaliate if things don’t go the way you want. That’s when you need to look for alternatives because the parties can’t work it out on your own.
Brainstorm. Workaround. Think outside the box.
Whatever buzzphrase you prefer is fine—but try to imagine a creative or different way to resolve the situation. If you and the neighbor are both invested in reaching a mutually agreeable outcome, perhaps together, you can figure out a way to make that happen.
Make a report to local officials.
If the neighbor’s actions are illegal, causing property damage, or are safety hazards, you might need to involve local authorities. This is where documentation could be important. If you have photos or other evidence of illegal behavior, you can contact the appropriate municipal officer and have them handle the situation.
Consult a lawyer.
If the matter is a small injury or property loss, you can take your issue to small claims court. Each state has a different threshold for the maximum financial recovery permitted through the small claims process.
However, if you’re seeking some other relief, like an injunction or restraining order—or something different—a lawyer is the best person to ask about your options.
You can contact a lawyer to help you navigate and negotiate a dispute, even if it never leads to a lawsuit. This is particularly useful if you’re dealing with a toxic tort or premises liability claim, including a dog bite or similar.