One of the most challenging experiences as a new homeowner is dealing with bad neighbors. You’ve finally moved into a great home after a long search, and you’re excited to settle in and get to know your neighborhood. When you discover that your neighbors are loud, messy, or unfriendly, you might wonder whether or not you made the right choice.
While having bad neighbors is certainly frustrating, it doesn’t mean that you’re destined to be unhappy. There are plenty of ways to handle this situation to make your time in the neighborhood as positive as possible. Here are seven tips for dealing with problematic neighbors:
1. Make sure you’re a good neighbor.
Before you confront anyone else about their actions, it’s important to self-reflect and make sure that you’re setting a good example. Do you keep the noise around your home to a reasonable level? Are your pets well-behaved? Is your yard clean and cared for?
Although one person’s bad habits or oversights don’t excuse someone else’s, it will be easier to resolve a conflict with your neighbor if they don’t have any complaints about you. If you’ve been doing something that could be bothersome, you might find yourself in a back-and-forth argument when you bring up your concern.
They’ll be less likely to be willing to change their actions, too, if they have an issue with you.
2. Don’t assume the worst.
It’s very easy to become frustrated with problematic neighbors. Your home should be the place where you’re the most relaxed and comfortable, and when neighbors cause issues, it can feel like your peace of mind has been taken away.
However, most people aren’t truly malicious. Even if your neighbor is doing something inconsiderate, they probably don’t realize the effects of their actions.
Try to put yourself in your neighbor’s position to imagine their thought process. Consider explanations for the situation that don’t involve them being careless or rude people.
When it’s time to speak with them about your concerns, your conversation will go much more smoothly if you approach the topic from a place of compassion instead of anger or confrontation.
3. Talk to them directly.
The neighbor you have an issue with should be the first person you speak to about the situation. The timing of this conversation is very important, though. Try not to confront them immediately after they do something problematic as you’ll probably be feeling angry and impatient. Wait for a moment when you feel calm and collected about the situation.
If you haven’t officially met your neighbor yet, start the conversation by introducing yourself and learning a little about them. You may be able to connect with them on a shared interest, which could help ease the tension.
Then, mention the problem you have as gently as possible. Ask them about potential solutions to the issue, and thank them for hearing you out.
In many situations, simply calling attention to the behavior is enough for someone to change their ways. Your neighbor might not have even considered that their actions were problematic.
It’s important that people who live in the same community all work together to make that community great, so talking through a problem before it turns into a major issue is typically the best solution.
4. Document the situation.
Unfortunately, not every situation will be resolved with a polite conversation. In case the disagreement escalates, you should keep a record of the problem. For example, if you have a noise complaint, document the date and time of each issue, and take audio recordings when possible.
Photos and videos can be a helpful way to prove your point, too. Also, if you reach out to your neighbor via text or email, keep the messages to show your efforts to resolve the issue.
5. Talk to your HOA.
If your neighborhood has a homeowners association, they may be your best resource when resolving a dispute. The purpose of the HOA is to make the community a positive, functional place to live. They often can regulate issues regarding noise, pets, trash, and other common complaints.
Your neighbor might be violating the HOA’s rules with their problematic behavior, so the association will want to help you solve the problem. Allowing your HOA to handle the issue can help ease the tension between you and your neighbor, too, as you won’t be the person asking them to change their behavior.
Even if your neighbor isn’t breaking a rule, a representative from your HOA could act as a mediator as the two of you try to come to an agreement. An unbiased third party can help guide the conversation and keep you both focused on arriving at a solution instead of arguing.
6. Review your local laws.
If you don’t belong to a homeowners association, you could research local laws and ordinances on your own. Not all neighborly disputes can be solved by referencing legal codes. However, if your neighbor isn’t willing to change their actions when you ask them, pointing out that they’re in violation of the law might motivate them to fix the problem.
By becoming familiar with the laws in your area, you’ll know exactly what you can and can’t request from your neighbor.
7. Contact the police if you feel unsafe.
In some cases, going directly to your neighbor to resolve an issue may not be the best option. If you’re concerned about dangerous or violent activity, contacting police may be a safer choice. It might also be wise to reach out to police if you speak with your neighbor and they try to threaten or intimidate you.
No neighborhood dispute is worth risking your safety.
Hopefully, by approaching the situation as carefully and respectfully as possible, you and your neighbors will resolve the conflict without issue. If the problem persists, involving a third party might be the right choice.
It can be disheartening not to get along well with your neighbors, but it doesn’t have to ruin your experience in your new home. Do what you can to make the neighborhood safe and amicable for everyone, and try not to take the issues personally.
Michael Carr is the Co-Founder & COO of BrandFace, LLC. He is also a real estate branding expert and international bestselling author. As America’s Top Selling Real Estate Auctioneer, he has sold billions of dollars in commercial and residential properties.