How to Deal with a Bad Neighbor

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Your Question: How Can I Deal with a Bad Neighbor?

Professor Tate answers:


As nice as it would be, unfortunately we cannot pick our neighbors. We can pick out that perfect home in that wonderful neighborhood…. But the neighbors cannot be chosen. Trust me. I’d like to change a neighbor or two. If you’re like me and you have a “bad” neighbor, what can you do about it?

A good first step is to become friendly acquaintances with your neighbor. Say hello and be friendly. You don’t have to be friends, but you’re much less likely to have issues escalate between you if you’re acquainted with each other.

Try to stop problems before they arise. For example, if you’re throwing a big party at your place this weekend, take a stroll over to your nearest neighbors and offer them verbal invitations. That way, if they feel your party is too noisy, they will probably call you instead of the police.

Another suggestion is to talk to your neighbor about your complaint. Your neighbor may not have any idea that what he or she is doing is wrong or bothering others. Offer a solution and ask for their input. You want them to know about your complaint so that it can be fixed, but be careful how you present the problem. Your attitude will greatly affect their attitude. If you act angrily, then more than likely your neighbor will also be angry, defensive and less cooperative. If the manner in which you present the problem is positive, they may be happy to make the adjustment.

Another thing you can do is to check with other neighbors and see if they’re having the same issues with the “problem neighbor.” If they are, they may be willing to help you resolve the issue. And maybe one of them will even come with you to speak to the neighbor if he or she knows them a little better than you do.

If you’re unable to settle the problem, you could seek the help of a neutral third party who has experience resolving disputes. This will cost you a lot less than taking your problem to court and this service may even be free in your area.

If you’ve tried everything and nothing’s worked, then talk to a lawyer. You could ask them to write a letter to your neighbor threatening legal action. But don’t forget, this should be a very last resort. Doing this could only add fuel to the fire. And you definitely don’t want to make matters worse!

Before taking action, consider if the problem neighbor is truly a problem. Is it more of an annoyance, or is your neighbor actually being a “bad neighbor”? Whatever the case, good communication is key. Hopefully you never have to take things to a lawyer or to court, and can simply resolve things with good communication.

You asked, now you know!

-Professor Reel S. Tate 

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