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Dealing with Neighbors from H - E - Double - L
Jeannette L. Seibly

Many of us have had one or two in our lifetime. They can be very unpleasant, downright nasty people. It may seem like horrible neighbors enjoy being that way, and theres not much you can do to change them. Some may be vindictive; while others are in denial (or unaware) that they continually create problems for you and everyone that lives around them.

What can you do to effectively deal with these difficult and tedious situations? Understand the key attributes which make them difficult to deal with: instead of looking for solutions that work, they look for evidence to show it isnt their fault. They are unable (or unwilling) to establish win-win boundaries to address issues in a positive and proactive manner. They blame you, the neighborhood, city, county, etc., for the problems theyve created.

The problem: Whether in a house, condo, town home or apartment, horrible neighbors can exhibit some or all of the following:

  1. Extremely loud and disruptive behavior, over and over, any time of day or night, such as stomping, slamming, banging, and crashing around on the floor above; or, if they live below you, cranking up the TV and stereo, yelling, etc.

  2. Inviting friends and family over 24/7, and encouraging more bad behavior.

  3. Involvement in illegal activities (underage drinking, drugs, peeping into windows, etc.)

  4. Leaving skateboards, toys, and bikes all over community sidewalks and/or your driveway, causing safety hazards (think: liability).

  5. Leaving their garbage scattered about and their trash cans in the street.

  6. Throwing snow, trash, sticks and stones onto your property, impeding the safety of you and your guests.

  7. Reacting emotionally to normal, day-to-day incidents, like kneeling down and crying because a neighbor mowed over onto their lawn by a couple of inches.

Why it can be difficult to address: Theres no limit to the excuses they can create for their bad behavior. They are excellent "blamers." They truly believe its not them; its you (or others).

  1. They believe their noise is fine; its your noise or your "noise sensitivity" that is the problem.

  2. They dont understand that not everyone likes animals. They believe it###s your problem when their animals poop at your front door and/or damage your lawn or garden.

  3. They believe their kids are so cute, and can###t acknowledge that kids can misbehave to get attention. Or, they use their child###s disability as the reason "why it couldn###t have been them."

  4. They deny that their kids would ever cause vandalism or property damage.

  5. They are not conscious of their parental responsibilities due to other issues in the family (e.g., finances, marriage, depression, drug abuse, etc.). They allow young children to skateboard by themselves, while they run errands for hours. They allow small children to play in the street, or cross busy streets by themselves (think: younger than age 10), and run around outdoors at all hours of the day and night without supervision. They hire inappropriate babysitters who make the situation worse by partying, selling drugs and/or hosting underage drinking parties.

Proposed solutions: The first step toward resolution is acknowledging there is a problem. You will also need to find common ground that both parties can agree upon. This can be a challenge, since horrible neighbors are often unable or unwilling to admit there###s a problem.

As a neighboring third party, it may be difficult for you to understand the importance of a situation, unless you###ve experience or witnessed what has been occurring. After all, your neighbor is quiet, and you really don###t want to get involved, since they don###t live close by to you; and you are understandably concerned about your own wellbeing and safety if you say or do anything.

One neighborhood was aware of the problems occurring outside of a house due to the number of vehicles and the amount of trash, toys, skateboards, etc. that constantly littered the common areas. Most, however, were not aware of the extremely loud and disruptive noise coming from inside the house, and into the living areas of adjacent neighbors. One night the local police department issued fines for underage drinking and family services was called. When a prospective homebuyer found out, she decided to live in a different community. How would that impact you if you were the one selling your home?

As good neighbors, we need to stay "tuned-in" to the issues impacting our communities. Letting bad behavior continue when it can negatively impact someone###s ability to live peacefully in their home – or sell it – cannot be ignored. Some people take various incidents in stride, and it truly doesn###t bother them. Most incidents, in-and-of-themselves, are not the problem – it###s the constant escalation that strains relationships and threatens communities.

A common belief many people have is that they lack the strength and power to change anything. They believe if they do something, the situation will become worse. Unfortunately, to change something, it may become worse before it can become better. However, if you don###t do anything, it will normally become worse anyway. United, neighbors can make a difference by staying focused on the primary and factual issues, which are normally covered by local ordinances and HOA covenants.

One woman had horrible neighbors living in a condo unit above hers. The kids were constantly slamming and crashing about on the level above. She took the advice of another neighbor to go and talk with them. However, the children###s parent really "let her have it," saying, "They###re just kids. You can###t do anything about their kid-like behavior!" So, the downstairs neighbor started living with friends on the weekends. As the problem escalated, she stopped living in her home altogether.

Steps to help you deal with neighbors:
  1. Talk with neighbors when they move in (or when you move in – don###t wait for them). Welcome them, perhaps with a small gift.

  2. Let them know (or help them find out) the particular rules that many people, particularly in an HOA environment, may overlook, or not be aware of. Share the information in a friendly and helpful manner.

  3. When they forget, remind them nicely. Tell them a short story about a neighbor who received a fine.

  4. Keep an open dialogue and resolve issues as they arise. Don###t stop talking with them. At a minimum, say "hi."

  5. Be proactive. If you are doing something unusual (e.g., having a tree cut down, construction work, hosting a party, etc.), let the neighbors know ahead of time, even if it may not directly impact them.

  6. If a problem continues, take time to visit them and listen to your TV (if they believe it###s too loud) and reach a resolution (e.g., a sound board placed underneath the TV or speakers, appropriate hours, headset for hard of hearing, etc.).

  7. If this doesn###t work, you may need to involve your local police, an attorney and/or the HOA. Start with your HOA first. Have specifics: tape recordings, pictures, logs with dates times, witnesses, etc. A truly bad neighbor will know how to circumvent the system to make you look like the problem, and are usually rare. So be prepared to provide evidence, as it may be hard for the HOA Board or the police to understand the severity of the problem.

  8. Remember, the process is never easy, and it###s not your fault the problem exists (although they may try to make it look that way). The key is to get a resolution by involving other neig

    © Jeannette L. Seibly, 2007

    She is a Work & Career Strategist who helps companies address management and people issues that impact the bottom-line. Too often neighborhood issues can impede otherwise productive people in their workplace (e.g., sleepless nights, stress from constant extreme noise, running over a skateboard left in the parking lot, etc.). She may be reached @ JLSeibly@comcast.net, http://www.seibco.com/, or 877.784.6111

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