My neighborhood is currently at war. No, we’re not fighting poverty or crime or even weeds. My neighborhood is fighting with itself. It all started with a small traffic issue that escalated out of control. Then factions were formed, revenge plots were hatched, and now everyone is dealing with more than their fair share of crazy neighbors. A dispute with a crazy, unreasonable, or mean neighbor can quickly escalate out of control, and can make one’s own home feel like a prison. After all, if you have to check to see who’s outside before you work in your garden or walk your dog, home begins to feel less like home than a holding cell. It is possible to stem the tide of resentment before it gets out of control. Here are three different types of crazy neighbors and what you can do about them:
The Weed Factory
This is the neighbor you never see. Perhaps he’s hidden in the pile of weeds and snakes growing in his front yard. In any case, this neighbor’s house is a wreck. The yard may be littered with pink flamingos; the weeds may be growing taller than the trees; the grass may not have been cut since 1970. Whatever the case, you have to talk to this neighbor to get him or her to get their house back in line.
What to do? First of all, do not begin by calling the homeowner’s association or the police. This is a surefire bet to start a war and is probably not going to work anyway. The absolute best strategy is to talk to the neighbor in a friendly, nonconfrontational way. Tell her you’ve noticed her lawn is getting a bit out of control and wonder when she might get around to cutting it. You can even volunteer to help, because sometimes these neighbors just get overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done. Moreover, you’ll often find that a neighbor who lets her yard get out of control may be sick, caring for a special needs child, or otherwise rendered unable to focus on her house. Offer friendly assistance and things may change.
The Homeowner’s Association Nazi
This neighbor is the exact counter to the weed factory. He’s overly concerned about everyone else’s house. If your lawn gets one millimeter too tall on Sunday, you can bet he’s going to be calling the homeowner’s association on Monday. While it can be tempting to deal with this bad neighbor by littering the lawn with pink flamingoes or otherwise being provocative, there’s a better way to cope.
This neighbor thrives on feeling like he’s in control of things and has power. So let him feel like he has some power. Explain that his house is beautiful and the envy of the neighborhood, but not everyone can keep up with him. Apologize if you break a homewoner’s association rule, but do not allow him to bully you. And if he doesn’t back off after that, it’s time to get a bit more confrontational. Tell him he’s making life in the neighborhood difficult and that you’d appreciate it if he’d stay off of your property and out of your business.
Whether it’s college kids playing music and having parties all day and all night, or a neighbor with the barking dog from hell, this sort of neighbor can make peaceful coexistence nearly impossible. Though it may be difficult for you to ignore the noise, odds are good your neighbor is unaware of it, particularly if the noise is coming from a dog barking during the day.
Talk to your neighbor and explain the problem. If the problem is a dog, bring some dog training books with you and offer to help walk the dog or otherwise burn off some of the energy the dog is spending barking. If the source of the problem is loud music or arguing, play on your neighbor’s empathy. Explain that you can’t sleep with the loud noise and you need your neighbor to turn it down a notch.
The key with any sort of bad neighbor is to avoid becoming confrontational and, when at all possible, avoid threats or invoking authority. However, if a situation with a neighbor escalates, or a neighbor refuses to make changes, it’s time to call the police or your neighborhood association.