Annoying Neighbors? What You Can (and Can't) Do About It

Annoying Neighbors? What You Can (and Can't) Do About It

by Phil Corso, May 2018

Love thy neighbor, or just sue them. Sharing property lines can land you some legal problems.

Neighbor disputes are nothing new, but the ways people deal with them are constantly evolving. A simple fence-side conversation might do the trick. But if it doesn’t, you might be asking a judge to build a fence out of legal fees instead.

Does your neighbor have issues?

There are varying degrees of delinquent neighbors and even more ways to they could turn your dream home into a nightmare. At the end of the day, the offense ultimately depicts the kinds of remedies at your disposal.

Real estate expert Barbara Corcoran broke down some of the worst offenders in an interview with Today Home & Garden, starting with something fairly simple, but loud: the racket maker. Screaming moms, horn honking, music fanatics, and partiers. It’s typical. Corcoran goes all the way down the line, too, including the property line fanatic, the slob, the careless pet owner, the weirdo, and more.

The reality is that nuisance neighbors can come in many shapes and sizes. Some offenses you might just have to accept: noise during the day, the occasional yappy dog, or the outside cigarette smoker. Other issues, however, could mean the beginning of a legal pursuit: illegal construction, disobeying city ordinances or failing to obey specific property boundaries.

How bad can it really get?

A neighbor dispute in April shed some light on exactly how out of hand certain instances can become. An Ohio man was ordered by a municipal court judge in a disorderly conduct case to stand on a corner holding up a sign listing the offense he was found guilty of, which happened to be bullying disabled children.

“The judge destroyed me,” 62-year-old Edmond Aviv told CBS News in a story about his humiliating venture.

According to CBS, Aviv was accused of bullying his neighbor Sandra Prugh’s disabled children for years and was ordered to display the sad sign for five hours as part of his sentence, which included 15 days in jail and anger management classes.

“I AM A BULLY! I pick on children that are disabled, and I am intolerant of those that are different from myself. My actions do not reflect an appreciation for the diverse South Euclid community that I live in,” the sign read.

Perhaps he will think twice next time he has a word with his neighbors.

How to handle your hazardous neighbor

Corcoran listed nine smart tips on how to handle nasty neighbors in her Today Home & Garden interview. Consider it a starter’s guide for stomping out a neighbor dispute before another cardboard sign is being etched in Sharpie.

Call ahead, pick a time to talk. Meet on the sidewalk, or on your property line. Don’t accuse. These were the top-three tips Corcoran suggested. They also happen to avoid any fine print or legal remedies.

But if those don’t work, it is time to get out the reading glasses. Read up on local noise and disturbance ordinances, she said.

Is your neighbor running a construction company out of their garage? Did the neighbor’s dog chew through your fence and wreck your backyard? Offer a solution. Give your condo or block association a ring and ask them to step in, perhaps as a neutral mediator. If those don’t work, give the local police precinct a call as well.

One of the best solutions, she said, included calling in an expert meditator, which can be acquired through your local courthouse, police precinct or bar association.

What is a mediator?

Mediators can charge anywhere from $150 to $300 an hour, depending on the dispute, reported. Mediators are a voluntary process, but could prove lucrative if the hired neutral party could help find a solution that benefits both parties involved.

“The solution to a mediated dispute comes from the parties, in stark contrast to litigation, where the outcome is imposed upon parties by a judge, jury, or arbitrator,” the site reported. “In mediation, participants also have the power to shape the process by selecting the mediator, and determining the length of the sessions, who will participate and whether attorneys will represent the parties.”

This land is our land

At the end of the day, coexisting peacefully is the goal. That means keeping note of your boundaries, whether it is a fence or another structure.

The worst kinds of disputes can be settled early on by no more than a simple conversation, which most sources agreed is the best solution before things get heated.