Bad neighbors have been immortalized on film, in song, and now, even on Instagram with Neighbors from Hell, an account that seeks to document the worst neighbor behaviors.
Bad-neighbor experiences are so relatable that in less than a week, this entertaining-because-it-isn’t-happening-to-you account gained nearly 24,000 followers. Which just goes to show: Nobody’s immune to the pain of a bad neighbor.
Just ask Bob Borzotta, ABC News consultant and author of Neighbors From Hell: Managing Today’s Brand of Conflict Close to Home. He dedicates his time to exposing neighborhood aggressors and helping victims troubleshoot some of the toughest complaints out there.
According to Borzotta, “A neighbor from hell is someone who lacks empathy toward those living in close proximity.” These are people who actually enjoy conflict, which makes them particularly hard to topple. (And why many good neighbors often move away.)
But what exactly makes for a “neighbor from hell,” how do you handle one, and how can you avoid being one?
Making noise is the number-one complaint people have about their neighbors. Whether it’s loud music, barking dogs, or out-of-control parties, noise, especially during sleeping hours, can really get under people’s skin.
What NOT to do: Don’t bang on walls or ceilings or try to fight fire with fire by turning up your music to drown out theirs.
Though most neighbor complaints begin with a noise issue, they can end up in the realm of harassment. “More people are reflexively choosing to be aggressive toward anyone complaining, rather than working things out,” says Borzotta.
What NOT to do: Do not react in anger. Stay in the right. Never resort to tit-for-tat behaviors.
3. Home-value crasher
This neighbor has a house in disrepair, an overgrown lawn, or junk in his front yard. Neighbors hate this guy because he brings down the resale value of their homes — and people get serious when you mess with their wallets.
What NOT to do: Don’t offer to “fix” his yard. Nothing will incense a person faster than your presumption.
Violence, vandalism, peeping, and petty theft — these are among the issues you could be facing in the form of domestic disputes, threats, stealing of yard tools, and the presence of sex offenders in your neighborhood. All of which can present very real danger.
What TO do: If you suspect there is an issue, tell others in your community. Neighborhood vigilance deters criminal activity. Notify the proper authorities if you witness any truly criminal behaviors.
5. Bad pet owner
Barking dogs, roaming pets, and poo everywhere, these are the hallmarks of the Bad Pet Owner Neighbor.
What NOT to do: People think of their pets as family. Don’t insult them or their pets when sharing your concerns.
6. Boundary crosser
Property line issues come into play all the time in neighborly disputes. Whether it’s a fence built over the property line, a tree hanging over your yard, or a new addition that blocks a view, encroachment can feel like a real violation.
What TO do: If you see your neighbors getting ready to redo their fence or driveway, bring any boundary discrepancies to their attention beforehand.
Good solutions for bad neighbors
These simple guidelines can help you find a neighborly resolution as long as you tailor your approach to the situation and those involved.
- Get to know your neighbors: Trulia’s Neighbor Survey showed that one in two Americans don’t even know their neighbors’ names. Curiously, the majority of folks who do know their neighbors like them. Building a friendly rapport with your neighbors can go a long way toward solving problems before they start.
- Communicate: Open, direct, and polite communication is key, whether you’re the complainer or recipient. Put yourself in your neighbor’s shoes and respond in a way that honors his perspective as well as your own. Hot Tip: Having a party? Let your neighbors know by inviting them and offering them your number in case of any problems. Assure them that their comfort is of concern for you — ensuring they’ll call you instead of the cops.
- Escalate slowly: If polite communication has failed to provide results, don’t turn your dial immediately to 11. Instead, think of the next minimal step you can take toward resolution. Can you talk over coffee? Is there a manager, landlord, or homeowner association that can intervene on your behalf? Are there other organizations that can provide support, such as neighborhood associations, animal control, sanitation, the city, or police? If all else fails, seek the advice of an expert like Borzotta or the counsel of a professional mediator or lawyer.
- Always document: As soon as an issue starts, begin taking notes with dates, times, photos, and any potential updates or retaliation. This will come in handy should you need to seek outside help.
Avoid being a neighbor from hell
“It’s so easy to be a good neighbor, and yet it’s not all that hard to become a bad one,” says Borzotta. “Too many long-lived wars are sparked by a complaint to a neighbor that will leave him thinking you exaggerate or are a petty complainer.”
When you do hear a complaint, try not to take it personally. Borzotta cautions, “Don’t shrug it off or become defensive. If it’s about your dog’s barking, it’s not an insult against your dog. Same with your kids and your choice of music.”