Neighbor Nightmares: How to Deal with Trouble Next Door

Home Over 55 Staff Writer 2016-04-29

They say "good fences make good neighbors", but we still don't get to choose our neighbors...

In 2013 a 71 year old woman and her 81 year old husband was charged with harassment after a neighbor was finally forced to call in the police. This happened after months of torture by the elderly couple who had been playing loud music at full volume. When the police arrived the couple confessed and stated that they were doing this in retaliation of "some kind of whistling noise" that came from the neighbor's house that kept them up at night. The neighbors complained about the noise, but nothing happened.

This story might seem extreme, but having troublesome neighbors next door is sadly a very common and serious problem – especially within senior citizen housing and retirement communities where you and your neighbor is often divided by a mere wall or a fence. For example, a dispute in Rochester, N.Y. over a fence line caused a lengthy battle which ended in lawsuits. So, how do you deal with trouble once it's (literally) moved in next door?

Talk to your neighbors before things escalate.

A lot of factors can be at play regarding the neighborly irritation driving you up the wall. Most often the complaints are noise related, and it is often found that the cause is not an intentional troublemaker, but someone who is hard of hearing and can't truly judge the noise level. Therefore, it's always the best policy to sit down with your neighbor first and talk it out. Get to know them personally in order to be understanding and respect one another.

Is the troublesome neighbor affecting the neighborhood?

If a neighbor is unwilling to listen to you or stop unacceptable behaviour, it's always a good idea to "build a team of victims". Are there any other neighbors experiencing the same problems? A nightmarish neighbor might be more susceptible to a group of people raising an issue than just one individual or a couple, since they often feel "attacked" and become very defensive in a one-on-one confrontation.

Use the services of your retirement community

If you reside in a retirement village or other form of communal senior citizen housing, they should have dispute resolution processes in place. If neighbors can't work things out between themselves it's time to bring in a mediator – this is usually the administering body of the establishment. By using a mediator, you can stop conflict from escalating and have an open and respectful discussion in a safe environment.

Is it time to take legal action against your neighbor?

If all else fails and you have truly exhausted all other options available to you in trying to resolve the issues at hand; it's time to start legal proceedings. In every country there are laws protecting our human rights and deal with matters arising within communal establishments. In life threatening or life endangerment cases, it's best to call in the police first as it will be important to have official documentation of events when the matter does end up in a court of law. Just keep in mind that this is a drastic step and should only be taken if it's the last choice you have. The chances of a neighborly relationship being restored after this is very slim and the process can also turn out to be very costly.

Consider moving if it improves your quality of life

Sometimes you simply have to cut your losses and move. Even your ideal dream house can't safeguard you from nightmare neighbors and you will never be able to enjoy living there. When you realize you've been dealt a really bad hand, it's time to fold and leave.

The importance of trying to resolve neighbor conflict amicably cannot be stressed enough. These are the people who (literally) are the closest to you and can make a good day even better or a bad day even worse. It is more important to live in harmony with those around you, than to spend years on some kind of neighbor feud that can very well end in violence.

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