Home Safe Home – Problem Neighbours

From Issue: 
Vol LV No. 2, April 2011

We all know someone who has had an issue with a neighbour, but what if it happens to you? What should you do?

The first step, before any issue arises, is to get to know your neighbours better. Many people stick to themselves, but creating bonds with your neighbours can be very beneficial if there’s ever a problem. In the event that you are having problems with a neighbour, it is much easier to solve the problem amicably if you know the person, as you may feel more comfortable approaching them. Your neighbour may not even know there is a problem. Give them the benefit of the doubt and see if you can resolve the issue, without getting a third party involved.

Many people shy away from this approach because they’re afraid of confrontation. To help with this, don’t think of approaching your neighbour as a confrontation. Instead, think of it as a friendly conversation, keeping in mind that your goal isn’t to start a fight, but to explain your concern and see if you both can work something out. Wait until you’re feeling calm to approach your neighbour. Approaching a problem when you are angered may lead to more problems. If you can’t or don’t want to approach your neighbour in person, try writing a letter outlining your concerns instead.

Unfortunately, not all neighbours are reasonable. If a neighbour gets confrontational, don’t fight back; make it clear that you’re not there to argue. Even if you get a negative response, leave the conversation open to a positive solution. For example say, “Think it over. I’d like to try and work it all out.” You will lose nothing by being pleasant. The fact that you chose to try and solve the problem on your own will cast you in a better light if you have to talk to a third party, such as a landlord. Also remember that the person may not acknowledge your point right away, but may change their behaviour or address the problem later, once they have thought it over. Keep in mind, that if you have already built a relationship with this person, your concerns may be received much better.

However, if talking to your neighbour about the problem does not change their behaviour, there are a few steps that you can take. You have the right to live in your home without being disturbed.

Document the issue

If the problem is one that reoccurs, (like late-night noise) start keeping a log. Write down the date, what occurs and any other observations that may be helpful. You may find that the problem is not as frequent as you thought. A clear log will help document your case for the police or the courts, if it gets that far.

Talk to your landlord (if renting)

If your neighbour continues to disturb your peace after talking to them, your landlord may be able to help you rectify the situation. They can go to their renters, and speak with them about the problem.

Take self-help measures

If talking to your neighbour and/or landlord doesn’t improve the situation, there are some things you can do on your own. For example: Fight noise with noise. Creating your own noise can help cancel out any bothersome sounds from an inconsiderate neighbour. Turn on a fan or play a CD of ambient sound effects. Wear earplugs. Wearing earplugs can help ensure you get a good night’s sleep or get the peace and quiet you need to do work or enjoy a book. Buy air purifiers for odours. These machines not only make the air you breathe cleaner and healthier for you, but some also mask cooking odours that may waft in from your neighbour’s.

Call bylaw and/or police

Speak to someone at your local city department, to see what bylaws are in place in your area concerning your problem. Ask them what they can do to help you or what your next course of action should be. Your city may have slightly different ways of approaching the issue than others, but they will all have some guidelines to help you out.

If a neighbour harms or threatens you in any way, call the police immediately. Same goes for neighbours whom you spot conducting illegal activity, such as drug dealing. A visit by the police may call more attention to your situation by neighbours and/or a landlord.

Seek legal help

Don’t start legal action unless you really have exhausted all other options. They might be able to give you some good advice on the next steps if other courses of action are getting you nowhere.

Take your business elsewhere

Maybe you’ve reached a point where neighbours have been causing too many problems for you. Or perhaps you’ve tried all of the above tactics and they didn’t work. Remember, you still have the option to move. If you find a nicer, quieter accommodation, then moving may just prove to be the best approach of all.

Keep in mind that you can change the experience you have in your own neighbourhood by getting more involved with those around you and taking pride in the area in which you live.