One of the challenges of living within a close neighborhood is that you have no control over the kind of people who will live next door or in front of you. If you’re lucky, you will be surrounded by peace-loving neighbors who are courteous and respectful of your privacy.
But what if it’s the opposite and you have the awful luck of having problem neighbors?
Michele Kirschbaum, director of programs at New York Peace Institute says, “Neighbors are getting annoyed at other neighbors — people are home more so they hear that noise.”
She pointed out that since the lockdowns due to the coronavirus, there’s been an increase in the need for mediation services from the New York Peace Institute (NYPI).
There are neighbor problems that we can ignore or tolerate. If they have smelly trash or making weird sounds, you can ask the landlord to deal with it according to the bylaws or lease of the building you are living in.
But what if the problem is something serious, something that can’t be easily handled by the landlord or the building administration right away? What if your crazy neighbor exhibits obnoxious behavior bordering on harassment?
4 Ways to Deal with a Harassing Neighbor
If your neighbor’s behavior fits the bill, then you must take steps to resolve it — not just for your annoyance, but for your safety as well.
1. Have a Conversation
We don’t recommend knocking on your neighbor’s door if he is showing erratic behavior. Also, the pandemic situation with the social distancing rules doesn’t make it advisable as well.
Even though interpersonal communication is more difficult because of the pandemic, it’s still worth to see if the problem can be fixed without the need for mediation.
You can write your neighbor an email or a handwritten letter. For all you know, your neighbor is actually the cooperative sort and you only need to talk to him to resolve things. You don’t want to become an unreasonable party and this may be a good chance to solve the issue without a fuss.
Now if your initial efforts to reach out to the neighbor didn’t work, then you can escalate the issue to a third party.
2. Consult with the Landlord or Board
Ideally, the landlord and co-op boards should do anything in their power to make your living conditions as safe and comfortable as possible. They can mediate for problems like kids running down the hallways, cigarette smoking, and late loud partying.
In the case of smelly trash and it’s creating a vermin issue, then the landlord should definitely step in. But sometimes the situation can get tricky — there are landlords and co-op boards who prefer not to get involved with intra-neighbor problems because they can’t afford to evict someone or have one of the tenants leave the building.
This is not to say that you should give up on complaining. The wise thing to do in this instance is to put your issue in writing and include the dates of the incident. This document is something you can use when you have to resort to legal matters. If your first letter does not get a reply, send them a second letter stating that if they don’t reply, consequences may occur.
3. Seek Mediation
This is a step before actually filing a legal case. Mediation is quicker to arrange and cheaper, and in some states, it can be free. This is a less adversarial move providing that both parties will choose to participate in resolving such issues.
Rather than taking the matter to a court, you and the neighbor can work together so you can come up with something mutually agreeable.
Now getting both parties to agree on mediation can be difficult due to the pandemic. In the case of the NYPI, their services have gone remote because of the lockdowns. They devised a workaround and initiated mediation via video conferencing.
Kirschbaum explains that mediation can be challenging, but the results can be very rewarding, “Conflicts are emotional and deep but having an opportunity to talk things out is very helpful even if you don’t actually come to a full agreement, the parties can come to a better understanding.”
She adds, “I can assure you that if you have both taken the time to come in and hash it out, there is usually some benefit and it eases the tension.”
4. File a Case
What constitutes harassment will depend on state laws and is highly dependent on intent. If things get out of control, it’s time to get the police involved. Sometimes, all is needed is for a policeman to show up to force somebody to behave.
If you need to file a criminal complaint to get your neighbor arrested, go to the local police station and ask for a court order that will force the neighbor to stay away from you and your property.
If the harassment involved is actually a threat to your safety, there’s another way to consider like asking help from a security group to assess the threat. If you have received or anticipate receiving one, get in touch with a security expert, who can work with law enforcement to assess the threat.
WPG Has the Right People for the Job
If you are receiving threats or expecting to receive them, let our security professionals step in and handle this for you.