Real Estate Law

Neighbor Disputes

Neighbors get into all kinds of disputes with one another. We’re all people after all — and problems are bound to flare up when people are around each other long enough. But neighbor disputes don’t have to be dramatic. As a tenant or homeowner, you can appeal to your neighbors by following the rule of law.

Most if not all issues can be resolved in a civil manner. But when they can’t, you might be in need of legal advice from a real estate attorney.

Common Reasons for Disputes With Neighbors

Boundary disputes arise from confusion over what separates your property from your neighbor’s property. Conflicts over property lines happen when:

  • Neighbors walk across or conduct some kind of activity on each others’ properties
  • Plants, trees, basketballs, debris, or other objects reach into a neighbor’s property
  • Construction projects extend from your neighbor’s land way past where your properties are supposed to be separated

Noise disputes don’t just come from children and animals. They can also stem from:

  • Late-night activities like vacuuming, construction, music, TV, or parties
  • Musical instruments like drums and electric guitars
  • Running, exercising, or performing other household activities in multi-floor units or dwellings with shared walls

Trespassing disputes go beyond boundary disputes. When we’re talking about adverse possession or squatting, the situation usually involves:

  • A neighbor’s intentional and hostile presence on your property without permission
  • A neighbor’s attempt to take over a property and make it their own
  • A neighbor committing theft on your land

Local ordinance violations are a pain for neighbors because everyone in the neighborhood is affected by one neighbor’s decision to:

  • Illegally run a commercial business out of their home
  • Cut down trees without permission, put up unsafe structures, or commit other illegal landscaping that affects everyone in the area
  • Park trailers in public roadways in the neighborhood, park cars without permits in designated areas, or cause other obstructions that affect neighbors

Sometimes a dispute might simply arise because two people don’t like each other. As silly as it sounds, it happens more often than you think, especially when someone is just having a bad day. If you’re involved in a neighborly dispute that sprung up because of ego and pride, be the bigger person. It’s not worth creating legal trouble for yourself in the name of saving face.

What To Do and Not Do in a Neighbor Dispute

Whether you’re a tenant or property owner, you have rights to the enjoyment of your property. To enforce those rights, you can:

  • Try asking nicely (for a solution) by calling their phone number and following up in writing
  • If asking nicely doesn’t do it, get your local police department involved
  • Take your neighbor to small claims court

Threats and violence are never okay even as a last resort, especially when there is a risk of injury and imprisonment. You should also avoid:

  • Admitting anything against your interest
  • Making legal decisions without legal help from a lawyer
  • Taking matters into your own hands by committing vandalism or other forms of retaliation

Remember that your neighbors are people too, and everyone makes mistakes. If you’re unsure about which side is legally in the right, don’t jump to conclusions about which neighbor should be accommodating the other.

For example, if a neighbor obtains a permit (or city variance) to conduct an activity that might otherwise seem objectionable, then they may very well be within their right to make noise or construct something that you might find inappropriate.

There is a difference between a neighbor being annoying and a neighbor breaking the law or violating your legal rights, and resolving your dispute with them requires that you take this into account. Many times, the easy solution to a neighbor dispute is to clear up a misunderstanding. Other times, however, more complicated legal issues can be in play.

How a Lawyer Can Help

While it might seem obvious that neighbor disputes are just one friendly conversation away from being solved, sometimes they can involve deeper legal issues like illegal construction, trespass, or violence.

If you can’t resolve a problem with your neighbors without risking more trouble, then an experienced real estate attorney can help. In more serious situations, a lawyer may need to assist you with filing a lawsuit, obtaining a restraining order, or even coordinating issues with your local police department.

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