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Neighbor from Hell

By Josie Swindler

Last week, we explained how to handle a landlord from hell. This week, we address a subspecies I like to call the neighbor from hell. In college, they could be bad enough: one more headache from weed smoke and you swore you’d tell your RA. In the real world, neighbors can be much, much worse. Common foes include noise-makers, pet-haters, turf-crossers, drug-dealers, early morning-mowers, party-throwers, and screeching toddler-havers. Here’s are some tactics for dealing with them.

The Neighborly Way

Meet your neighbors as soon as possible after you move in—establishing a tone of civility can be the first step towards conflict avoidance. Then, when problems crop up, assume there’s a misunderstanding. If Mötley Crüe marathons are keeping you up at night, maybe your neighbors just underestimate the bass level. Knock on their door and politely ask them to come hear how loud it is in your bedroom. If they are regular human beings, they will readjust both the volume knob and their attitudes.

The Hippy Way

The National Association for Community Mediation has 500+ neighborhood-mediation centers around the country. Look in the Yellow Pages under “mediators” or ask the local bar association or the police department’s community outreach branch to direct you to a rational but uninvolved third party.

The Legal Way

Mediators not cutting it? Too “Kumbaya” for you? Step up to someone with a little more authority—the landlord. Your lease will include some legalese about the “habitability” of your apartment, and that basically means that the landlord must resolve anything that makes your home unlivable (lack of clean water/heat/sane neighbors). If you complain first to the neighbor and then to the landlord without results, you can withhold rent until the situation gets fixed (or until the situation backfires and a housing court rules against you and you either have to pay up or get out). It’s a risky move, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

If you decide to go legal, do your research. Read up on home-related disputes. Use Google Books to scan ” Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise.” Head to the nearest library for a copy of your city’s ordinance, which includes noise laws.

The Childish Way

If the proper channels aren’t getting you anywhere and your maturity level hovers around that of a 13-year-old boy’s, resort to the following: The Payback provides fake parking tickets and dead fish delivery, Dogdoo.com delivers steaming packages of, what else? And the “Annoy Your Neighbor” CD plays every agonizing sound on earth. Remember, revenge is a dish best served loud and early in the morning.

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