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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

Many people enjoy their neighborhoods specifically because of the people who comprise them. Neighbors support each other and form a sense of community by sharing common interests in improving their neighborhoods.

Of course, not all neighbors always get along, however, and though some disputes are minor and easily resolved, others have the potential to trigger litigation that can pit neighbors against each other and bring the town down with them.

Your Property Rights

Some of your property rights end at the property line. No matter how harmless it may seem, crossing onto your neighbor’s property to retrieve a lost baseball is technically an act of trespassing.

The law also recognizes that some nuisances do not need to cross the property line to affect neighbors. As an extreme example, if your neighbor has a yard full of rotting garbage, the nuisance can attract insects and vermin that affect the entire neighborhood.

When your neighbor infringes on your property rights, you have several legal processes for handling them:

  • Filing a lawsuit against the neighbor
  • Contacting local zoning or land use authorities
  • Calling the police

The option you pick will depend on the nature and urgency of the dispute.

How to Resolve 5 Common Disputes with Neighbors

In many cases, you will not need to resort to legal processes to resolve your neighborly disputes, as you’ll be able to overcome them simply by discussing them or working out a compromise.

Some of these common disputes include the following:

1. Noise

Noise is one of the most common disputes between neighbors. If you live in an apartment building, your landlord probably has an obligation to try to enforce quiet times, but you can always push a noise complaint onto your landlord or property manager to have them step in to resolve it.

If you live in a single-family home, your homeowner’s association or city may impose regulations against loud noises. You or your lawyer can look up the applicable ordinance and contact your noisy neighbor, and if that does not work, you can report the nuisance to the police.

2. Boundary Lines

Disputes over boundary lines are uncommon, but they can have expensive consequences. When you or your neighbor build any kind of structure, you should start with a land survey to mark the boundary line, which you and your neighbor can split the cost of.

If you do not discover the problem until after the structure has been built, you may need a lawyer to resolve the issue. The neighbor who crossed the boundary may need to remove the structure and pay damages, but in some cases, you and your neighbor may be able to settle things by negotiating a license that permits the structure.

3. Animals

Animals can create many issues between neighbors. They can dig up gardens and lawns, damage structures by chewing on them, and their waste stinks and attracts flies.

Most cities in the U.S. have animal control officers on-call to enforce local animal ordinances, which a nuisance animal might violate. Before contacting animal control, you should try to work something out with your neighbor. A citation from animal control might escalate your dispute rather than resolve it.

4. Eyesores

Homeowners associations and cities also have set rules about aesthetical nuisances. A neighbor who does not mow their lawn or keeps trash on their property can receive a citation for a code violation. 

Even nuisances that do not break city codes can generate disputes. A neighbor who leaves Halloween decorations out all year can disturb other residents, for instance. In any case, you should try to resolve these disputes by speaking to your neighbor before getting code enforcement involved.

5. Trespassing

Trespassing violates both criminal and civil laws, meaning prosecutors can charge trespassers with a crime, and the property owner can sue for damages. Before escalating your dispute to the courts, talk to a lawyer, as they might be able to negotiate a resolution with your neighbor.

Resolving Your Neighbor Dispute

To discuss your rights and whether your neighbor has violated them, contact Merlino & Gonzalez, a real estate and elder planning law firm in Staten Island, NY.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.