Crazy Neighbor Harassment and How to Deal With It
Everyone wants their neighborhood to be a pleasant place where everyone gets along, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes you end up with either a crazy neighbor or one who harasses you in another way, like with dogs barking all night or by claiming part of your property is theirs. Problems like that can be very stressful—even scary—to deal with.
I am not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice, but I have been dealing with a crazy neighbor from hell. Using my situation as an example, I’ll share some of the ways to handle being harassed or endangered in your own neighborhood.
Our Crazy Neighbor
Here is a brief description of what we went through with our neighbors.
We have neighbors with three kids. The youngest boy is in middle school with one of my children. This boy had already been banned from our house a couple of years ago for theft and attempting to pay our younger daughter to expose herself.
I was approached on my property by his guardian, who proceeded to scream and tell me my child and another child were being mean to and hitting his son. He also said my child had been bothering his on the bus, and that I must have heard about it from the vice principal (I hadn't) and that it better stop, “or else.” Also, the neighbor knew his son had kicked mine between the legs, but that it was okay. (This was news to me.) He also said my child had bothered his child on the bus.
I was shaken by the verbal attack. We checked with the bus driver. It turns out our son had sat at the front of the bus and had not bothered that boy. The school informed us they forgot to tell us when the neighbor's son kicked our son between the legs (on video), which is illegal. They then looked at the videos and determined that the “assault” claim against my son and his friend was a false report.
Unfortunately, this neighboring family is unstable and now seems to be fixated on us. So, this is one particular harassment situation.
So, what to do about it?
How to Document Neighbor Harrassment
It is important to fully and accurately document the problems you are having with your neighbors. In order to show a pattern of harassment, especially if you want to pursue legal action, it's extremely important to document everything. Any action that is taken or interaction you have, keep a record of it.
- Begin an electronic diary or use a digital voice recorder with time stamps (check your state's policy about this first, as the rules for recording without someone's knowledge vary from state to state).
- Even if you just email yourself (and maybe one other person) on the subject line, you will begin documenting what is happening in the neighborhood.
- In our case, I kept an email chain for myself and also kept one going with the school, following up on email after each meeting.
- If there is any damage to your property, take photos as documentation, and email those to yourself and another to ensure a time stamp.
- If you have any interaction or confrontation with your neighbor—large or small—take notes.
- If you call the police, make detailed notes.
Is it legal to record my crazy neighbor?
In some states, you are legally allowed to record an interaction with someone without them knowing, but in other states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington) it isn't legal. Double-check your state's policy before you make any recording.
Should You Talk to Your Harassing Neighbors?
If you think your neighbors are reasonable and safe, try talking to them calmly about the problem and see if you can work out a mutually acceptable solution. For example, in the case of dogs being left out all night to bark, maybe the neighbors would agree to take them in after 10:00 p.m. In our situation, our neighbors are too unstable to take this option, but it can definitely work with more reasonable people.
Writing a Letter
You can also try writing a polite-but-firm letter illustrating your concerns and expressing what you think could be a possible solution—or solutions—to the problem. If you want proof your neighbors received the letter, you can send it via certified mail.
Using a Mediator to Help a Neighborhood Dispute
If you feel it may help, you can hire a mediator to work between your two families. This is a step you might take if you think your situation might be close to bad enough to hire an attorney, but not quite that bad. Mediators are third party individuals who can objectively try to come up with a solution between the two parties. However given our situation, with personal animosities, this solution wasn't going to work for us.
Using Technology to Defend Yourself
If you are concerned about personal safety, you can consider a variety of other options.
- You can get cameras placed around your property that upload to the internet and you can also get alerts on the phone. This can make you feel more safe about who is approaching your house, and if you are at home, if you want to answer the door.
- You can also consider a security system. We have placed Nest cameras around our house which have given me a bit more peace of mind.
Involving the Police: Getting a Protective Order
If your neighbor is entering your property a lot, threatening you or being physically violent, you may be able to get a protective order against them. In some areas, the neighbor has to be arrested first, while in other areas you can go to your local courthouse, write down your evidence, and get an order for them to stay off your property. (We have not yet pursued this option.)
What if you don't know your harassing neighbor's name?
If you need to find out your neighbors’ names, you can go to your local Assessor and Property Tax Records office and give them your neighbors’ address. You should be able to get their names through that method.
When to Call the Police
- If your neighbor does something that makes you feel physically threatened, call the police and have them deal with it.
- If you think another neighbor is in trouble, call the police.
- If the neighbors are engaging in active, disorderly conduct, you can call the police as well. The same goes for if they are breaking local noise ordinances.
- You can also call the local non-emergency number if you are not sure if your neighbor’s actions qualify for police intervention. A local officer will come by and talk to you.
When to Call 911
If you ever get a gut feeling you are in serious danger or see a neighbor (or anyone) coming toward you violently or with a weapon, get as safe as you can and call 911. Don't risk your own safety in a confrontation where you feel you might get hurt or worse.
When to Hire a Lawyer
If things just get too out-of-hand with your property line differences or other neighborly disputes, you can consult a lawyer. Often, you can have a brief consult for little money just to get an idea if you have a case. Make sure any lawyer you hire is familiar with local harassment laws and has tried these kind of cases before.
How can a lawyer help? A lawyer can:
- Gather Evidence for You. This is invaluable in court. You need evidence to prove your neighbor’s wrongdoing.
- File a Complaint. Where you need to file the complaint and how the process runs is something your lawyer will know and be able to do for you.
- Write a Demand Letter. (See full description below.)
- Go to Court. You will have a much better chance of winning your case against your neighbor if you have a lawyer by your side.
You can also have your lawyer write a demand letter. This letter officially lays out what your neighbors must do to fix the problems. It is a last-ditch effort to mend the situation before going to court. The letter will set a specific date by which the matter must be settled. This works best for property issues, noise issues, and the like. A lot of times, a demand letter can be enough to get your neighbors to fix the situation.
Don't Forget to Take Care of Yourself
Stress between neighbors is very difficult to deal with. Your home is supposed to be a place of safety in the world, and when you feel that is endangered in any way, it can add a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety to your life. Talk to your friends, do your research, and get help from outside sources if you feel like you need them. Don't be afraid to reach out if necessary. You deserve to feel safe and secure in your own home.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Teeuwynn Woodruff