How to Deal With a Difficult Neighbor

How to Deal With a Difficult Neighbor via Positively Smitten

Difficult neighbors come in all types. Some neighbors are difficult because they complain about everything. Some neighbors are difficult because they’re inconsiderate.

My difficult neighbor is the former. Although I’ve only lived in my new apartment for a week, my upstairs neighbor has already lodged a formal complaint against me. The crime? A barking dog who is interrupting her daytime napping.

To her, I’m an uncaring neighbor who leaves my dog alone all day to purposely ruin her life; to me, she’s an impatient woman who, despite my best efforts, won’t give me any time to deal with my dog’s separation anxiety. I’ve bent over backwards to fix this issue, but to no avail. 

In short, she thinks I’m the awful neighbor. I think she is. (Especially because I can’t believe she’d be mad at a cute face like my dog’s!)

Dog in birthday hat

Obi, the barker.

While the (long, boring) specifics don’t quite matter, what does matter is the situation is overwhelming, frustrating, and unfortunate. And I was completely unprepared for it.

But you don’t have to be. If you find yourself dealing with a difficult neighbor, here’s what you can do.

Talk to your neighbor. I can’t emphasize enough how talking face-to-face can help to nip a situation right in the bud. It’s possible your neighbor isn’t even aware of the issue at hand and would be happy to rectify it. But they need to know there is a problem before they can fix it! Talk to them first, before reporting it to your landlord.

If you’re the one who is on the receiving end of a complaint, you can still talk to your neighbor. It’s harder to fight with someone when there is a real, live person standing in front of you. Face-to-face interactions help humanize your awful neighbor or, if you happen to be the awful neighbor, to humanize yourself.  That may be all you need to do in order to get the situation resolved entirely.

Leave a friendly note for your neighbor. If talking face-to-face sounds intimidating, a kind note may suffice, so long as it’s clear, concise, and honest. If you’re the one complaining, consider leaving a note asking your neighbor to call, text, or email you, then you can hash it out from there. But be careful; notes can get passive aggressive quickly, which will only cause more resentment and anger.

Speak to your landlord or property manager. If you’ve spoken to your neighbor and they still haven’t rectified the problem in a reasonable amount of time – or if you feel your neighbor might get angry chatting in person – go to your landlord. That’s why they are there, after all. It’s their job to help quell any issues arising between neighbors. Explain the situation, in detail, and be open to the suggestions your landlord gives you for resolving the issue.

Do your part in rectifying the issue. As frustrating (and possibly embarrassing) as it is to have a neighbor complain about you, it’s important to try to take care of the problem right away so it doesn’t escalate. Take your neighbor’s complaint seriously, even if it does seem extreme. There is likely a nugget of truth in their accusation. Similarly, if you’re the one complaining, be willing to work with your neighbor.

Kill them with kindness. As someone who can go from zero to heated in a matter of moments, I know that sometimes it’s a challenge to control your anger. It’s even harder when your neighbor is being childish. But put your best face on and be nice to your neighbor… at least to his or her face. If your landlord is involved as well, be kind to them, too. You won’t come out of the situation looking bad and you may just resolve your issue.

Be patient. While some issues can be fixed overnight (if you have a neighbor who plays loud music at 2 a.m., for example), others cannot (if you have a neighbor whose dog has separation anxiety). Patience is key both for the complainer and the complainee. Try to give your neighbor some time, and the benefit of the doubt, before you lodge a second complaint.

Document everything. Having concrete evidence to support your complaint — or to support your efforts in response to the complaint — is one great way to protect yourself. This way, you can prove the strides you’ve been making and demonstrate that it’s not you who’s the problem, it’s them. 

Know your legal rights. If the issue with your neighbor escalates, and you are not getting any help from your landlord, consult your lease to see what it says about early termination. Similarly, if your neighbor is making your living situation unbearable, it’s possible this can be considered a breach of contract. Even if you live in a house, there may be laws to protect you from unruly neighbors (depending on the situation), so do your research.

Have you ever dealt with an unruly neighbor? How did you cope?


3 responses to “How to Deal With a Difficult Neighbor

  1. Cripes alive! How about giving someone some time! Or speaking to you first?

    I’m very lucky; I have a wonderful, wonderful neighbour. I’m pretty sure the feeling of love is mutual. When I moved in (ten years ago as a single girl) she was worried for her cats; people can be quite funny about cats. Turns out I had two myself. Now, when we go overseas every year, for four weeks, my neighbour feeds my cats so I don’t have to put them in a cattery. And when she goes away, I feed her cats.

    I have had my fair share of bad neighbours, though. On the other side of me is a rental, and the landlord isn’t one for checking up on his tenants; we’ve had a single mum whose ex was in jail for petrol bombing her and who liked to throw pots and pans (and bricks) at her father when he came to visit, and a pregnant teen whose boyfriend chased her down the road with his van, and bounded her up against a fence until she finally decided to go leave with him. I think we had to call the police on those people at least five times.

    In the end, I think being neighbourly is all about respect. I don’t mind a lot of noise (music, barking dogs, etc) as long as it’s not excessive, and doesn’t go past 1am. I would normally always go to the neighbour first if I had an issue, unless they were like the pregnant teen and her friends and I was genuinely fearful of approaching them. If you’re having a party, let your neighbours know first. We have a young girl next door now, and she always lets us know when she’ll be having a party, and I think that’s just being respectful.

    Thanks for your piece!


  2. I like this article. I have my own experience to share according to the topic. Once I had a problem with my neighbour. He lived in the house next to mine and it was horrible. Loud music, wild parties nonstop. I didn´t know what to do. I tried talking to him. I tried to communicate. I tried everything I thought would help me to deal with a problem. After reading a very helpful article I decided to seek a help of mediator. A mediator is a person who usually speaks to everyone involved and arranges a meeting between you and your neighbour. We had a long discussion, we talked about it and after few meetings it all went away and we are one of the best friends today. I really like your tips though, unfortunately I´m not very patient person so that one wouldn´t go with me.


  3. Pingback: Crystal’s Smitten List: Birchbox, Glimmersticks, Family | Positively Smitten Magazine·

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