I am fortunate to have wonderful neighbors. We watch over each other’s homes when someone goes on vacation. We share tips for how to beautify our lawns and gardens. We even get together for the occasional backyard barbeque.
But I haven’t always been so lucky. When I purchased my first home, my next-door neighbors owned 10 acres of land, but they set up their chicken coop (complete with two roosters who crowed 24/7) on the property line, right next to my bedroom window.
I asked several friends if they’d ever had a bad neighbor, and the answer was a definitive YES. So many people shared “bad neighbor” stories with me, in fact, that I’ve organized them into categories.
“I Live in the City but Pretend I Live in the Country”
- They have a quarter-acre backyard in which two horses, five dogs, and countless cats reside. The smell of manure wafts through the neighborhood.
- They let their outdoor cat roam the neighborhood. Said cat sneaks into the neighbors’ homes through open windows and urinates on the furniture.
- The 60-something with the beer gut who wears nothing but his tighty whities – even while watering his garden.
- The busty woman who mows her lawn in a string bikini and entertains a different “gentleman caller” every night.
The Loud and the Restless
- The partiers who set up lawn chairs facing the street in their garage. They sit around chugging beer, swearing at the top of their lungs, smoking “funny” cigarettes, heckling passersby, and blasting country music. Daily from 5p.m. to midnite.
- Condo neighbors who blast stereos, slam doors, and generally stomp around.
- The neighbor in your apartment complex who casually “keys” your brand new car because she’s angry that you won the lottery for the covered parking space.
- The folks across the street whose front yard looks like a thrift store drop-off location. Rusty junkers litter the weeded jungle of a yard.
- Neighbors who call the police when you forget to return your garbage can from the curb within two hours after the garbage truck swings through the neighborhood.
- Self-appointed “enforcers” who have every city code memorized and the city’s offices on speed dial. If you park your car on the street one minute longer than the allotted time, you’re toast.
Property Line Violaters
- The next-door neighbor who “trims” your trees to improve their view, or cuts down the 100-year-old firs on your side of the property line so they can “let more sun shine” on their property.
Compounding the problem:
The most unfortunate thing about living near a bad neighbor is that bad neighbors usually don’t realize they are bad neighbors. Or they don’t care.
When you politely ask your neighbor to “cease and desist” their unseemly behavior, they often 1) laugh in your face, 2) tell you to shove it where the sun don’t shine, or 3) shrug their shoulders helplessly.
Bottom line: Whether your neighbor has an incessantly-barking Doberman or they paint their front door a putrid color, neighbors from you-know-where can make life miserable.
When you’re house hunting, it’s often difficult to spot potentially bad neighbors, particularly if you’re looking to purchase a condo. But there are a few ways you can be on the lookout:
Hang out in the neighborhood. Drop by at different times during the day…
…when people are heading to work so you can check traffic volumes and observe how fast people zoom down the street.
…on weekends, when folks are more likely to be relaxing outdoors or working in their yards.
…midday, so you can take a stroll through the neighborhood and spot potential eyesore homes and yards. (Make sure you check in with the neighborhood association leadership ahead of time so they know you’re not casing the neighborhood.)
Meet the neighbors. If you’re serious about purchasing in a particular home, introduce yourself to the neighbors adjacent to your would-be home. Ask them non-threatening questions…
…How long have you lived in this neighborhood?
….How do you like living here?
…Have any big changes taken place in your neighborhood over the last few months/years?
…Are there many children in the neighborhood?
…How would you describe an ideal neighbor?
Meet the home owners’ association board members. Within five minutes of meeting the people in charge of enforcing your neighborhood’s rules, you’ll get a good feel for the emotional climate of the neighborhood. If you listen carefully and ask thoughtful questions, you’ll learn about common challenges your neighborhood faces, how they problem solve, and who the troublemakers are.
Call a mediator. If neighborhood issues can’t be resolved through direct, face-to-face negotiations, consider contacting Dispute Resolution Services for Snohomish County, where you can meet with a neutral third party who will help you resolve the problem.
File a complaint. Snohomish County has an online Complaint Investigation request where you can submit a complaint about issues such zoning violations, building without a permit, junkyard conditions, travel trailer occupancy, grading without permits and land use issues.
Most cities have similar code enforcement divisions, responsible for enforcing municipal codes. Their officers research complaints to determine whether there is a violation, and if so, the extent of the violation. They then determine what action is required.
Here is a PDF link to the City of Everett’s informative brochure about code violations.
The following are violations in the City of Everett if visible from a street, alley, or public or other private property:
- Broken or discarded furniture, household equipment or furnishings
- Shopping carts in the front yard, side yard, rear yard or vacant lot on your property, which is zoned residential by the City
- Vegetation that is more than 42 inches high (not including vegetation located in flower beds), grass that is more than 12 inches high
- Cars that are wrecked, taken apart, or inoperable (unless stored or parked lawfully and fenced in connection with the business of a licensed dismantler or licensed vehicle dealer)
What about you?
Have you ever had a troublesome neighbor? How did you resolve the issue?