What to do about a lousy neighbor in Southcentral

The Montagues and the Capulets, the Hatfields and McCoy’s, the Starks and the Lannisters – neighbor disputes, whether real or imaginary, captivate readers and viewers. But, since we don’t live in the Dune universe and tensions between two neighbors in modern-day America aren’t over the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, disputes need to be resolved in a somewhat civilized fashion.

Forty two percent of Americans claim they’ve been ensnared in a neighborhood feud, with noise the most common complaint. What other types of neighbor disputes are common in Anchorage and how do neighbors typically go about disputing and resolving them?

Most Common Neighbor Disputes

Whether it’s loud music or barking dogs, noise complaints are the most common among Southcentral neighbors, according to a survey performed by FindLaw.com. Other common disputes between neighbors include issues having to do with:

  • Children’s behavior
  • Property appearance
  • Property boundaries
  • Criminal behavior
  •  Parking

Resolving Disputes

“It is a bizarre story, with one neighbor reportedly angry at the other for habitually driving a motorcycle on his lawn,” reads the news report at ABC 7 News. The story continues, weaving a tale about the perpetrator arriving home from work only to be confronted, at long last, by his angry neighbor.

“During an argument, police say the rider pulled out a knife and stabbed the neighbor, who, although injured, had enough strength to get the man into a deadly choke hold.” The motorcycle-riding neighbor was choked to death.

Since all it took was a dispute over the ownership of a pig to ignite the infamous feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys, motorcycle tracks over a lawn ending in one man’s death isn’t that surprising. As much as we hear these stories on the news, however, they represent a miniscule number of neighbor disputes.

Almost half of the people surveyed by Findlaw claim that they chose to discuss the issue in dispute personally with their neighbor, while only 27 percent chose to involve the police.

Talking to your neighbor about the problem is the first step toward resolution, according to the folks at Nolo Press. They go on to suggest that you approach the neighbor as if he doesn’t realize there is a problem because, in reality, he may not. This usually works, either permanently or temporarily. If it doesn’t, it’s time to remind your neighbor about your complaint, that the problem persists and that you hope for it to end or you’ll notify the police.

Nolo suggests sending this warning in a note with a copy of the city’s noise ordinance. If you live in a planned unit development, a copy of the CC&R clause regarding nuisances might work. If the problem persists, your next move may have to be calling the police or suing the neighbor in a court of law.

If the problem neighbor is doing something illegal or dangerous, don’t bother confronting her personally, warns Brandon Ballenger, writing in Reader’s Digest. This is one type of strife that calls for police intervention.

A dispute over property lines requires a different approach, according to officials with the City of Riverview, Mich. When a neighbor’s fence, tree roots or anything else encroaches on your property, take the following actions:

  • Send the neighbor a letter. The letter serves several purposes. First, it lets the neighbor know there is a problem. The letter also serves as documentation of the problem. Enclose a copy of the plat to prove your allegations and ask your neighbor to meet with you to discuss a resolution of the problem. Then, record the document with the Anchorage Recorder’s office.
  • If there is no easy resolution to the problem, suggest that the two of you attend mediation. Contact your attorney to ask for a referral to a mediation service.
  • If all else fails, take the neighbor to court to get relief. You can also request damages. This is an expensive undertaking that may take years to resolve.

One final option you may want to consider: Sell the property to the neighbor. Whatever you do, reduce the tension lest "A plague o' both your houses!" comes to pass.

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