How to deal with a horrible neighbor

Things to do, things not to do and how long to cool down before you do anything

Whether you live in a city with millions of people or in a nice quiet suburb, the world can really feel like a crowded place sometimes.

It's easy to feel that way whenever you have to wait on line at the store, when you're stuck in traffic, or when you're unable to get a seat on the subway or bus.

By the time you get home, all you want is a little bit of peace and relaxation, and thankfully, most times you're able to get it.

But some of us just aren't able to get that quiet time at home because we have a neighbor who's either inconsiderate, oblivious to the unwritten rules of neighbor etiquette or just a plain jerk.

So what should you do when you have an unruly neighbor? Should you go over and settle things through an angry face-to-face confrontation?

Easy does it

No, say the folks at Colorado Home Owners Association Law. They say you should first vent your frustrations before going to your neighbor's house to discuss things.

You should speak to a friend or family member, take a few days to calm down or write out your grievances beforehand. It's best to get all of your frustrations out first, so you're able to present your case in a calm and rational manner, say the Colorado lawyers.

And before taking action on your neighbor, it's important to determine if whatever he's doing is an isolated incident, something that happens once in a while or a constant occurrence.

You would clearly need to put the problem in the right perspective before you go marching over to your neighbor's house, experts say.

Get a grip

Bob Borzotta, author of "Neighbors From Hell: Managing Today's Brand of Conflict Close to Home" told USA Today it's importantnot to confuse an unfriendly neighbor with a bad one. 

And just because your neighbor doesn't wave to you while you're mowing the lawn or has never invited you for coffee and cake, doesn't mean he's a horrible person to live next to.

"Don't let lack of familiarity breed contempt," said Borzotta. "Neighbors don't always become our good friends, but knowing the names of people living nearby, exchanging a friendly wave and being seen around your community are underrated steps to harmony."

In addition, Borzotta says to wait at least one day before confronting your neighbor about something he's done.

"Don't run over to a loud party next door while it's going on, or scream out at a barking dog in an adjacent back yard; cooler heads prevail, and the time to pleasantly mention a concern is 24 hours after the disturbance," he said.

What's your problem?

According to a new survey conducted by, 48% of people who have an issue with their neighbor are bothered by noise and 29% are annoyed by their neighbor's pets.

Additionally, the survey showed that 21% of people are bothered by their neighbor's children and 18% said they're angered by the appearance of their neighbor's property, whether it's trash around the yard, uncut grass or some other eyesore.

What to do

And how did the people in the survey handle those disputes?

Results show that 49% spoke with their neighbor face to face, 27% called the cops, 15% contacted a neighborhood owners association and 11% sent their neighbor a letter.

Real estate expert and Today show contributor Barbara Corcoran says there are certain things you should do before picking a new neighborhood to live in.

And if you're interested in avoiding a lot of neighborhood problems down the road, you should cruise the neighborhood at night -- not during the day.

Corcoran says by checking out a neighborhood at night, you'll be able to get a real sense of what the noise and activity levels are.

When looking at a new street to live on, you should also keep an eye out for basketball hoops, skateboard ramps and other equipment that might cause a lot of noise or draw all the kids in the neighborhood to one area.

Plus, Corcoran says to avoid streets where there's a country club nearby, an empty lot, a halfway house, a bus stop or an intersection with stop signs.

By doing so, you'll be able to increase the chances of getting that peace you're looking for at home and never having to confront your neighbor about noise.

Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney with, says to make sure you're aware of your rights when it comes to things like the local noise ordinance.

"Neighborhoods form dynamic communities with unique personalities, since a group of unrelated people must live close together," she said.

"Most often, neighbors are friendly, but occasionally, disputes will arise over issues such as boundaries or excessive noise. Our survey found that most issues between neighbors are satisfactorily settled without the matter turning into a legal dispute.

"It's important for people to know what their rights are on issues such as boundaries, nuisances, animals and so on, as well as what legal and other resources are available that could help them," Rahlfs concludes.

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