How to deal with a harassing neighbor

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Robert Frost wrote, "Good fences make good neighbours." This means that to maintain amicable relationships with our neighbours, you need to respect other people's privacy and keep a healthy distance. When disagreements occur, they may quickly escalate to action and revenge.

Neighbour harassment might be caused by people who are desperately seeking new friendships that are not mutual or when an offence has been taken and vengeance is sought.

Examine your own behaviour to determine whether you said or did something that may have triggered the harassment. Do not seek out your neighbour to borrow anything or initiate any conversations if the harassment stems from overly friendly neighbours who do not respect your privacy.

Cease any unreasonable behaviours you or other members of your family might have been doing. For example, if your teenagers have been playing very loud music late at night that disturbs your neighbours' sleep, your teen must refrain from doing so.

Discuss the situation face to face with the neighbour. Do not raise your voice or express your anger. State your feelings calmly and explain to your neighbour why his behaviour is a harassment. For example, if he has been ringing your doorbell very early every morning to demand you move your car because he believes it is blocking his driveway, point out to him where the property line is and show him how you are within your rights to park there. If, however, you are blocking his driveway, you will have to find an alternate place to park your car.

Elicit support for your point of view from the authorities if necessary. Check your municipal bylaws to ensure you are within your rights if the harassment is caused by a dispute over property rights. Inform the neighbour that you will have to resort to calling the police if the harassment continues.

Ask other neighbours whether they are experiencing similar problems with the same neighbour. Gather signatures on a petition as a last resort if you feel it will help the neighbour realise his complaints are invalid.

Try a little loving kindness if the harassment consists of the neighbour complaining about your behaviour. Bring the neighbour a home-baked cake or merely try some friendly conversation. Choose a time when the neighbour is not angry and try to connect on a personal level; your neighbour's anger might be stemming from loneliness.

Try avoiding the neighbour as much as possible until emotions calm down. Leave for work a bit earlier than usual, if possible, to avoid having to confront the neighbour every morning if that is when the harassment usually occurs. Do not answer back if the neighbour screams unreasonable comments at you. Childish behaviour often can be corrected by responding in an appropriate way. Do not stoop to his level and scream back; this will only continue the unpleasantness.

Consult a lawyer and get her to send a warning letter to the harassing neighbour. Follow up with court action if the situation escalates; the courts may issue a "cease and desist order" that may cause the neighbour to finally realise he must stop his problematic behaviour.

Put your house up for sale and move if none of the suggestions bring about improvement in the situation. Unreasonable neighbours can ruin the enjoyment and sanctity of your home, and moving may, unfortunately, be the only possible way to avoid the unpleasantness.