In a perfect world, we’d all be able to trust our neighbors. Maybe we’d share a beer and talk about life from time to time, pop over for that extra egg we needed for our dinner recipe — or, at the very least, we might be able remain on cordial terms with them.
The truth of the matter is that people aren’t perfect, and some behavior isn’t so neighborly. Some neighbors will even come off as downright hostile or defiant, like that guy down down the hall who consistently blasts music late at night despite repeatedly being told to turn it down. Occasionally, things could even cross the line into deliberate and targeted harassment. If you’ve noticed these types of antics being directed at you, it only makes sense that you’d be feeling upset, victimized, and wondering how you can best handle this “problem neighbor.”
Let’s be clear: any tenant who continually harasses, threatens, or otherwise compromises their neighbors’ well-being should be held accountable, and if necessary, evicted from the property. After all, as a paying tenant, you have rights in this situation. You’ll just have to figure out what course of action to take first, and determine if the harassment warrants any legal action.
Identify the Problem
Unfortunately, there are people in life who make it their personal mission to cause distress or annoyance to others. You’re probably scratching your head and trying to figure out what you could have possibly done to provoke them. That’s a good place to start, too, as attempting to identify the source of their discontent can really go a long way towards addressing the issuing and working through it in a constructive fashion. Maybe it is something within your control, or something you can compromise on.
There are circumstances, however, in which your neighbor won’t disclose any particular reason for their rudeness to you. Sometimes, there really isn’t a method to their madness or any actual misdeed on your end, but even in these cases, it’s a good first step to try to talk things over one-on-one. Approach them at a time when you know it’s convenient for the both of you, like when they’re entering the building at the end of the day, and ask them if they have a minute to talk.
Try to keep your body language and words neutral during the actual conversation. You could start by saying something like, “I happened to hear you banging on my wall yesterday. Can we talk about that?” Then, give them them an opportunity to explain their actions. When they’ve provided you some rationale to work with, you can then diplomatically validate their concerns and come to an agreement. But if the person denies their behavior, is outright aggressive, or makes facing them feel unsafe, you’ll have to move on to the next step.
Document the Harassment
Are they yelling on the other side of the door? If you’re able to, make an audio recording of whatever is being said, or any particularly loud noises being made. If a neighbor damages any of your belongings, make sure to photograph it. Keep a log of all incidents with that neighbor and the dates on which they occurred. Seriously, write down everything. Has your landlord or property manager been notified that this is happening? Most landlords won’t just shrug it off, especially if you present your information in an organized, tactful manner. Let’s say, though, that they don’t seem to care, or to understand the gravity of the situation. Maybe they attempted to talk to the other tenant but it didn’t do any good.
If the landlord declines to take action to protect you moving forward, even after you have demonstrated the veracity of your claims, the next thing you should do is to phone the police department. If they’re doing their job right, they’ll fully investigate your complaint, review any evidence, and file a formal report. They’ll also want to speak to you about what specifically has been going on with your neighbor, so be prepared to corroborate your account with tangible proof of their conduct. Finally, they’ll probably speak to the accused harasser to get their side of the story, too, along with your other neighbors who have potentially witnessed the harassment firsthand.
The more people in your building who can vouch for you, the better. Once the police have interviewed you, made a report, and spoken to any witnesses, there’s a good chance that the other person will get the message that what they’re doing isn’t okay. They may have been given a verbal warning, or even charged with a crime if something like destruction of property occurred. However, maybe they still don’t quite get it, and are persisting in their behavior even against police orders. At this point, you have grounds for a lawsuit.
Taking your neighbor to court is the last thing anyone wants to do, but sometimes you have no other option. If the incidents do not cease, even after the police have visited, you’ll want to contact an attorney to find out how to build your case. Discuss your legal options with them, taking note of what they advise you to do in the meantime. Maybe a peace order would make for a temporary “fix” until you face them in court. It really depends on your individual circumstances, but taking some common-sense precautions is never a bad idea. Oh, and the other tenant’s probably not too happy with you by now, so avoiding them if at all possible would be another smart move.
In preparing your case, you’ll want to create back-up copies of anything you’re planning to use as evidence, just to be on the safe side. Your landlord or property manager may have collected some compelling evidence as well, such as surveillance footage. They’ll most likely be called as a witness, too, which is why approaching them prior togetting law enforcement involved can really work in your favor. And as we mentioned previously, other tenants in the building may have also been harassed by the neighbor in question, in which case they can be called on to provide testimony as well.
Whether it’s ongoing verbal abuse, unwanted sexual advances, explicit (or implied) threats, property damage, or some other bothersome behavior, you don’t have to live your life in fear or in a constant state of irritation. By being amicable and, when that doesn’t work, getting proactive, you’ll find yourself well-equipped to effectively curb a neighbor’s campaign of harassment, even if it means taking the legal route.