Disputes between neighbours are all too common. Sometimes they’re easy to fix and sometimes, not so much. Here are a few thoughts from Scott McGillivray on the most common disputes and some great tips to avoid them.
Who hasn’t bothered or been bothered by their neighbours at some point? Whether it’s late night parties or early morning renovations, noise complaints can and will happen. Be sensitive to those around you when it comes to noise; and if you’re the one being bothered, be gentle in your approach. Calling the police should be a last resort as it will usually only create more tension.
Where should the backyard fence be? Who’s responsible for shovelling the mutual driveway during snowstorms? Where a property begins and ends is a huge source of tension between neighbours. My advice? Relax. It’s not the end of the world if you have to shovel a little extra snow or mow a bit more of the lawn. That said, if it’s really a problem, like someone is building a fence on what you believe to be your property, pull out your property survey and be prepared to call the city if need be.
Trees or tree branches that come down in a storm can be a nightmare. Whether they damage power lines or property, it’s a huge pain (sometimes a dangerous one!). If your neighbour owns a tree, it’s their responsibility to make sure it doesn’t damage your property. This includes letting roots grow under your property. If you notice something is leaning towards your property line, it’s worth mentioning it to them before something happens.
I’ve worked on more than one house where the neighbours complained about the renovations and tried to derail us. I get it: it’s noisy, there are cars parked everywhere and it’s not a lot of fun to look at. But as long as your neighbours have done everything by the book, they are perfectly within their rights. If you’re renovating, try to keep your neighbours in mind. Be proactive and tell them about it before you start. And ask the reno crew to be mindful of the neighbours as much as they possibly can.
Out of Control Kids
I love my kids and you love your kids, but sometimes our kids trample some flowers or don’t appreciate boundaries. If this is a problem, a friendly call to the parents will usually do the trick. If your neighbours call to complain, listen to what they have to say and then sit your kids down and talk to them about respecting other people’s property.
The problem is rarely the pet, it’s the pet owner. If you let your dog pee on the neighbour’s lawn or or he digs up the yard, the neighbours are going to be mad. Follow the rules and respect your neighbour’s property. If you’re the one having the problem, explain why it’s an issue for you. If they refuse to cooperate, try calling your homeowners’ association or even animal services. Depending on the problem, they may be able to issue a ticket.
Lack of Maintenance
This is a tricky one. If your neighbours allow their curb appeal to decline and the place looks like an eyesore, it’s their right. However, if there’s a real danger – structural, sanitary or pest-related, for example – I suggest calling your local authorities to deal with it. Not only can these issues impact property values, but there can be health and safety issues as well.
Some people are more protective of their property than others. And some people feel more entitled to trespass than others. If you find a neighbor cutting a path through your yard or if you live in a rural area and they are using your land for who-knows-what, you can certainly ask them nicely to stop or even put up a fence. But if they’re doing something that concerns you or they refuse to stop, calling the police is the best and most immediate way of dealing with them.
Second-hand smoke can be a serious issue for neighbours, particularly those with shared walls (row houses, apartments, etc.). Some apartment complexes have smoking bylaws that can be enforced, but it’s often more difficult with houses. If your neighbours are friendly, I would suggest asking them if there’s a way to limit where they smoke. If your kids play in the front yard, maybe they can limit smoking to the backyard for example. If not, you still have certain rights and the smoke may be considered a nuisance under common law. If it’s a serious enough problem, speak to a lawyer.
There are easy ways to avoid parking disputes. Don’t block the access to your neighbour’s property with your car and don’t use other peoples’ communal parking spaces unless you have absolutely no choice. It’s not rocket science.