How to handle a hellish neighbor

By Jennifer Laing  | October 23, 2014 - 3:59PM

In a densely populated city like New York, a run-in with a neighbor isn't just possible—it’s inevitable. Sporadic noises and cooking smells from next door are one thing, but when a situation escalates or turns to harassment, that's a different story. Unless a resident is breaking the rules (or the law), it can be difficult to get building management to intervene; they often hope that residents will sort it out themselves. Here’s what to do, just short of moving, when you just can’t take it any more:

Step 1: Conversation A friendly discussion is your first option. Be kind and compassionate, not confrontational, and try to settle the problem between the two (or few) of you.

Step 2: Documentation Put it in writing—and we don't mean an anonymous note to your neighbor. Letters to co-op or condo boards, the management company or landlord about the bothersome issue creates a paper trail that’s more official than a few random phone calls of complaint and can come in handy if the problem continues to escalate.

Step 3: Mediation The city offers mediation for neighbors who can’t work things out between themselves or with the help of the management company and it’s a more cost-effective (not to mention appropriate since Murphy’s Law practically guarantees you will routinely run into an annoying neighbor as long as you live in the same general vicinity) route than litigation. Two affordable options: New York City’s Bar Association Co-op and Condo Mediation Project and New York Peace Institute.

Step 4: Litigation When all else fails, consider your legal options. An order of protection may be possible if an arrest has been made. That said, start by dialing 911. Sometimes a visit from the cops can go a long way in ending ongoing harassment. If the resident's behavior is affecting other people, the board may go after them with a lawsuit; in a co-op, the board has the power to evict abusive residents.  


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