Renting your home can mean living in close proximity with strangers, and they aren’t always going to be people you like or get along with. It’s common for neighbors to have disagreements that can lead to harassment. Laws vary between states, but there are general rules and strategies for figuring out if your neighbor's behavior classifies as harassment, and then dealing with it.
Examples of neighbor harassment
In order for your neighbor’s actions to be considered harassment, they must be intentional. Some states have laws that define what is and isn’t considered neighbor harassment, but these are the most common examples.
Noise: A loud neighbor can be a nightmare. Your lease may place restrictions on noise or impose quiet times and your city's laws may also define what noise is considered unacceptable. As far as what you could get a lawyer's help with, they would need to be deliberately making noise to bother you rather than for their own reasons.
Pet problems: Pets are a common source of conflict between neighbors. Your lease may set limits on what kind of animals a tenant can keep as a pet and how many they may have in their unit. Local law likely speaks to pet ownership, defining what kinds of animals may be kept as pets. Some cities have laws governing pet noise, and if you have concerns about how a pet is being treated, there are government agencies that will investigate a report.
Property damage: When you share a wall with your neighbor, there’s a chance that they may damage your unit or property. An overflowing sink in the unit above you can lead to water damage of your belongings or your apartment. This is one of the many reasons every tenant should have renter’s insurance.
Building usage:If you live in an apartment building with several other tenants, you may disagree about how to correctly use and behave on the property. If your neighbor is smoking inside and you can smell it in your unit, that will likely lead to an argument. If your building provides parking or shared amenities, you may disagree about how often these spaces can be used by each tenant.
Nuisance: Nuisance is a general term that refers to any behavior that intentionally harms or annoys you. If you and your neighbor have disagreed about something, they may respond by creating a nuisance. This could be disposing of their garbage incorrectly in a shared area of the building. Nuisance sometimes crosses the line into legally actionable territory, like a neighbor tampering with your mail.
Resolving conflicts about neighbor harassment
No matter how you choose to resolve your conflict with your neighbor, always keep careful documentation of the dispute. If they are doing a particular thing that could be considered harassment, keep track of when it happens and how you attempt to address it each time.
Talk to your neighbor: Try talking face to face with your neighbor. If you’d prefer, you can also hire a neutral third party to help mediate your dispute. Some law schools offer free mediation services, like the University of Pennsylvania’s Mediation Clinic. There are also large non-profit organizations that offer mediation for disagreements between neighbors, like the New York Peace Institute.
Get help from a lawyer: If mediation or direct communication isn’t possible, you may want to consult a lawyer - just remember that you'll need to be able to prove that your neighbor is doing it on purpose.
When you should call the police: If your neighbor ever does anything that is threatening or makes you feel unsafe, don’t hesitate to call the police. Having a police report on file will strengthen your case if it ends up in court, and your safety should be your first priority. A neighbor’s arrest is the only way to secure a protective order if that becomes something you need to do.
If your neighbor is harassing and your landlord is privy to it or not helping then you might be able to argue that your right to quiet enjoyment is breached, enabling you to leave without penalties via the concept of constructive eviction.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.