Think of Your Neighbors
Living in a neighborhood is generally a delight that's marked by lasting friendships and a shared sense of community and civic responsibility, but there are times when proximity to others can be a nightmare. Almost half of Americans reported a dispute with a neighbor, according to a 2013 survey by legal information website FindLaw.com. Here are some of the most common causes of conflict.
Noise, Noise, Noise
Just because you enjoy blasting your favorite tunes at ear-splitting levels doesn’t mean your neighbors will appreciate your musical selections—that’s one reason why headphones were invented. A blaring speaker is just one source of noise pollution, though. Ceaselessly barking dogs and shouting children as well as firing up outdoor power equipment too early or too late in the day can all annoy your neighbors.
Who Let The Dogs Out?
Pets—and specifically pet waste—can cause bad blood between neighbors. Releasing your pets in your unfenced yard to “go” is not only potentially dangerous to them and to passersby, but if your dog strays, you invite conflict with people who, rightly, don't want to have to clean up after your dog. Add to that the fact that, in many municipalities, letting your pets roam free is against the law. Keep your pets safe in your own yard and always clean up pet waste promptly.
Playing in the Street
Kids may be entranced by their parents’ and grandparents' stories of stickball, stoopball, and kick-the-can, but today’s reality is quite different. Most parents are horrified at the idea of their kids playing in the street—a practice that is potentially dangerous for pedestrians, drivers, and kids alike. As well, a nonstop pickup game in front of your neighbor's driveway is bound to make him nuts. When it's playtime, have your kids head to a local playground or stick to their own driveway or backyard.
Channeling the Griswolds
Nearly everyone enjoys holiday lights and decor, but if the electricity consumption of your light display rivals that of a small city, you might want to tone things down a bit. Avoid over-the-top light shows, especially if your spectacle shines directly into your neighbor’s windows. If you suspect that your decorations are interfering with your neighbor's sleep, put your lights on a timer set to turn off at a decent hour, and when the holiday season is over, take down your display promptly.
Fresh, organic eggs are a tasty treat, but keeping chickens in an urban or suburban setting might not be the most neighborly way to get that farm-to-table flavor. Noise, smell, and waste disposal, not to mention the physical demands of caring for a brood, are all things to consider before you bring domestic farm animals to the typical home environment. Many municipalities and neighborhoods have regulations that stipulate what types of animals are allowed, and in what numbers, but even if your plans for animal acquisition don't flout the law, you wouldn't be wrong to notify your neighbors of your intentions and seek their blessing.
Related: 10 Ways Your Backyard Can Hurt You
Too Much of a Good Thing…
There’s one in every neighborhood: the little old man who walks out to get the newspapers in his bathrobe, or the out-of-work sister who sunbathes topless in the backyard. But before you embrace the idea of going “au naturel,” think about the fact that your neighbors really don’t want to see that much of you. And anyway, if you reveal too much, you might be breaking the law.
Emulating the Addams Family
It's one thing to fall behind on exterior home and yard maintenance once in a while, but it's quite another to let things slide to the point where you need a compass to find your way through the tangled growth. Dust off your lawn mower, or hire a neighborhood kid to help you keep up with the grass during growing season. Tackle dandelions before they have a chance to go to seed and waft into your neighbors' yards. Keeping your home’s exterior neat and clean will help you maintain friendly relations with those around you.
Errant Tree Debris
Trees and shrubs can cause a surprising amount of irritation between neighbors. Keep branches pruned so that they don’t extend over adjacent yards or damage neighbors' fences or belongings, clean up fallen or pruned debris promptly, and (it should go without saying) don’t ever blow or rake your leaves onto someone else’s lawn.
Sure, you may be able to park in the street, but that doesn’t mean you should park in the street. Where and how you park your car can be a huge source of annoyance to your neighbors, especially if your car is blocking their driveway or inhibiting access to their property. If you are lucky enough to have a garage, use it for the car, not as a substitute shed.
You wouldn't throw litter into your neighbor's yard, but that's essentially what you're doing if you don't properly close your trash and recycling receptacles and the wind picks up your trash and dumps it on their lawn. Here's another neighborly tip: Don't put the trash cans out too early, or leave your cans at the curb too long after being emptied. Give the cans a good wash every now and then to keep offensive odors at bay.
While you may be partial to lime green or fluorescent yellow, your neighbors may not appreciate your painting your entire house in that intense hue. Some neighborhood associations provide a list of acceptable exterior paint colors, but even if your block has no such restrictions, you should take the character of the neighborhood into consideration before you go bold.
Property line disputes are among the most common reasons for neighbors to go to court. Whether you are putting in a new fence, adding a pool, paving a driveway, or planting a garden, it is a good idea to have a legal survey performed. Think back to the words of Robert Frost in the 1914 poem "Mending Walls": "Good fences make good neighbors.”
Be a good neighbor and try to avoid these annoying habits.
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