Home Laws & Legal Advice General Laws & Legal Advice HOW TO DEAL WITH HARASSING NEIGHBORS


(3 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)
Written by THIRDSTONE   

There are different types of harassing behavior, and while some specific types of harassment can simple be ignored in hopes the problem goes away, other types of harassment can not be ignored.  A neighbor who yells at you now or than or gives you dirty looks is not so much of a problem as the neighbor who gets up in your face yelling and swearing, whop bangs all hours of the day and night opn your walls, or who is threatening your family with harm.  Further, if the person doing the harassment has mental issues or is a heavy drinker, than you and your family may actually be in a dangerous situation, and your only means of defense is to report and dcoument the harassment, in this article I show you how to document such harassment that will impress both the police as well as a judge.

A recording device of some type
A camera (one that takes videos is great)
writing pad

The very first thing to do is capture any yelling, name calling or threats to you or your family down on tape.  You do this for several reasons, in most cases, when the police are called the person doing the harassing will deny any wrong doing, or insist it was you doing the harassing, not them.  A recording doesn't lie and is one of the key methods to documenting neighbor harassment.
Another reason for getting it down on tape is it gives the police the evidence they need to take action against the harassing party.  And finally, when that evidence is presented to a judge, the harassing neighbor will have little choice but to plead guilty.

It is also important to know that if your case does go before a judge, and you have properly documented the harassment, you most likely will not even have to appear in court yourself.  In my case, I was told I would not be needed because I had such good documentation.
Recording a neighbor on tape who is yelling from their front yard, or through the walls of your apartment is legal, in fact it was the police who gave me the advice.  Normally it would be illegal, but in the case of ongoing harassment, it presents solid evidence to both law enforcement and a judge.  I did attempt to capture the sounds on a standard tape recorder with a built in mic and had very poor results.  A quick trip to Radio Shack and I purchased a $7 external mic, placed that close to the wall the yelling was coming from, and it worked perfectly.

Use that days newspaper to actuately date the time of the harassment.  When your following through on step i, you want to take a current newspaper and standing by your recording device, softly read off the name of the paper, the date on the newspaper, and read off two of the headlines on the front page, then save the front page as part of your evidence.  
In my case, once my neighbor found out she was being taped, she continued with the harassment, but tried to tell police it was a recording from way back, and that she was no longer harassing us.  Dating my recordings with the newspaper put an end to such claims.

Using a camera that takes video, capture some of the harassment on video.  If you can manage to do it, nothing speaks louder than a video recording and it shows the police and the judge the true degree of the harassment.  The night my neighbor was yelling to come over and assault us, I set my camera up and aimed it toward the front window.  I was on the phone with the police when she suddenly appeared in the front window and attempted to break through the window.  At that point, the video was enough for the police to place her under arrest and haul her off to jail.

If you do capture any harassment on tape, save a copy of the video to your computer to add to your other evidence.

If the harassment involves your mail box, capture it on video.  Tampering with the mail is a Federal offense and anyone caught doing it will face heavy fines and jail time.  In my case, at the time I was not aware of this, so how I handled it was to go out in my yard and set up a camera on a tripod aimed directly at the mail boxes.  She came out that day, stared at the camera for a while with a dirty look, and from that day forward, we had no more mail disappearing from our mail box.

If you live in any type of housing, make copies of your evidence and present it to your landlord or housing authority.  Our landlord insisted that before they take any action, we would have to first go next door and try to work things out with the harassing neighbor.  The police advised us not to do that, it would be putting ourselves in harms way, and could lead to injury or worse.  The police finally contacted the housing authority themselves and told them this problem had to be addressed, and the housing finally began to take some action, though it was slow in coming.
Another thing I learned was when turning your evidence over to your landlord, do it through the mail, not in person, and send it in a way that they have to sign for it.  It costs less then $2 and is another way to document the fact that you are contacting the right parties and trying to get this situation resolved.

Prepare yourself for the harassment to get a lot worse before it gets better.  Just because you contacted the police and your landlord doesn't mean the neighbor is going to roll over and play dead.  In our case, dispite the pile of growing evidence against her, our neighbor continued to harass us, repeatedly smashing out the light in front of our doorway, blasting music through the walls, even yelling she was going to slash the tires on our car.  She was the neighbor from hell and nothing seemed to deter her, not even being arrested four times and being ordered to take an evaluation.  You just have to hang in there and continue to document as much of the harassment as you can, and keep reporting it and turning over copies of your evidence.

If you are disabled, and any of the harassment is aimed at your disability, make certain you tell the police about this.  There are laws on the books that protect people with disabilites from harassment, even if that harassment is coming from someone who is disabled themselves.  I can't recall what the law is, and not even all law enforcement officers are aware of it, but one police officer informed me of the law and began a case file.  After the third complaint, the file is turned over to the DA's office, so if you have a disability know there is help there for you.

Contact your local town office or city hall and tell them about the harassment and inquire if there are any laws on the local books to help you deal with it.  As it turned out, our town had such a law, I was simply unaware of it.  It is called the noisy house ordinance.  We live in a tourist community and many young people flock here for summer jobs, and this lead to many loud parties.  Most of the landlords live out of state and could care less about this, and refused to take any action against the roudy tenants.  So the town passed the noisy house ordinance.  
The ordiance says that after three complaints, if a landlord has failed to properly address the situation, they have to evict the noisy tenants, or the town can take action and shut down the rental property.  On her forth arrest, it was a police officer who informed me of the law, he also told me he had already made two noisy house complaints to the landlord and this one should solve all our problems.  
Sure enough, two days later she was next door yelling at us how we had gotten her served with an eviction notice.  We did have to put up with her for that final month, but it finally brought our problems to an end.
Now your town or city may or may not have such laws on the books, but it is well worth looking into.

Do not allow the harassment to put up a wall between you and your landlord.  It is important to keep on good terms with your landlord, even if it appears they are not addressing the problem in a way you wouild like.  I never got angry with my landlord because I knew it would only end up harming me and not my harassing neighbor.  The only thing I did do was send my letters and evidence to them through the mail so they had to sign for it.  The same is true for law enforcement, be courteous and level headed, knowing that the evidence is on your side and the legal system will get things right in time.  

have patience
document as mush as possible and don't stop documenting
keep reporting the harassment

Do not return the harassment.  This is a hard one, but you do not want them getting and using evidence against you, keep it one sided
never confront those doing the harassing, leave that to law enforcement, it is not worth injury or death

Comments (1)add comment

tropicallinda said:

Thank you for this article. I have a very bad situation with the woman that lives in the apartment upstairs form me. She has been there only 10 weeks and it is pure HELL !! I filed my first complaint to the police yesterday. I am taking your advice about everything !!!
October 29, 2012
Votes: +2

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