Are Your Neighbors Friend or Foe?

Houses in a neighborhoodIf you live in a neighborhood, you'll have to interact with your neighbors at some point. How do you keep the peace? Image: JJRD/iStockphoto

Neighbors wage war every day over blocked views, loud noise, big and small annoyances. Do you have a good neighbor policy? How’s it working out?

File this under No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: A Buffalo home owner sued her neighbors for cleaning up her littered patio without her permission. She said they trespassed and discriminated against her. A federal judge disagreed, and forced her to pay $107,000 in attorney fees.

Think I’ll skip that neighborhood’s next block party.

I’ve been a home owner for 27 years and can think of no greater hell than waging war with neighbors. The idea of scurrying to collect my mail so I’ll avoid an angry couple next door makes me want to down a Xanax.

So what do I do? I usually bend over backwards to keep the peace.

Once, I hacked off the tops of my sunflowers because my neighbor complained they blocked the sun from shining on her tomatoes.

For the past two summers, I’ve allowed a twangy lute to drown out summer crickets because another neighbor adds a mid-eastern soundtrack to his nightly pool parties.

And I let it go when the couple across the street snuck into my yard and pruned my willow because they thought it blocked traffic sight lines around the corner.

But I may be in the minority. These days, it seems like neighbor feuds are the rule, not the exception.

  • Former Seattle Mariners first basemen John Olerud finally won a long, unhappy battle with the minister next door to remove a Chinese pine that obstructed Olerud’s lake and mountain views. The neighbors had been great friends, and it seems a crying shame they let a pine tree rip them apart.
  • Sick of escalating fights over loud reggae music, a Tampa judge sentenced two feuding neighbors to monthly potluck dinners together. Maybe breaking bread will stop the fights: If it were me, I’d bring a taste tester before I bit into the tuna casserole.
  • Neighbors complained when a “starving artist” in East Hampton, N.Y., invited any and all to throw a pint of paint on his house. The artist wanted a free paint job: What he got was angry neighbors worried about property values.

Can’t we all just get along, or at least get some perspective?

I’m not saying hack off sunflowers to avoid a fight — that just worked for me, and my flower-loving neighbor felt guilty for years. But some honest communication, or perhaps a little mediation, could keep your front yard from becoming a battleground.

Have you ever confronted a neighbor? How’d it turn out?