I have lived in my home for about 20 years. I have a problem with a neighbor in the home located behind mine.
The person who lives there has rented the home for a couple of years. We never had a problem with the previous tenant. But we’ve had nothing but problems with this one. He has two dogs that he leaves out all night barking and making noise. I spent $600 replacing the windows in my bedroom to make it quieter.
A couple of years ago, he set up golf equipment up against the fence. I had to call the police when one of the balls hit me coming over the fence. His lot and space is huge and there are many other places he could put the equipment. At least that stopped when I called police.
Now, for the past two years, he sits out in his garage and coughs loudly and then spits up phlegm. Again, there are many places he could go to do this without it having to annoy me. He sits and does this about 30 feet from my courtyard where I entertain company and like to sit and read with a glass of wine.
I have made recordings on my cellphone of what he does, and I am considering filing a disturbing the peace complaint about him. If he had nowhere else to go to do this, it would be different, but he does. My family will not even come to cook out anymore because the last time they ended up running inside and throwing up when they heard him do this. It is really gross and you can hear him coughing it up a block away and then hear the spitting.
If I even try to sell my home, when people come to look at it, it won’t sell if they hear this. What do I do? I feel that it truly affects my property value. Please give me some advice.
Some of the hardest questions we get relate to neighbor problems. We’ve answered quite a number of these over the years. In some cases, what one person considers normal behavior, another person considers quite offensive, rude or loud. Sometimes from the letters we receive, we can’t quite tell whether the offending neighbor is taking actions on purpose or simply doesn’t know better.
We’re quite sorry to see that you didn’t take action earlier to talk to this neighbor. When you had problems with him earlier, you might have saved yourself quite a bit of grief if you had simply talked to him early on. The dog problem and the golf equipment problem might have been solved if you had a neighborly talk with him years ago. Maybe you had this talk and nothing came of it, but at least it would have been worth a try.
Years ago, Sam had an upstairs neighbor who used ski exercise equipment around 5 a.m. The neighbor had no idea that the vibration and noise carried into Sam’s bedroom. However, one day when he saw the neighbor in the hall, Sam mentioned the noise and the neighbor was quite surprised and embarrassed that he had been causing a problem for Sam. The neighbor immediately moved the equipment to another part of his apartment.
Neighborly issues come down to the intent of the parties. If a neighbor is doing something that upsets the others around him or her but doesn’t know that it’s a problem, the neighbor doesn’t know corrective action is needed.
Your neighbor might have a medical condition that’s causing this situation. We wonder if there isn’t a way to approach him and mention that you and your children have heard him cough so loudly and are concerned about his health. It might be that he simply doesn’t know how it’s affecting you. He might take a hint and you might see a change in behavior. Also, if he does have some medical condition and he is ill, we wonder if you’d still feel the same way about your neighbor.
On the other hand, if his activities are intentional to cause you grief, you might be out of luck with him directly. However, you might want to contact the owner of the home and have a casual talk with him about the problems you’re facing. Ask the owner if he or she has any suggestions on how to handle the situation. The owner might well request that the tenant behave or the lease will not be renewed.
Keep in mind that most of these solutions require a bit of diplomacy and not legal action. Frequently, calling the police may cause neighbors to become passive-aggressive and act worse over time. You might have the right to litigate, but that action can backfire on you.
We recommend that you evaluate your situation and try to find a way to get through to your neighbor in the best neighborly fashion. You might be surprised by the results. And, if you don’t succeed, you can at least say that you tried.
Ilyce R. Glink ’s latest book is “Buy, Close, Move In!” Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate lawyer. If you have questions, you can call Glink’s radio show
(800-972-8255) any Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact Glink and Tamkin through the Web site www.thinkglink.com.