When it comes to living in a community run by a homeowners association, it’s not always “love thy neighbor.”
While HOAs strive to keep a harmonious atmosphere, it turns out that 42 percent of homeowners say they’ve had neighbor disputes, according to a 2013 survey by FindLaw, “a leading provider of business development solutions for small law firms,” as part of Thomson Reuters.
Here’s the countdown of the most common reasons behind neighbor disputes and what to do about them:
- Noise. Whether it be from raucous late-night parties or opposite sleep schedules that result in one neighbor waking up the other, 48 percent of all survey takers said this was the No. 1 complaint.
- Pets. 29 percent of neighbor disputes are caused by disregard for an animal or pet policy. Many times, this issue stems from the homeowner's failure to properly handle or train their animal.
- Children. Much like pets, more than 20 percent of people find unruly behavior from children to be a problem. Whether they’re running on your property, being loud, or defacing the neighborhood, physical damage from a child’s bad behavior can often mean their parents are liable in the eyes of state law.
- Physical appearance of your home. A visual nuisance in the front or back yards, your home’s disheveled aesthetic, and overflowing trashcans cause 18 percent of neighbor disputes. This can also include unkempt lawns, offensive signs or flags, and overdue holiday decorations.
- Property boundaries. Where your property begins and ends is the cause of 17 percent of homeowners’ unhappiness. How much of the side lawn should you mow? Who’s responsible for shoveling the mutual sidewalk during snowstorms? Where should the backyard fence be measured to?
- Suspected criminal behavior. The survey doesn’t go into detail about the most common accusations, but 8 percent of residents get into arguments because one suspects the other of criminal behavior.
- Health or building code violations. Do you have a window in every room except the bathroom, laundry, or pantry room? Does your kitchen have shelves? Are there rodents or a bug infestation? 4 percent of neighborly disputes come from health and/or building code violations.
- Parking. Thankfully, most communities are built to offer parking for residents and visitors. While the quantity of spaces might not be the concern, the distance from your home or common areas as well as the time spent in a spot could account for the 1 percent of arguments.
If you’re involved in one of these neighbor-to-neighbor issues, what should you do about it? According to the survey, 86 percent of people said “they took some kind of action.” Here’s how they did it:
- 49 percent of people discussed the issue with the neighbor directly.
- 27 percent of people called the police.
- 15 percent of people notified the homeowners association.
- 14 percent of people took no action.
- 12 percent of people went to court, went to meditation, or took another course of action.
- 11 percent of people sent a note, letter, or email to the neighbor.
And what were the results?
- 40 percent of people said the matter was mutually settled without third-party intervention.
- 35 percent of people said the issue resolved itself after the neighbor moved, the behavior ended, or because of another permanent reason.
- 14 percent of people said the matter is still unresolved.
- 11 percent of people said the issue was resolved after third-party intervention, including the police, court, or homeowners association, got involved.
Additionally, 5 percent of people said that the neighbor dispute involved third-party intervention, but they were unhappy with the outcome.
HOA boards and community management associations try to make it as easy and comfortable as possible to live with next-door neighbors. If you’re looking to improve homeowner relationships in your community, download IKO’s white paper:
Note: Percentages may add up to more than one hundred percent if more than one dispute or solution was recorded. The FindLaw survey was conducted using a demographically balanced survey of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.