Living in Your Neighbor’s Backyard? Here’s How to Keep the Peace

March 26, 2019 Kris Toffel

If you’ve visited a newer neighborhood recently, you may have noticed that yards are getting smaller and houses are getting closer together. Whether it’s because homeowners don’t want to manage the maintenance and upkeep that comes with having a large yard, or developers are trying to make better use of their space, the small yard trend seems to be here to stay. Unfortunately, with this newfound popularity comes a different set of issues for both homeowners and community associations alike.

What issues can a small backyard cause?

While many people may not consider the size of a yard to be a factor when purchasing a home, it’s important to be aware of the issues that could arise if the backyard is small. Noise complaints – like loud music, dogs barking, or children playing – tend to be the most common issues. These loud noises cause a distraction and can be disruptive to the time you spend enjoying your own backyard.

How can you keep the peace?

When issues arise between neighbors, most people tend to avoid taking the confrontational route and instead let their association handle the problem by sending a violation or non-compliance letter to the resident at fault. Unfortunately, this could create a bigger problem, because in most cases, the violator knows exactly who sent the letter and tensions could rise. The following are three ways you can keep the peace, so situations don’t get out of hand.

  1. Meet your neighbors.

In the “old days,” it was customary to welcome a new family to the neighborhood by stopping by with a sweet treat. Revive that tradition and get to know who lives around you. Say hello at the mailbox or connect on a community platform like TownSq to meet your neighbors and start your relationship on the right foot before any issues arise.

2. Be neighborly.

After you meet your neighbors, you should continue to build that relationship by being neighborly. Being neighborly doesn’t have to be complicated – it’s as simple as offering to pick up your neighbor’s newspaper or keeping an eye on their home while they’re out of town.  

3. Work together to resolve issues.

If you have a strong relationship with your neighbors, it’s easier to work together to resolve issues. For example, if your neighbor’s children are staying outside late to play, and they know you have to wake up early for work, they’ll be more likely to work with you to find a compromise. Remember, you should always address issues face-to-face and be open to all sides.

What can you do if relationships are strained?

If you’ve already tried speaking with your neighbors, and they’re ignoring your requests, you can seek other avenues to resolve your issues. Keep in mind that covenants and violations do exist for a reason - so getting your association involved is an option, or you can contact a city compliance officer. While many people take these measures immediately, it’s recommended that they’re used as a last resort because having a strained relationship with someone who lives ten feet away is never good. If you do your best to build a relationship with your neighbors, it’ll be easy to keep the peace while living in each other’s backyards. 

About the Author

Kris Toffel

Kris is a Community Association Manager (CMCA) at Associa McKay Management where she manages a portfolio of HOAs including single family homes, condos and mixed-use property. With 20+ years’ experience managing people, financials and facilities, Kris joined Associa McKay Management in 2016 following a career in process improvement for companies such as Russell Athletic, Fruit of the Loom and Plantation Patterns. An avid traveler and craft-a-holic, Kris is in constant motion.

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