Your home is a personal sanctuary – the place where you can relax in peace. However, if you have a neighbor who constantly harasses you or someone in your family, you need to take the appropriate action. Although neighbor harassment is more common when living in an apartment complex, it can occur between homeowners as well.
Regardless of your situation, you should never have to listen to someone yell at you or make threats. The law defines harassment as communication deemed derogatory or offensive, threats of assault or violence, engagement in offensive physical touching, and repeated acts of intentional alarming or annoying behavior. Even playing loud music or pestering a dog in a backyard could constitute harassment.
The concern with neighbor harassment is that if it is not rectified quickly, things can quickly spiral out of control. In fact, some situations involve assault and battery. After all attempts of talking to your neighbor amicably have failed, to prevent the situation from escalating, you may need to get the police involved and hire an attorney.
Hearing your neighbor say things that you find insensitive or thoughtless does not automatically equate to harassment. Instead, harassment entails intentional and repeated acts. While a law enforcement officer will try to calm the situation down, unless your neighbor committed a crime, you will have to sue the person in court as a civil matter.
For a successful lawsuit, you need evidence such as notes, videos, witnesses, and police reports. In a court of law, the judge wants to know about the relationship between you and your neighbor. Therefore, you will both get questioned about age, gender, sexual orientation, and occupation. That way, the judge can determine if the specific communication or an intentional act rises to the level of criminal harassment.
Depending on your situation, a judge may grant you a temporary or permanent restraining order or a court-ordered injunction. For either scenario, your neighbor must avoid you and stay away. A restraining order or injunction may also include other members of your family who were also victims of harassment.
After a judge grants a restraining order or injunction, if the terms get violated, your neighbor could get arrested and jailed. Depending on the severity of the violation or the number of occurrences, your neighbor might get charged with a felony, which results in stiffer penalties. Often, a harassing neighbor gets charged with disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor. However, that could be enough to get your neighbor to stop the unwanted behavior.
If your neighbor has any prior misdemeanor or felony convictions or continues to act in a threatening or harassing manner, the court could change its standing, having your neighbor arrested for a more serious crime. Living next door to a person like this is not just annoying but frightening, especially when things escalate. By hiring a qualified attorney, defenses like freedom of speech will not hold up in the court system.
Most neighbor harassment cases are minor and can sometimes be settled between the two parties. However, if you have done everything that you can without a resolution, consider notifying law enforcement and contacting a good neighbor dispute attorney.