Neighbor Argument Advice Desperately Needed!!

Updated on May 08, 2017
N.K. asks from Deerfield, IL
21 answers

Hello!

I am hoping to get some advice on how to deal with an argument that my neighbor and I have basically been in for the past two years. Her house is down a small hill from mine. Prior to our moving in (two owners ago) a new gutter system was installed and she claims that it created flooding in her yard. Legally everything about our gutters is completely fine. But in an effort to be good neighbors and pacify the situation, my husband and I spent almost $2000 to "terrace" the edge of our property and minimize rain drainage into her yard.

This ultimately turned out to be a big mistake. Not only did she not appreciate it or even give a simple thank you for our expensive gesture of good faith, but she got even more aggressive towards us.

Additionally, she has told my husband and I that my six and eight-year-old sons are never to go into their unfenced yard to retrieve any balls that accidentally end up there while they're playing. My boys understand this rule, and I enforce it as much as humanly possible. But yesterday they went into her yard to get a baseball.

She sent me a nasty text demanding that I respect her wishes and to stop ignoring her request. My boys are very clear on the fact that they are to go to their door and ask if hey can retrieve anything that ends up in her yard, but they are kids and sometimes they make mistakes.

I didn't immediately respond to her text, because I felt fed up with my almost two year battle with her and wanted to cool down. In my opinion she created this strict "no trespassing rule" as a sort of passive aggressive way to start drama with me every so often. She has two boys herself, so it's not as her yard is some sort of botanic garden that is to be seen and not touched.

After I didn't respond, she sent her husband over to ask if I got her text and basically demand an apology for my kids going to get their ball. He then went on to accuse them of having gone into their yard and "moving rocks" and lopping off the top of one of their bushes. I assure you that they DID NOT do anything of the sort. It's insane that they would ever accuse them of these things.

At this point I snapped. I had just had it with her accusing my kids for the past two years of being troublemakers and intruders into her precious yard. The idea that my kids would vandalize her property is ludicrous. They may have occasionally ignored my rule that they stay out of her yard, but they are good kids and would never intentionally make problems. They just make mistakes sometimes... I've maybe caught them "ignoring" her rule twice.

We had a long and heated argument last night that ultimately ended with me cursing her out. I'm so upset about it. I'm not the kind of person who gets into heated arguments with people like this, and it has me feeling sick to my stomach.

So my question is whether I should approach her to apologize for my behavior or whether it is understandable that I would react that way even if it was not ideal. I snapped. I'd just gotten so fed up with her finding opportunities every chance that she gets to start a fight with me. Rather than be civil or kind to me, she has been a bully.

Sorry for the lengthy question! Thank you!

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my question, everyone! It sounds like everyone agrees to ignore her, have a fence, and make sure that my kids don't go into her yard anymore for any circumstance. Thank you again! I knew that I would find answers here! :)

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S.H.

answers from Santa Barbara on

Do you know of the old owners? I wonder if they have any complains about her or if it is just you? I doubt it is just you. Some people act this way towards many people.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

I, also, try to make relationships work. Years ago, I learned that with some people, there is no way to make the relationship work. You've found those people. I suggest that if you stop trying, you'll be less angry. You are not responsible for their unhappiness. For me, part of my anger was knowing I'd tried and didn't suceed. I kept trying, hoping to make the situation better. I learned that when I did this, I was accepting responsibility for their happiness.

I grew up feeling responsible for my parents happiness. I became a people pleaser. Took me a few years to learn that pleasing myself was OK. A phrase I often use is, not my responsibility; not my problem. Then, I worked on not thinking about the issue.

I suggest you focus on what will work for you. Other moms have possible ways to do this: build a fence, kids play ball somewhere else, block them from your number, an errant ball is a gone forever ball, use phrases that stop the conversation when they confront you. Make the goal to never engage with them. Act like they're not important to you. "Fake it till you make it." Most importantly is to accept that there is no way that you can ever do anything to get their cooperation.

13 moms found this helpful

D.B.

answers from Boston on

I have a neighbor very much like that. She cannot be reasoned with. We have a small wooded area between the houses, and it's almost all our property. They have a fence that is about 1 foot inside the property line. We cleaned it out a few times, as they tended to throw all kinds of stuff in it (kids' toys, stray balls, trash from various parties, beer cans both empty and full, and so on). She sent the kids out to yell at us for cleaning our own woods, and we did ask the kids if this toy or that toy belonged to them. If they said "yes" then we either gently tossed a toy into their yard or stacked things on the property line. This wasn't good enough for her and she just came out screaming at us, saying that our son was throwing his own toys into her yard. Yeah, good plan, kid. So my feeling is that she is mentally ill and incapable of rational thought. From there, we just waited it out until the kids grew up and moved away. If all the cars were gone on a given day, then that's the day we cleaned up litter, and we tossed things unless they were valuable (bike helmets, bicycles, etc.). We tried ignoring her and also calling/waving hello as she drove by, but she just screamed back "HELLO!" in a nasty, rude voice. So I'd say we have not spoken a word in 15 years. It works out fine.

I think you probably started a bad precedent by doing all that terrace work, which basically admitted that your house causes flooding. Your home inspector should have certified that this isn't the cause of flooding, but at this point, that ship has sailed. I'm sure this family cannot be pacified. You could consider steering clear of her entirely, and that means that your kids don't play ball in the yard or use any toy that can roll downhill. Yeah, I know it's ridiculous but you can either take them to the park or build a fence. Or stay outside with them at all times until they are old enough to not "forget." One of our neighbors also has a big mesh screen like they use at soccer fields to keep balls in. And you do have to reinforce to your kids that they cannot go over there at all - that includes going to the door and asking permission to retrieve a ball. Your kids can do chores around the house to buy themselves a new ball - but I'd really work harder to keep everything out of the neighbor's yard entirely.

You can consider writing a letter of apology to her about yelling and losing your temper. It won't do much good, but if you feel you were wrong, then admit it. Don't end the letter with a "but" - because any apology followed by a "but" invalidates the apology. So, "I'm sorry I lost my temper and cursed at you BUT you were unreasonable" reads, to her and to anyone else as purely "You were unreasonable." That's all she will hear.

You could put in a security camera that will show your kids in her yard getting a ball and not doing anything else to rocks or bushes, but they will probably accuse you of spying on them.

My suggestion is that you block her number from your phone so she cannot text you or call you anymore. If you have a landline, screen her calls or consider blocking her (which she will take as a passive-aggressive insult). She can still contact you by mail or by sending her husband over, but since he is unreasonable as well, I really think you are better off not having contact with him either. If he thinks your kids are trespassing, he can contact the authorities (and believe me, the police don't want to be involved in these matters), or have his lawyer draft a complaint (and any reasonable lawyer will tell him to go fly a kite). I would simply say to him at the door, "We have nothing further to say on these matters. If you have proof of anyone trespassing, I suggest you provide it to the authorities. Good night."

I honestly don't think this is fixable if it's gone on for 2 years. They are thriving on the drama and your only option is to stop feeding it.

12 moms found this helpful

D.D.

answers from Boston on

You are bothered because you are a nice person trying to be a nice neighbor. I can assure you that your neighbor doesn't care that you lost it and yelled. Don't approach her or her hubby again for anything. In this situation you are a giver trying to keep the peace and they are the takers who will continue to make your life a living hell as long as you let them.

Install some sort of fence or netting that will keep balls in your yard. Change they way they are facing so the ball will not end up in their yard. Or have them play ball in the front yard instead of the back.

As far as moving forward with these people? I would be friendly with a wave hi/bye. If they start something in a text or call I'd say 'Sorry this isn't up for discussion' and leave it at that. If they continue ignore additional texts and calls. You won't ever make them happy so don't wear yourself out trying.

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S.S.

answers from Atlanta on

From my POV? No. You don't apologize. You put up a fence and stop any communication with her and her family.

They bought a house on the bottom of a hill. This is what happens when you buy a house at the bottom of a hill. That's why grading is important. If they don't have THEIR property graded properly? That's NOT your fault. You've done what you could. She didn't like it. THEY can move.

Do you know the previous owners? Did they have the same problems with them?

Put up a golf netting above the fence once it's installed to ensure balls and toys DO NOT go into their yard.

Do NOT apologize.
DO NOT be rude to them in the future. Just don't talk with them. It's really that simple. It SUCKS to have bad neighbors. You have bad neighbors. I'm sorry!

7 moms found this helpful
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D..

answers from Miami on

No. Don't apologize.

There are nasty people who think they can do and say anything they want to you, but demand apologies from you when you stand up for yourselves. Instead, ignore her. Don't ever do anything helpful for her. She sees it as "proof" that she is "right".

I have not lived my life this way. I have been kind and helpful to people. But there are some people I have learned the hard way with that they will DEMAND that you accept their poor treatment of you. I will NOT accept it. And you shouldn't either.

Next time you get a text from her, ignore her. When they ring the doorbell, don't answer the door. When you have not answered anything for long enough, they will leave you alone.

And you DO need to keep your boys out of her yard. They should go to a park to play ball. They would sue you if a window happened to be busted while they were playing.

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M.S.

answers from Washington DC on

At this point I would seriously consider a privacy fence just on their side. Make sure to cross all t's and dot all i' s with property lines, legalities, etc and keep all that paperwork.

As far as your yelling, I would just let it go. Don't give them any more of your energy. They are not worth it.

7 moms found this helpful

W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

Nope. Don't apologize.

They CHOSE to buy a house on the bottom of the hill - it's up to THEM to make sure THEIR yard drains properly.

Put up a fence and let it go. Don't interact with them.

Document everything. Ensure that your property is CORRECTLY graded so that YOU are in the "right". So far you've done what you can. Get a land plat from your county. Have a Surveyor come out and ensure your plat is correct.

Check your county laws to see what you are responsible for. My take is still the onus is on THEM because they chose to buy a house at the bottom of the hill.

6 moms found this helpful

O.H.

answers from Phoenix on

I wouldn't do anything. It's not your fault water runs down the hill. That's nature. It's her fault for buying a house at the bottom of the hill and not the top. Lesson learned for her.

And I lived in CA and now in AZ. I cannot for the life of me understand the places that live next to each other but don't have their yards fenced in. I would HATE that! Basically, a fence would solve the problem. If that's not possible, then don't engage them anymore. If they text, ignore it. Remind the kids to stay out of their yard. If they come knocking, peek out the window and don't answer the door.

Worst case is they call the cops. The cops will come knocking, they will understand kids will go get their ball and that will be the end of it. No biggie and not with the drama or stress. Just move on. Good luck!

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

If it were me, I'd make darn sure my kids never went in her yard again. I'd build a fence. Consequences for kids if they go in - you just don't need this drama.

I think at this point I'd let it go with them - I wouldn't approach them at this point.

5 moms found this helpful

B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

It's tough when neighbors fight.
I suggest you get a copy of "Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise".
https://www.amazon.com/Neighbor-Law-Fences-Trees-Boundari...

It's a good read and I really think anyone that owns property should have the latest copy.

BOTH of you can put up 'No Trespassing' signs on your property AND press charges if the signs are ignored.
If anyone is worried about it, you/she can certainly do some video surveillance of your own respective properties so everyone knows how bushes got damaged.
As far as the balls go - all the kids need to accept that if the ball goes into non trespassing territory - consider it gone, and kiss it goodbye - or play ball at a park where they have more freedom and space to toss/kick it around.
Sometimes good fences make good neighbors - and if you don't have a neighborhood association dictating what you can do, then put up a fence as high as your town or county law permits.

Where we use to live - the county allowed an 8 ft tall fence in the back yard and it solved quite a few problems and gave us some nice privacy.
You and your neighbor should probably try to establish at least a detente (the easing of hostility or strained relations).
You don't have to like each other, but some mutual respect would smooth things over till one/both of you moves away (whether it's in a few years or 30 yrs later, everyone moves eventually).
The book I mentioned can give you an idea of exactly 'how bad' bad can get.
Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful

C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

Ugh. That sucks. I think this is a person who can never be reasoned with. Don't even try. Tell your boys they are never under any circumstances to get a ball that goes in her yard. They need to consider that ball gone forever. They need to adjust where they play so their balls do not go that way. If one does too bad...no more going to get it. Honestly, I would tell my boys what this neighbor does and that they can bring charges against your family so they understand the consequences. Besides that I would not talk to this person and ignore her. Don't apologize. She is the jerk here, not you. My mom had a boyfriend who was a bully like this who lived with us for 7 years when I was a kid. This is how he was to our next door neighbors. (How he was to practically everyone...waiters, customer service people, a car that cut him off...he would get PISSED and try to start something and NEVER let it go. Totally unreasonable). He would look for any reason to get extremely angry at them. He would go over there and rant and yell. One time on trash day they accidentally put out their trash cans (everyone put them on the grass in this neighborhood) an inch into our yard. He threw a raving lunatic fit. There would have been nothing they could have done EVER to make him be reasonable. He was an a$$. Your neighbor is an a$$. She probably bullies her husband and kids and their home life is miserable. Your best bet is to never interact with her and 100% ignore her. You did not do anything wrong.

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J.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

You can't reason with crazy,,,,I would let it go and try to control my temper better in the future. This is certainly not something though to let yourself get sick over. We all have our limits. Honestly it's more surprising you didn't lose it before now.

3 moms found this helpful

R.A.

answers from Boston on

You were manipulated into fixing your own lawn for her, stop engaging. She is ridiculous. Do not apologize. If anything, build a fence( make sure it's on your property line so she cannot make a stink about it) that way you can avoid another incident.

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G.♣.

answers from Springfield on

I'm not saying you did anything wrong, but it would probably be a good idea to apologize just to show temporarily appease her. If you can do it in person, that would be great. But if you think she might just start up again, then don't. Just send her a quick text that says, "I'm sorry the boys were in your yard. I will remind them of the rules," and then let it go.

You've tried very hard to make this work, and she just doesn't care. The best you can do is live your life and try not to upset her.

The next time she gets upset, respond with a very simple, "I'm sorry that happened. I will try not to let it happen again," and then let it go. There's nothing to be gained from trying to work with them. They aren't interested. They don't care. Don't waste your time.

I have a supervisor that can be like this. He'll get upset about something and say nothing to us. Then he'll go home, stew about it and send a nasty email. I've learned that the best thing to do is send a quick response that says something like, "I'm sorry for my oversight. I will try not to let it happen again." Then I have to let it go. That's the hard part for me, as I'm a very emotional person. But that's what I try to do. My supervisor is not a happy person. Generally speaking, if the rest of us are happy, he feels the need to rock the boat and get upset about something stupid. It's sad, but I can't change him.

You can't change your neighbor. She isn't interested in being a happy neighbor, so don't waste your time or energy trying to make her happy. The best thing you can do is just live your life and not worry about it. And when she does get upset, just a quick, "Sorry about that. We'll try to do better next time," is the best you can do.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

Good fences make good neighbors, and I would let my yard drain wherever I was legally allowed to that worked with my landscaping. She burned that bridge with you long ago, now you do you and forget her. But I would seriously consider putting up a fence, even if it is only along the the boarder you share with these awful people, and just ignore them forever more.

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J.G.

answers from Chicago on

i' d find someone who could put up a fence tomorrow. I tried very hard for over a year to make a relationship work with a renter in my neighbor's house. No matter what I requested, her dog still ended up shitting in my yard. She was just clueless. She even tried to have her 22 year old very big son intimidate me! I just called the cops and told them my property was being violated. At the time they were also burning stuff in the driveway (against the law), so I asked the officer to remind them of the laws.

Some people are just..... Put up a fence and ignore them.

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K.M.

answers from New York on

Do not apologize! Some people are just miserable human beings--your neighbor being one of them! Good Luck!

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M.6.

answers from New York on

I'd send a certified letter stating that they are NOT to contact you for any reason, and further contact will result in a restraining order - if they have an issue, they will need to have their attorney contact you. If the property isn't signed no trespassing, and if your children are not breaching the peace or scaling a fence to retrieve the ball, I'd say screw her, they can get a ball that goes over there. If it is fenced or signed, then the ball is lost forever.

I am having an issue with my neighbor as well so I feel for you.

Good luck!

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R.K.

answers from Boston on

I knew a fellow like this. Prided himself in not returning errant balls to neighborhood kids. No reasoning with this kind of person.

Having said that, I definitely think you should restrict your conversations with your neighbor. Hi, bye, are ok. But if the husband or wife comes to your door, find a pat phrase and repeat it no matter what is said. "Sorry, I have to got take a pot off the range." "Sorry, I can't have this conversation." or just "I'm not having this conversation." Do not engage in answering anything that is hostile. My best to you.

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P.S.

answers from New York on

Gosh, what a dilemma. Children need to be able to play and children will be children and do not intentionally set out to harm or deface ordinarily. It seems like you have an "angry person" as a neighbor and any chance to vent her anger, she does. This is probably a personality that she has been exhibiting all her life, unless of course she has a psychological problem, in which case, you cannot reason with her. I would do everything possible to not interact with her and keep the children away from her yard at all cost.

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