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Neighbor. It’s a simple word that can mean so much. Neighbors can make a duty station memorable in so many ways. They can easily define a two- to three-year span or maybe more in your life. Your baby’s first splash in a plastic pool might be with a baby neighbor, or their first walk to school might include friends from the block. These are memories that last a lifetime.

But what about the neighbor who verbally attacks you with false accusations as you push your newborn in the stroller and walk the dog past her house? Or the family that neglects and ties up their dog outside regardless of the weather? These are memories that last too, right?

Whether living in military housing or in the community, neighbor relations are one of the top issues families encounter in their homes. In fact, FindLaw published a survey calculating that 42% of Americans have reported a neighbor dispute. They even list the top five issues neighbors have with one another.

  1. Noise pollution. Neighbors hate it and 48% say it’s the worst offense. It can be noise stemming from regular late night parties or band practice. It’s all bad.
  2. Pets and animals. Terrible pet parenting provokes bad relationships. Cruelty comes in many different forms, and animals misbehave if not treated properly.
  3. Children, mostly their bad behavior. Lack of parental supervision irks other neighbors who are worried about injuries, property damage, and noise.
  4. Eyesores. Overgrown lawns, out of season holiday decorations, and trash will make your neighbors wish you never moved in.
  5. Property line infringement. If a neighbor feels his property is encroached upon by his fencemate’s yearlong leaf-shedding tree, there will be hard feelings.

So how can neighbors overcome these problems? Simply put, communication seems to be the first line of defense from offensive neighbors, and only from then on do sources like LegalZoom suggest alternatives such as engaging law enforcement and lawyers.

  • Don’t assume your neighbors know about the issues you find problematic. A calm, non-judgmental tone of voice helps a difficult conversation along. Hopefully, after they realize your sleep is interrupted by drum practice at 9 p.m., they will be willing to change schedules.
  • If the situation is a tough one to tackle, maybe the solo dad of four who doesn’t have time to keep the yard to standards would appreciate a kind neighbor who would be willing to trim his yard during the in-between weeks. An offer of much needed help is hard to turn down.
  • If all of your attempts at communication with your neighbor are ignored, the time for third-party involvement is due: HOAs, military housing companies, and, hopefully, last on the list is police help.
  • In the case of a military neighborhood, check out what Col. Sam Anderson says in his note to his fellow Fort Gordon, Georgia neighbors. To sum up, be respectful of one another and of the rules of the installation and base housing.

What about the horrible neighbor who screamed at me from her door way while I was walking with my daughter? She thought I'd called the police on her wandering dog and children. I didn’t. I should have, but someone else did. My husband and I attempted to have a decent conversation with them, but it went very poorly. I did my best to avoid contact, which was difficult to do because their home was unavoidable walking or driving.

I had heard rumors a transfer was due, and wished for time to move quickly. Then the magic moving trucks arrived. This is one of the perks of living on base. Most people don’t stay long, but it can be hard to wait them out if you're in a tough situation.

The peace that descended upon our street after their departure was so telling. One bad neighbor can ruin so many wonderful days for the rest. Obviously, the family had many issues with several neighbors, not just us. I happened to be the target for that day of porch yelling. The moral of the story is to realize we all have challenges, so act kindly and be aware of how we affect each other’s daily lives.

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Photo credit: Flickr user Joey Parsons