The 4 Most Common Causes of Neighborhood Disputes in Massachusetts
There is an old, but true, saying that you can’t choose your own family. For many people, it’s also sometimes unfortunately true that you can’t choose your neighbors! While the ties that bind you or not to your neighbors are far less strong than those with your family, oftentimes it’s your neighbors you have to get along with most of the time.
In Massachusetts, like so many other places across the U.S., there are certain causes of neighborhood disputes that tend to be far more common than any others. For the most part, whenever a conflict arises between neighbors, as long as there is a willingness on both sides to seek common ground, a resolution can be found without having to take legal action or even call in the cops. Let’s face it, unless you or your neighbor chooses to leave, you are stuck with them next door, so whatever is the grievance, normal life depends on resolving the issue one way or another.
It’s fair to point out that many neighbors get along just fine and having a friendly neighbor you can trust can be a godsend in times of need. But what exactly can upset a neighborly relationship so much that you feel you have to take some sort of action? Here are five of the most common reasons for a neighborhood dispute and how you could resolve them.
The four most common causes of neighborhood disputes in MA
Statistics into neighborhood disputes have revealed that the number one cause of a dispute is: noisy neighbors. Too much noise could mean anything from dogs barking incessantly, late night parties, noisy machinery, construction work or anything else that intrudes and annoys. Nearly half of all neighborhood disputes are due to too much noise. This is the one neighborhood problem that affects residents of apartment blocks as much or more than those who live in the suburbs. Having a different work or life routine from your noisy neighbor can accentuate the issue.
#2: Unwanted incursions from pets
Around a fifth of all disputes are caused by the unwelcome intrusion or even outright attacks made by the neighbor’s pets. This could be dogs left off their leash who wander on to your property, or cats that think they own your back yard. In more rural areas of the state, neighborhood disputes can be caused by wandering stock.
#3: Unsightly neighborhood
Running third in the list of top 4 causes of neighborhood disputes is the appearance of your neighbor’s property, especially if it has been left to become messy, untidy, dilapidated or overflowing with trash. It’s not just the eyesore. It could potentially mean a harbor for vermin and you might think it bring’s down the value of your own property.
#4: Disputed property boundaries
Fourth on the list and running around 10% of all neighborhood disputes is the vexed problem of property boundaries. If you and your neighbor are just not sure just where the line of demarcation should be it can cause a lot of headaches. It’s not just the actual surveyed boundary, but things that overhang it, like trees and buildings, that can be the subject of a dispute.
What to do about a neighborhood dispute
What you can do about something that is wrecking your relationship with your neighbor depends on the severity and nature of it and your previous record of dealings with your neighbor. It also depends on whether your neighbor is actually breaking a law if they continue to be a nuisance. If you are unsure whether the neighbor’s noise is too much (many cities and towns in Massachusetts have noise ordinances for example) or whether they are taking advantage of a disputed property boundary, you should discuss the matter with a lawyer before taking any action, such as informing authorities, calling the police or filing a lawsuit.
Most disputes can be resolved reasonably amicably by approaching the neighbor first and reasoning with them about the cause of the dispute. This works well when you have been disturbed by constant intrusions by pets, however friendly they may seem to be. The owners of pets are responsible for making sure that they are under control. Approaching the neighbor directly if the noise from their home is too much to bear is also the best first step in resolving the issue. It’s best to adopt a non-adversial attitude.
If you have been attacked by a neighbor’s dog, who has come on to your property, then this is much more serious. You have the right to take legal action against the owner. Massachusetts is what is called a ‘strict liability dog bite state’. This means that even if the dog has no history of aggressive behavior or previous dog bites, the owner is liable for any damage done and can be sued by the victim.
If you are not up to approaching your neighbor in person and are sure of your rights, you could try sending them a carefully worded letter or email detailing the reasons why you are upset about whatever it is that is annoying you. If you have details of a local city noise ordinance (most cities in Massachsuetts will have one) and even better have results from a noise recorder, then you could include these with the letter. In Boston, for example, the maximum noise level between 11pm and 7 am is 50 decibels and 70 decibels at all other tijes of the day. Cambridge has the same night time maximum noise level but 60 decibels in the day time.
If you get nowhere with the neighbors and you think they are breaking the law in some way, then you could try calling the police. If they think there is a law being broken they may investigate.
In rare circumstances, you may need to resort to taking legal action, especially if all else fails. You will need the help of a lawyer to assess your case and help file a lawsuit through the appropriate civil court. For more information, visit our website Mucci Legal or contact us for a free legal consultation today.