How to Handle Impolite Neighbors

Whether you have the picture-perfect house or live on the worst block in town, you are bound to run into bad neighbors. But before you call the cops, follow Modern Manners Guy’s 3 tips for peacefully dealing with improper neighbors.

Richie Frieman,
October 8, 2012
Episode #219


I’ve said it a million times, but the best thing about being Modern Manners Guy is the amazing emails, tweets, and Facebook posts I receive from readers and listeners, with questions and comments about manners. Lately, the issue of impolite neighbors has been quite popular. From dogs leaving their “samples” on people’s lawns, to loud music blaring at all times of the night, to lawn mowing at 5AM (seriously?!?), it seems inconsiderate neighbors are everywhere.  .

Unless you live on a gigantic palatial estate, with no other houses in sight, all of us are prone to encounters with an improper neighbor…or two…or three! So before you rip open your window to shout unpleasantries at your unpleasant neighbor working on rebuilding his 1977 Pontiac Trans Am engine at 6AM, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for properly handling unruly neighbors:

Impolite Neighbor #1: The Yeller Family

Allow me to paint a picture of the Yeller Family, just in case you don’t have the good fortune to have them close by. The Yellers are the ones who don’t need a phone. Instead, they yell at the top of their lungs to others in their house, so everyone can hear their conversation. And usually it’s a fight of some sort. Oh, but the Yellers never split up, they always remain happily unhappy together, in yelling bliss. The Yellers do not care if it’s 7AM or 11PM.

When I was growing up, the Yellers lived across the street from me and the whole neighborhood was just waiting for them to move out. Sadly, they didn’t and it seemed there was nothing we could do but tolerate their insanity. Or was there…?

So how do you quiet the Yellers? For starters, you have to realize that you’re dealing with crazy people. I know, it’s not nice to call people crazy and heck, in the light of day, they may be perfectly fine citizens. But when you fight every single night so loudly that the whole street can hear you…well, that’s crazy in my book. Sorry. And so because of the Yellers’ tenuous grip on reality, you have to treat them with kid gloves. Approach one of the family heads, like the wife or husband, with a treat of cookies, a cake, or a pie. Bring it to them saying you made too much so you’re offering it to the neighbors, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. (It’s a set-up, folks.)

Chat for a bit about the weather, work, or sports, and then sneak in the issue at hand. Try this:

“I’ve been working some late hours at home and I couldn’t help but overhear you talking pretty loudly the other day. Do you think that maybe you could keep it down after 9PM? I need the windows open for my allergies and can hear you pretty clearly.”

Make sure to put the blame on yourself. Say, “I know, I know I’m being difficult and asking a lot, but I’m just really crammed at work and need all the concentration I can get. Sound cool?”

Will they listen? Maybe. Maybe not. But they will think about what you said. And possibly even think twice about broadcasting their next fight to the rest of the neighborhood.

Impolite Neighbor #2: The Dog That Loves Your Lawn

My good friend The Dog Trainer is the expert when it comes to dog behavior, so I’m sure she supports me on this one. Along with the Yeller family, every neighborhood also has that one dog that treats everyone else’s yard as his toilet. I don’t blame the dog, of course, this is always the owner’s fault. The best is when they think no one is watching and allow the dog to poop on someone’s lawn, then look around like a shoplifter making sure no one saw him. It’s so tacky and sooooo improper!

What goes through a person’s mind when they allow their dog to poop on someone else’s property? That’s like taking a soiled diaper to a neighbor’s house and leaving it in their trash can. Newsflash dog owners: Leashes nowadays come with little trash bag holders that are smaller than the palm of your hand. I have one and it even came with 6 refills. If you don’t have that, try a plastic grocery bag.

Just because your neighbor doesn’t have any class, doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down. Here are two options:

  1. Drop a note. If you know the offender, wait for them to leave for the day, then place an anonymous note at their front door, detailing your objection to their dog pooping on people’s lawns. Don’t be specific about which lawns. Just make it understood that you have witnessed it.

  2. Catch them in the act. Most people walk their dogs at the same time every day. Do a little reconnaissance to find out when the person typically walks their dog near your lawn. Then wait for them to arrive and as the dog pops a squat, come outside and aay something like, “Do you need a plastic bag for that?” You may get a nasty look, but I assure you it will not happen again.

Impolite Neighbor #3: The Unruly Yard

I’ll admit it, I’m not the best with my yard. I’m not bad, but I don’t exactly have a green thumb. My neighbor, on the other hand, has a lawn that looks like the outfield of a major league baseball stadium. It has criss-crossing patterns of different shades of green, the bushes are always trimmed perfectly, and not one piece of mulch is out of place. It’s a work of art.

Of course, this is extreme and not all of us can handle that kind of lawn pressure, but some people forget their property entirely! Their lawn looks like it doubles for the set of The Walking Dead, where the only things taller than the grass are the zombies that inhabit it. Or – even worse – they leave trash all over the place. And not just litter, but large trash cans, random odds and ends, and even scrap metal for that welding project they’re never going to finish.

These people clearly forget that an ugly house can set the tone for the entire neighborhood. If we all don’t take care of our property, a beautiful neighborhood can quickly turn into a disgusting one. (To say nothing of property values!)

So, the next time you see a nasty lawn on your street, give its owner a hand. How? Try these two approaches:

  1. Give them a flyer for a lawn care company. Tell them you just used them and that other neighbors are getting a great deal. You can easily print a flyer from local many lawn care companies online.

  2. Actually give them a hand. I had one neighbor that never mowed her lawn and, living in a townhouse, we practically shared the same space. So I offered to mow hers while I did mine. It was only 10 minutes of extra work for me, and well worth the effort.

Do you have a great story about an improper neighbor? Post all the details in the Comments section below or on the Modern Manners Guy Facebook page.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

Figure with Megaphone, Dog and Clean Yard images courtesy of Shutterstock