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Sticky Situations: Dealing With Nasty Neighbours

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Spring is here and with it comes the renewing of relationships with our neighbours. Canadians everywhere are once again saying "Hello," or giving the nod to and sharing a drink or a barbecue with their street dwellers.

Neighbours have many niceties, such as the development of friendships and a support system at proximity, but they also include certain niggles or downright transgressions that involve our property and territory.

To help you with these possible upcoming awkward moments, here is a list of Sticky Situations and solutions.

Sticky Situation #1:
You are a retired handy man. Your neighbour borrows tools and how-to books but never returns them.

Sticky Situation #2:
You live on a cul-de-sac. Your neighbour has three children and a dog. They usually play outdoors. The dog has taken a liking to your lawn and chooses it to regularly relieve himself while left unattended.

Sticky Situation #3:
Your neighbour has poor garbage and recycling etiquette. He or she does not secure his overflowing cans and bins. You then find yourself having to pick up some of his disposals on your front lawn.

Sticky Situation #4:
You are house proud and chose your neighbourhood based on the curb appeal of its homes. Your new neighbour across the street travels extensively and does not really have time to tend to all of the outdoor chores. He or she leaves Christmas lights on all year and you find it an eyesore every time you look out of your kitchen window.

Sticky situation #5:
Your neighbour has young adult sons who live at home while studying and working. By your standards, they are night owls. Their entertaining of friends and the noises from cars are disturbing your children's sleep routines.

Sticky situation #6:
Being the convivial type you gave your neighbours an open invitation to use your pool when you are not home. Towards the end of last summer, when you came home from work, their teenage children were regularly in your pool without adult supervision.

Sticky situation #7:
Your neighbour had extensive home renovations done and his or her contractor damaged your siding.

Solution(s):
Most of these Sticky Situations may be solved with a friendly, direct approach. Usually a non-threatening, simple statement that describes your concern from an observer's point of view will be sufficient to restore peace and quiet in your neighbourhood. Simply state what you see, what impact it had upon you, and add what you wish to happen or stop.

It could sound something like: "Hi Martin, I'm planning on seeding my lawn this weekend and I will need that seed spreader back. While I'm here could I please have my book on decks and patios too? Thanks!"

I know that some readers may prefer notes. Notes are okay but, at the onset, it is best to address your concern in person. Most people feel that a note from their neighbour signifies they are viewed as unapproachable and that perspective can create neighbour alienation instead of neighbor cooperation.

You should not take the matter into your own hands by reprimanding or disciplining pets, children or teenagers. The nuisance should be directed to your adult neighbour, the home's owner(s).

If you are angry, wait a day to voice your concern.

Some of the above complaints may be included in some city by-laws. In those instances, the first step is to confirm it from the government authority.

If your grievance is addressed in your city's rule book, it could sound like this: "Hi Martin! I don't know if you are aware of it, but our city has a by-law on noise levels. We've noticed that your sons are regularly entertaining and at times it's difficult for our children to sleep with all of the noise. Could you please address it with your sons? Thanks!"

In most cases the problem should be resolved. If it is not, you could then send a note to re-address your grievance and lastly, file a complaint with the authorities.

The beginning of a new season brings about the possibility of revising certain rules and that could include your pool invitations. Whatever you decide, mention it to your neighbour and enforce it. It could sound like this: "Hi Martin, we've re-read our home insurance policy and an adult must be present at all times when under-aged swimmers are in the pool. So, from now on, please make sure that you or your partner is by the pool when your children are swimming. Thanks!"

There are also times when you may want to give a hint by offering a helping hand. It could sound like this: "Hi Mary, I noticed that Martin is away a lot. If you want, Rick and I could give you a hand with the removal of those Christmas lights next weekend."

When your property has been damaged or when your space is invaded, restoration is your goal. This could sound like: "Hi Martin, I noticed that your workers have damaged our siding. I'm hoping that it can be fixed to our mutual satisfaction. (A fair negotiation could then follow.) Thanks!"

Only seek legal counsel as a last resort.

Finally, abide by the golden rules of good neighbouring: welcome all, inform of interruptions, maintain your home and respect your neighbours, their properties and territories.

Have a Sticky Situation yourself? Write to julie@etiquettejulie.com and Julie will reply promptly.