It was an everyday tussle between two neighbors in Buffalo. One day a woman woke up to find out that someone had cleared up her littered patio. She could have thanked the neighbors. She did not. Instead she blamed them for discriminating against her and trespassing into her property. Before long, the neighbors found themselves entangled in an expensive legal battle. In the end, a federal judge decided against the woman and ordered her to pay her neighbors $107,000 in attorney fees. She must have cursed the day she took their little dispute to court.
Bickering between neighbors is neither new nor uncommon. As petty arguments between neighbors are, they need not be so costly that you end up paying more than double the yearly income of an average American. Unless the people in your neighborhood are harboring a deep rooted grudge against you, the good news is, you can solve most of the issues between you and your neighbor without writing a three-, four-, or five-figure check to your attorney. That brings us to the four ways of settling dispute between neighbors:
This is the ideal scenario. You and your neighbor sit down with calm heads and talk it out like grownups.
If you think a dispute is getting out of hand and there is no way you can put a lid on it, it is prudent to seek professional meditation from a body such as the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) than let the matter turn into a costly battle in court.
Many people are not at ease with sharing details with the members of some little heard organization. They want someone credible. If you are one of them, cops are the way to go. These days, local law enforcement is encouraging more officers to meditate because it has learnt how important it is to resolve disputes from the start.
You do not run out of options when professional bodies and cops fail to stamp out fires of anger. There is a third way. It involves the legal system. If you are careful you can keep damages to a minimum. Write a letter to an attorney detailing your problem. They will offer useful advice. A letter may cost you anywhere between $100 and $500. If you are short on money, check out the Legal Services Corporation’s website. They offer free legal advice to the poor.
If even legal advice does not do the trick, this last step, just short of a full-fledged court battle, is to file a suit in a small claims court. These courts are faster to resolve disputes. Their forte is settling disputes involving small sums of money – usually less than $10,000.
Failing to make peace here leaves you with only two options – return to step one and talk to your neighbor, or brace yourself for a long, expensive battle in court.