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How well do you know your neighbours? Do you stop over at each other’s places to chat? Do you wave when you’re both in the front yard? Or are you unsure of the kids’ names but you know the couple is probably Lisa and Chris? Well, as much as it might seem like an unnecessary hassle, you might reap some benefits from getting to know your neighbours. Like, if your backyard barbecue goes a little late, you want them to be calling you, not the cops. So what makes a good neighbour? Basically, good communication, general openness and just being friendly. Here’s how to properly and politely handle some common situations that might come up this summer. We can all get along.

Backyard Parties

Do you need to inform neighbours about a party?

So you’re having a get together with some friends you haven’t seen in a while. There’s going to be music, there’s going to be drinking and it might be pretty late before you’re ready to call it a night. What is your neighbourly obligation here? If you think your neighbours will be able to hear you, then yes, you should probably inform them. Let them know the date and time of the party and approximately when you think it will wrap up. A note is fine, but in person is better. You’re less likely to call the police on someone you’ve met face-to-face. Also make sure to give them your phone number so if they have a complaint, they can come to you rather than taking more “official” measures.

If you want, try inviting them to the party. You’ll get to know your neighbours, plus, they can’t complain if they’re in on making the noise.

How loud is too loud and how late is too late?

Check the bylaws in your area to find out the decibel level that’s okay for your party and how late you’re allowed to make noise. Every city is different and after hours, your neighbour is well within their rights to call the authorities for excess noise.

Do I have to go to their party?

Oh, your neighbours have invited you to one of their own parties? That’s thoughtful of them! If you don’t want to, you absolutely don’t have to go. Like with any party, you can just politely decline. Make sure to RSVP either way though. That’s just basic manners.

The Yard

Can I cut the parts of their tree that are on my property?

No. No, you cannot. If it’s on their property, that tree belongs to your neighbour and chopping any part of it off is not okay. Have a conversation with your neighbour about it. Explain that parts of the tree are over your yard and the leaves are going in the pool or it’s dropping pine cones in your lawn or whatever your grievance is. Ask if they’ll cut it, offer to pay for someone to cut it or even offer to do it yourself. Just don’t do any unauthorized cutting. That could get messy.

What if they won’t cut it/let me cut it?

If they refuse to let the tree be cut, you might be out of luck. If it’s not harming anyone and it’s only a nuisance to you, you might not have a real argument. Again, check your local bylaws. If the tree is a hazard, that’s a different story. Does it look like it might fall into your yard or on your house? In that case, you might want to get authorities involved for the protection of your own property and family.

Smoking

Can I ask my neighbours not to smoke?

If your family is non-smoking, you really don’t want your neighbours’ second-hand smoke wafting into your house through an open window. But does that mean you have to keep the house closed up all summer? You can’t really tell your neighbour not to smoke–it’s their life–but you can have a conversation with them about how it’s affecting you.

How do I have that conversation?

Yeah, that’s going to be a tough one. The best way to tackle a conversation like that is by just sticking to the facts. Don’t get emotional or make accusations. Calmly explain the situation: “We like to keep our windows open in the summer and we’ve noticed that sometimes your smoke wafts in from the porch.” Then make it sound like a team effort to solve the problem: “Is there something we can do about that?”

Also keep in mind who is having the conversation. Is your neighbour a petite single mother who might be super intimidated if a tall man came to tell her to stop smoking? Make it as comfortable as possible for the other party so that they’re more likely to be compassionate and helpful rather than defensive.