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Dealing with a bad neighbour can be complicated – it can involve several areas of the law and be different depending on where you live. If you need help dealing with a bad neighbour, it’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer. The following information is not legal advice and does not take the place of consulting with a lawyer in your area.

Winter can sometimes make a bad neighbour even worse. You add ice, snow and Christmas decorations into the mix and suddenly you’re wishing you lived somewhere else! Neighbour disputes are very common and can really bother us because they affect the place we’re supposed to feel the happiest and most relaxed – our homes. It’s important to give careful thought to starting a fight with your neighbour.

Snow removal

One of the main issues that start winter neighbour disputes is snow removal. Some people think it’s acceptable to shovel or snow-blow their yard… right into their neighbour’s yard. It can be hard to find a place to put the snow you’re removing, but putting it onto your neighbour’s property is at the very least inconsiderate. There are city by-laws that vary across the country that often touch on snow removal, but typically these deal only with snow being put onto city property and not someone else’s yard. In many places, you can be fined for pushing the snow from your property onto the sidewalk or into the middle of the street. If your neighbour is doing that, you can call 3-1-1 (the number for city services) and tell them. If your neighbour is putting snow on your property, it’s often a good idea to start by talking to them. If that doesn’t work, you can have a lawyer write your neighbour a letter and pursue further action.

Flashy holiday decor

Another source of annoyance in the winter is neighbours who have flashy Christmas decorations – and take FOREVER to take them down! They can be cute at first, but come January and February, they can become an eye sore. If you live in a condo or a planned community, there may be rules that tell you what kind of decorations you can put up and when they must be removed. Barring that, it’s virtually impossible to get someone to take Christmas decorations down. There have even been stories of neighbours taking matters into their own hands in the middle of the night! This is never a good solution and can lead to even more problems. This is another case where simply speaking to the neighbour might help.

Holiday parties

The holiday season is also a time when many people are throwing parties. Sometimes these parties can get rowdy and last into the wee hours of the night. Typically cities have noise by-laws that require loud noise to end by a certain time at night. If a noise by-law is being broken, 3-1-1 can be called. If a party is really out of hand, the police can be called. If you know you’re going to have a loud party, it can sometimes help to advise your neighbours in advance so that they know what to expect.

Living among neighbours can be challenging because people are all different, with different habits and sensitivities. It’s a good idea to try to avoid neighbour disputes wherever possible, since they often escalate to the point of discomfort in your own home. If you do find yourself in a neighbour dispute, there are a number of steps you can take. Mediation services offer a cheaper alternative to hiring lawyers and going to court, and some community organizations even offer mediation to residents to solve problems. The city has the job of enforcing by-laws, and they can be contacted at 3-1-1. If the problem persists, it’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer to find out what your options are. Overall, we really need to try to get along when we live close to one another, especially during the holiday season. But when you have a neighbour who refuses to clear off their part of the sidewalk and has a singing Santa into April, sometimes it’s just not possible.