Balancing Privacy With Good Neighbor Relations

Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, poses an interesting question about whether “good fences make good neighbors.”

On one hand, there are several advantages to having your property surrounded by a fence, especially if you or your neighbors have dogs or small children running around.

If you happen to have a vegetable garden or fruit trees in your backyard, a well-constructed fence can also help keep out ravenous deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and other wildlife.

There’s no doubt that fences can serve a variety of useful purposes, ranging from privacy and safety to wildlife control and home security. While it can be beneficial to mark off your property boundaries and keep your backyard private, a question to consider is whether a large fence — especially a new one — sends the wrong message to your neighbors.  Striking the perfect balance between privacy and friendly neighbor relations can be tricky at times, but there are compelling reasons to stay on good terms.

  1. Security reasons: If you take the time to chat with your neighbors every now and then, they’ll have more of a tendency to keep an eye on your property when you’re on vacation or just away for the day — especially if you ask them.  People tend to be more helpful, observant, and protective of others with whom they share a bond or have a sense of community. In contrast to that, if they don’t even know your name and haven’t exchanged more than a few words with you in years, they’ll be less inclined to pay attention to who’s on your property and whether they belong there or not.
  2. Sharing resources: Keeping the lines of communication open with your neighbors is beneficial on many levels. When you have a friendly, ongoing relationship, you won’t feel reluctant to ask them for help when your car battery’s dead and you’re running late for work. Trusted neighbors can also provide you with valuable information, such the names of dependable home improvement contractors or how to arrange a free pickup of household clutter that you want to donate to the Salvation Army.
  3. Quality of life: When you’re regularly greeted by friendly neighbors, your neighborhood will feel like more of a welcoming and upbeat place to live. It may be necessary for you to set the example or make the first move, but once a friendly atmosphere has been created in a neighborhood, it’s relatively easy to keep it going.

So while you may not want your neighbors to get in the habit of stopping by your home to chew the fat, every day, it can be worth your while to greet them by name, offer help whenever possible, and be the kind of good neighbor you’d like them to be. Setting a positive example may be all that’s needed to establish a cooperative relationship and possibly even a life-long friendship. And, if all else fails, keep in mind the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Love thy neighbor, but don’t pull down your hedge!”

Living Around Difficult Neighbors

Homes aren’t the only things that are diverse in your neighborhood. True. There might be ranch houses, mother-in-law units, traditional four story bungalows and modern two story homes where you live. Even more diverse than the housing types are your neighbors. Differences in opinions and perception among you and your neighbors could create harsh living situations, the type of living situations that make you want to pack up and move.

Just as no two people in your family think alike, your neighbors don’t always see things the way that you do. It doesn’t take vocal neighbors, people who constantly complain about something that you or your family member did or said, to make you regret living where you do. Quiet neighbors who are expert at passive aggression could refuse to speak to you, even if you speak, smile and wave hello each time that you see them.

Signs Of A Bad Neighbor

As unpleasant as it sounds, these are not the worst neighbors. There are people whose neighbors have changed their lives in unwanted ways. Signs that you maybe next door to a bad neighbor include:

Loud noise maker – Neighbors who play music and televisions at high volumes act as if they have no regard for people living around them. Despite how closely they live to others, they think that they can do what they want, when they want, even if that means playing their favorite song at full blast at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Disregard for property values – Uncut grass, untrimmed hedges and chipped house paint on just one house on your street could put a dent in your property values.

City street drag racer – Racing cars is fun if it’s done in the right forum. Racing cars down city streets is not only annoying, it’s unsafe and illegal.

Neighborhood spy or stalker – Little is more annoying than a neighbor who peers through curtains every time someone leaves or enters their home. Worse is a neighbor who checks your mail without you asking.

Court case lover – Going to court may feel like going to a party to some neighbors.They’ll press charges against you if park in front of their house or ask them to stop letting their dog poop in your yard.

Irresponsible pet owner – Neighbors who value their pets more than they do people may leave large, aggressive dogs loose. Worse, they might order their dogs to attack neighbors they don’t like.

Constant borrower – Every time there’s a knock at the door, it couldbe a neighbor asking to borrow a bowl, a cup of sugar, a few bucks or your lawnmower.            

Turn A Bad Neighbor Into A Good Friend

Just because a relationship with a neighbor starts off on the wrong foot, that doesn’t mean that the relationship can’t be healed. Put in sincere effort and a bad neighbor could become a good friend. Steps to get along with neighbors follow:

  • Introduce yourself to new neighbors – Stop by your neighbors’ house a few days after you move in. Get off to a friendly start.
  • Organize a block party and invite all neighbors to attend.
  • Walk areas where a neighbor claims that your pet has pooped in her yard. Keep your dog on a leash to prevent the behavior (this can also keep a neighbor from accusing your dog of getting in her yard).
  • Let your kids play with your neighbors children if both sets of kids are well behaved.
  • Don’t gossip about neighbors. Word gets around quicker than you might think.
  • Avoid getting back at neighbors by engaging in the same annoying behaviors that they do.
  • Stop lending appliances to neighbors, and don’t feel guilty about it.
  • Contact your home owners association if neighbors continue to engage in bad behaviors.
  • Document exchanges made between you and your neighbors. Should the relationships not mend, you may end up taking neighbors to court.

Moving may seem to be the only answer when it comes to living peacefully with your neighbors. Yet, if you keep an open mind and are flexible, you can talk with your neighbors. You can find out why they do what they do. You can also learn how they developed their social skills. You’ll also learn more about yourself and how you strengthen or challenge the relationships. This alone could also enrich relationships that you have with your family members.