Inconsiderate Neighbors Create Quandary for Homeowners

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Dear Miriam,

I live in a Philadelphia twin house and have terrible neighbors. I’m an owner, but they rent, and they seem to have no respect for my property or theirs. They leave their belongings and trash all over the lawn, they trampled my daughter’s snowman last winter (twice!), they drove a car directly into the wall of our garage and never said anything, etc. We also know that we’re getting bugs and mice from their side of the house.

We seem to have opposite schedules and never see them around like the other neighbors, so we don’t have any sort of relationship with them. We’re thinking of selling our house and are worried about these inconsiderate slobs affecting our resale value, plus they are impacting our quality of life in the meantime. What should I do?

Signed,

Not the nicest neighbors

Dear Neighbors,

I grew up in a very small town, and even after more than a decade living in Philly, I am still often surprised by just how close we live to our neighbors. Even more so, because row homes (and twins) are actually attached, there can be some real ambiguity about who is responsible when repairs are needed or regarding outdoor spaces. However, in your case, it sounds like there is no ambiguity, just an absolute lack of caring on the part of your neighbors.

As terrible as your situation sounds, the good news is that they’re renters. This means that, first of all, they probably won’t be there long-time, and second of all, they have a landlord who should also be held accountable for their actions. If you haven’t already, you need to notify their landlord immediately.

Come out with one or two very specific infractions and related requests before you call. The snowman trampling is awful, but the landlord can’t do anything about it. If they caused damage to your garage, though, that’s something someone else should pay to fix. If you have to hire an exterminator because of their behaviors, that may also be something tangible that the landlord could pay for.

Of course, landlords can also be ineffective and inconsiderate, so there’s no guarantee the landlord will be sympathetic to you. If you have a neighborhood association, you should also contact them for suggestions and resources.

As much as possible, document your neighbors’ behavior with dates and pictures. If there are other neighbors who see what’s going on, you should also reach out to them for support. Even if they can’t directly improve your situation, having allies is important, as is being able to vent to people who see what’s going on.

In an ideal world, you would be able to knock on your neighbors’ door, share a cup of tea, tell them your concerns, and have them realize the error of their ways and improve immediately. If there are specific discrete tasks that might improve, even if you never see them, you may be able to slip a note through their door that says, “Sorry we haven’t seen you around lately! There were a lot of flies in front of our door last week, so we’d really appreciate if you can move your garbage cans after the trash is collected. Thanks!”

There’s no guarantee that this will go well, but if you don’t reach out at all, you’ll never know how they might respond. If you ever do see them, be friendly and not confrontational, but be prepared with one tangible improvement to request in person. As for resale value, hopefully you’ll be able to get things to improve in small, cosmetic ways in the short-term, and hopefully short-term strategies are all you’ll need.

Be well,

Miriam

1 COMMENT

  1. It is often very difficult to locate the manager of the property if the owner lives out of the area. Hopefully, this problem will soon be solved when city council reconvenes in the fall. Meantime, one site to find the actual owner is to use phila.gov and find the website for the office of property assessment. Another would be to contact your councilperson, either for your neighborhood or council at large. The state rep’s office can also help in finding out information or making phone calls about your particular situation. I have actually found the last suggestion to be the most helpful.

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