When Neighbors Complain About Neighbors Over Property Maintenance

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

When it was reported last week that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul was physically attacked by his next-door neighbor allegedly over a landscaping matter, I was not surprised. Some years ago, I had written an article about issues that pit neighbor against neighbor based on complaints registered with my local code enforcement officer, and property maintenance concerns ranked highest on the list.

It had been many years since I checked in, but in speaking with Jason Zeif, the current code enforcement officer in Yorktown, I learned that property maintenance is still highest on the list of complaints made by homeowners.

“The complaints can range from grass not being cut to trees that overhang a neighbor’s property,” Zeif said, “but property maintenance is highest on the list of complaints I receive.”

Following that top complaint, here are other issues most frequently reported by municipalities across the land that pit neighbor against neighbor.    

Trash. Surprised? I was. The complaints deal with how trash is handled, bundled, where it is placed or whether it blows on to other neighbors’ properties. Also figuring heavily is bulk pick up, when people pile their throwaway junk at the curb to be picked up by the town. If it is placed outside too early, there are often complaints from neighbors. Or, worse yet, if the dates get mixed up and the junk is on the street after the scheduled pick-up date, neighbors can get very testy with one another if it’s left there for the next month. Yes, it happens

Fences. There can be trouble when a fence is constructed with the “ugly” side facing a neighbor, when town codes usually specify that the decorative side must face away from the house. This complaint is so endemic that fence manufacturers have invented the fence where both sides are decorative.

The complaint may also be about a “spite” fence. You might remember that Martha Stewart was accused of pinning a fence contractor against a gate with her SUV at her East Hampton home when he attempted to construct a fence between her and a neighbor who was not among her legions of fans.

Visual Blight. This is a broad category and can involve anything from excessive numbers of vehicles in driveways to non-repair of a home’s exterior or any pile that is covered with that horrible shade of blue plastic.

Noise. This covers several problems. There is noise from loud music, mostly yard parties with amplifiers, which by the way, can go on forever and as loud as one likes as long as it doesn’t last past 11 p.m. Lawnmowers or leaf blowers used after dinner time are particularly challenging to neighbors staying friendly.

Signs. So you really don’t want to learn about kickboxing? Or losing weight? One of the world’s worst inventions are those commercial Styrofoam signs on wire holders that litter our landscape.

Then, there are the ubiquitous “tag sale” signs attached to utility poles, which is a patently illegal place to put them. The double dip of annoyance is when the offenders fail to return to remove them after the sale.

Dogs. Continuous barking is the main issue with dogs, and some towns have specific allowable time frames considered acceptable to let dogs bark. In my town, a resident can complain after 15 minutes of continuous barking.

Water Runoff. When a new construction project creates water runoff on another property, the complaint usually goes first to code enforcement before the Town Board and Town Engineer to try to get something done about it.

Outdoor Lighting. This is a distant last category. Perhaps because of security measures or safety, there seems to be more outdoor lighting used today, which sometimes is pitched directly at neighbors’ bedroom windows.

I have a friend who says that when her neighbors across the street pull into their driveway at night, the entire property and sky light up like there’s a prison break.

Interestingly, when I wrote about this issue seven years ago, there were more than 500 annual complaints in my town of 40,000 residents and 13,000 homes. Today, that number has dropped to under 500. Does that mean, despite what we might see on the news, that people are becoming somewhat more tolerant of each other?

Bill Primavera has enjoyed a career as a publicist, and he is now a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate, specializing in upper Westchester and Putnam Counties.  To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.





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