There’s nothing quite like a bad neighbor to turn your little corner of paradise into a new kind of social minefield. And unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a castle surrounded by a moat, chances are you’ve had your fair share of awkward neighborhood interactions.
While plenty of neighbors can be perfectly kind and respectful, there can be a few rotten eggs who ruin the hood for everyone.
So if you’re looking for a practical way of dealing with your bad neighbors (and doesn’t involve hiding out in your house), we’ve got a few helpful ideas. Here are five types of nightmarish neighbors, plus some expert advice on how to deal with them—no moat building required.
1. The watcher
Our grandmothers called them “busybodies,” and today we call them “the watcher.” This is the neighbor who is always staring out the window and has the pulse on every single thing happening on your street.
These neighbors should probably pour their efforts into publishing a neighborhood ‘zine. But instead, they spend their free time trapping unsuspecting neighbors with unwanted conversations—usually when you’re running late for an appointment.
So how can you evade your local Watcher?
“Put on headphones when you’re going out and pretend as if you can’t hear them,” says Anthony Minniti, a homebuyer with Texas Land & Home. Or point to your phone and mime that you’re on a call.
2. The corrector
Maybe they’ve lived in your area since time immemorial, or perhaps they just happen to have memorized every annoying rule your homeowners association ever created. Whatever the case may be, this neighbor likes to dish out unsolicited advice.
“These neighbors are very annoying, mainly because they have an illusion that they’re experts at everything,” says Carter Crowley, real estate agent and co-owner of CB Home Solutions. “They usually point out your mistakes and offer their opinion on how to correct them.”
For these neighbors, a nod and a smile can go a long way as you listen. But only for a few minutes before politely telling them you’ll take a look at the rules—and send them on their way.
Another trick? Set your phone timer for five minutes when you see the corrector coming. When the timer goes off, a white lie about what it was for (food in the oven or a Zoom meeting) will help you exit the conversation.
This one hardly needs an explanation, especially since the bad music, screaming children, or barking dogs speak quite loudly for themselves. So how can you get your noisy neighbor to quiet down besides investing in some really great headphones?
“It’s a fine line when dealing with a noisy neighbor,” says Anthony Martin, founder and CEO of Choice Mutual. “You don’t want to make an enemy who will be even louder out of spite. The best thing to do is approach them during the day and appeal to their sense of empathy.”
Start off the conversation by chatting about their music (or whatever the source of noise is), then transition into nicely asking if they could keep things quieter after a certain time of day. The goal here is to reach a compromise, not to start an argument.
If that doesn’t work, homeowner Nunzio Ross, of Majesty Coffee, suggests calling in the big guns.
“From my experience, cities and towns have noise ordinances you can Google and leverage,” says Ross. “There are certain noise thresholds that they might be breaking to warrant a call from the authorities.”
4. The wanna-be friend
Some neighbors naturally become friends. Others (usually the ones you avoid) will stop at nothing to try to become your bestie. Since the friendliness likely comes from a good place, these neighbors can be the hardest ones to handle.
So how exactly do you get out of their millionth coffee invitation?
“There’s nothing wrong with your neighbor wanting to get to know you better, yet this doesn’t mean you’re obligated to go to their home if you don’t want to,” says Martin. “Tell them that you’re extremely busy and have limited free time. But that you will let them know when you are in a place to be more social.”
5. The grump
Sometimes the problem isn’t so much what your neighbors are doing as what they aren’t doing—like the grumpy neighbor who can’t even bother to say hello when you walk by. Fortunately, this isn’t that hard of an egg to crack, especially if you’re willing to put in a little extra effort.
“Take things slowly,” says real estate agent Jeff Johnson, of Simple Homebuyers. “Start by just smiling at them and saying ‘Hi’ if you ever cross paths. Then, gradually initiate a friendly conversation.”
If that’s not enough to crack their surly manner, then consider just leaving them alone.