As a homeowner, you want to feel safe and respected in your home and neighborhood, and you want others to feel the same way. Building positive relationships with your neighbors and following HOA rules is a good way to be proactive in avoiding problems with noise or conduct. Calmly discussing concerns can help you and your neighbor reach a mutually agreeable solution.
Unfortunately, not every situation is resolved this easily, and there are times when another HOA member’s behavior can cross the line and become a more serious issue. Dealing with neighbor harassment such as persistent loud music, verbal threats, or encroaching on your property is something that no one wants to or should have to endure. This type of behavior can interfere with members’ ability to safely and comfortably enjoy their space and can detract from the overall appeal of the neighborhood.
Knowing what constitutes harassment and how to address it is essential for maintaining a more peaceable living environment. Working with an HOA management company can help the board implement and enforce rules to prevent harassment in the first place. Kuester Management Group provides HOA management in Charlotte NC, Huntersville NC, Myrtle Beach SC, and HOA management in Fort Mill SC.
What is the Role of the HOA in Neighbor Disputes?
In general, neighbor disputes should be handled by the involved parties. Homeowners should try to work together to resolve disagreements in a respectful and civil manner. If the conflict escalates and is reported to the HOA, then the board must acknowledge it. The board may want to discuss any potential response with its legal counsel first to minimize the risk of a lawsuit.
There are some instances where the board does not need to intervene, and others where it should investigate and seek to mediate or take other action. Check the bylaws and CC&Rs to see what policies are in place regarding harassment, noise, violence, property damage, and similar issues. If none exist, or they are unclear, the board may want to consider updating the rules.
Examples of Potential Harassment
There is a difference between an annoyance and harassment. Your neighbor playing loud music during an occasional party can be frustrating, but it likely is not directed at or against you. Harassment is consistent, intentional inappropriate behavior. It is something that happens multiple times and may make you feel threatened, uncomfortable, or unsafe. Incidents may include:
- Making offensive or disparaging comments toward you.
- Trespassing into your yard after being asked to stay off your property.
- Blasting music or being excessively noisy during quiet hours or after being asked to stop.
- Calling the police on you over small disagreements or issues.
- Stalking you or invading your right to privacy.
- Exceeding property lines with structures or landscaping.
How to Document Incidents
One of the first steps you should take is to collect evidence around any potential harassment. As tempting as it can be to fire back remarks of your own, do your best to stay quiet and not say or do anything to engage or cause retaliation. Sometimes the best option is to walk away. Keep interactions as nonconfrontational as possible.
Incident Log: Start an incident log and record facts such as the date and time, a detailed description of what occurred, any witnesses that observed the situation, and any photographs, videos, or audio recordings of what happened or the results. You want to have a record that shows ongoing instances of questionable conduct.
Witness Statements: If there were any other neighbors around who saw the situation play out, heard what was said, or saw any damages occurring, ask them to provide a written statement or video recording documenting everything that happened. This could be used as evidence in your case.
Contact the Authorities: If you feel physically threatened whether due to verbal attacks or the presence of a weapon, don’t hesitate to call the police. Be prepared to explain the situation, what has been going on, and why you felt unsafe. They will get a statement from you, as well as your neighbor, and should provide you with a case number or police report. In some instances, there may be grounds to arrest or press criminal charges against your neighbor. The police will discuss options and next steps.
Reporting Incidents to the HOA: Check with the board to see if they have an official complaint form for you to fill out. If not, create a letter addressed to the HOA that details the nature of the situation, how many times it has occurred, what your neighbor said or did, what you said or did, and any evidence that you have collected such as photographs or recordings. The board should confirm that they received your complaint and let you know next steps. They may follow up to gather more information or work with their legal team to determine an appropriate response.
Legal Options: If harassment continues despite your or the HOA’s efforts to de-escalate and resolve issues, legal action may be taken. This could include sending a cease and desist letter to the homeowner, engaging in mediation, or working with legal professionals on a lawsuit.
If the offending homeowner violated HOA rules, they board may administer fines or revoke privileges such as using the clubhouse, pool, or fitness center. The consequences should be clearly defined in the association’s governing documents.
Resources and Support for Neighbor Harassment
In addition to reaching out to the board and HOA management company, there are also other public resources you can contact for assistance:
- North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission – find a certified mediator.
- Mediation Network of North Carolina – find a community mediator.
- North Carolina State Bar – find a licensed NC attorney and legal resources.
- South Carolina State Bar – find a licensed SC attorney and legal resources.
Dealing with Harassment in the HOA
Everyone has the right to feel safe and comfortable in their home. If you are being continually bothered, verbally abused, or threatened by another homeowner, speak up.
- Have a respectful and civil conversation to try to resolve your differences.
- Thoroughly document all incidents.
- Contact your HOA and work with them to address concerns.
- Get law enforcement involved if necessary.
Every situation is unique, and all information should be taken as general guidance, not specific legal counsel. If you are experiencing a serious or threatening situation, contact your local authorities or a legal professional.
What to Do When You Feel Threatened by Your Neighbors
Document any incidents that occur, report them to the appropriate organizations, and seek help.
How Do You Deal with Passive Aggressive Neighbors?
Don’t engage with or provoke them. As previously mentioned, keep an incident log, and follow the outlined procedures for reporting the behavior if it persists.