What to Do if You Have a Dispute with Your Neighbor
Litigation may be necessary but it is rarely preferable...try to resolve it informally.While it is true that there are people who fit the bill of "the neighbor from hell," that is not the most common source of neighbor disputes. Generally, a minor issue gets presented in a way, or is understood in a way, that causes immense angst. Bitter feelings develop, and the animosity level grows over time. By the time someone contacts a lawyer, their goal is no longer to reach an agreement but to "win." Remember that, unless you plan on moving in the near future, the person you are arguing with is, and will be, your neighbor. Little is to be gained by emulating the Hatfields and the McCoys. I have witnessed truly infantile behavior among neighbors, and a judge and jury will see it as precisely that -- childish. And the wounds created among neighbors by litigation are very slow to heal.
Think carefully about the issue before presenting it, and present it in a neutral and non-threatening manner."You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." This adage is particularly true with neighbors. I have often wondered why two individuals were in court, spending tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys, arguing over an issue that should be discussed at an outdoor barbecue over a beer. Before declaring, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" stop and think about how you would feel if you were in your neighbor's shoes and the issue came up. How can this issue be best presented? If you are uncertain how to proceed, ask a friend. Frequently friends can provide a measure of objectivity that you will lack because you are personally involved in the matter. Getting objective advice BEFORE contacting your neighbor should bear fruit.
If you must hire a lawyer, instruct your lawyer that it is important to resolve the dispute amicably if possible.As noted above, far too often a lawyer is retained at the time when all bridges have been burned...it is the functional substitute of hiring a hitman. That is a huge mistake. If you perceive things going downhill, it is best to consult with an attorney immediately...before it is too late to try and salvage an informal and amicable resolution to the dispute. She or he might have a suggestion for another way of presenting the issue, without advising your neighbor that an attorney is involved. Or your attorney may believe that it is best to contact the neighbor directly, either to discuss the matter directly or to ask if there is an attorney with whom they could speak on the neighbor's behalf. One of the advantages to retaining counsel is that they are not emotionally invested in the dispute and, so, can hopefully reach a sound resolution that they can sell to their respective clients. In the end, litigation may be necessary. Some people refuse to be reasonable. But try to avoid it.