Harassment may take many forms but always involves a persistent and deliberate annoyance over time. The purpose of it is to attack a victim emotionally or even physically on a regular basis in order to make them unhappy and discontented. In workplaces and schools it causes a great deal of suffering but at home, when the nasty behavior comes from your neighbor, the situation may be especially unbearable.
With neighbors, feuds and disagreements can spring up over anything: territorial disputes over boundaries, trees blocking light, parking habits, noisy parties, children trespassing - the list goes on and on. Harassment may also stem from feuds based on racism, sexism or ageism. You may find your car scratched, rubbish on your lawn, or get deliveries of things you didn't order. You may experience late night noise, verbal abuse or no verbal acknowledgement at all. This is a real problem as all hope of negotiation is gone. What do you do? How do you deal with the problem?
Some might shrug it off as just another unfair thing in an imperfect world. They might pretend it doesn't matter. That may work for you but if you drink to feel better, or find yourself lying awake concerned, the harassment may be doing more damage than you know. Health issues resulting from stress are real enough and nobody should be bullied into having them. Harassment is a serious business but what can you do about it? Are you quite sure that your neighbors are not open to reasoned discussion?
Sometimes, when people feel annoyed, they might not be communicating well themselves. Have you told them how you feel and asked them to stop what they're doing? It must be worth a try, initially, and could end your issues early on. However, negative consequences are possible: confronting neighbors who are harassing you may even be dangerous and calling the police to help may not work.
They may deny your claims and launch counter-claims against you: 'Oh no, officer, we didn't scratch his car but he definitely kicks our dog!' The problem then is one of lack of evidence. The police will have your word against that of your neighbor which simply isn't enough. If they are persistently harassing you, you need to video it happening covertly.
You need to enlist the aid of other neighbors who will be prepared to act as witnesses if necessary, and who have seen the harassment take place with their own eyes. Document every word spoken - even the rude ones. Record such verbal abuse covertly, and a video from a concealed camera of your neighbor scratching your car, or a petition signed by other neighbors can only make your complaint more credible and show that you are truthful. Collecting evidence over time should put you in a much better position.
Another way to deal with problem neighbors is to move out and simply find somewhere else to live. Although this approach may appear cowardly at first, it might be a mature choice. The truth is that a home is more than just walls, floors and a roof. It is also about the whole environment: the neighborhood, the gardens, the local facilities and schools and right next to you - closest of all - your neighbors. It may be inconvenient to move, or you may just want to fight for your rights. However, not having to wake up near problem neighbors at all might actually be the easiest solution. It might be the best thing you could do to ensure the quality of life and well-being of your family. Although it's a drastic step it would definitely work and that is a strong reason to consider it seriously.
When talking or simply moving are not workable options, then you need to make a stand. If you are covered by a homeowners' association and your neighbors are breaking its rules, supply evidence and prove that this is the case. They must then enforce compliance. The Animal Association might help where dogs are barking excessively and for long periods. This is a very common form of harassment. A 911 call should only be made in an emergency but informing the police in writing of your problems and letting your neighbor know might lead to a change of behavior. Further harassment when the police know about it might strike them as unwise. If not, and the harassment continues, you may have to apply for a restraining order to make further harassment a crime. If you wish to pursue the matter further you also have the option of a lawsuit to seek punitive damages.