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Neighbor Law: Please Don’t Attack Your Neighbor

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A recent Oregonian news story: “Aloha man admits to attacking his neighbor for trimming shade trees,” by Roger Gregory, December 13, 2011.  The sentence?

“…Sentence: Bosket was sentenced to six months in jail, followed by five years of formal probation. Bosket was ordered to pay $3,579 in fines and fees and $1,366.19 in restitution. Bosket received the court’s anger/mental health package as part of his probation, according to Nadya Martin, deputy district attorney for Washington County. Bosket is to have no contact with the victim and is not to live at the Aloha address, Martin said.” [Link to full article.]

We’re not all lucky enough to have awesome neighbors.  Librarians, public and law, are asked legal questions all the time that fall under the Neighbor Law classification.

The most frequent questions are over barking dogs and trees.  We also hear the more complex ones involving noise, condo law, easements, driveways, and drugs.

After breathing deeply, I next try channeling the most level-headed, creative problem-solver I know.  That could be your Uncle Guido, a 5th grade math teacher, or a talk-show host. (Just kidding about that last one.  Can you imagine? One thing we don’t need is more SHOUTING.)

Here’s what I would do:

1) Look up your local law: You may live in a place where there are laws about neighbor-law issues, such as tree trimming, barking dogs, crowing roosters, etc. Call your local government information line to find out who or what office handles noise, animal, or related nuisance complaints.

2) Neighborhood associations can sometimes help with these problems – assuming you have a good neighborhood association.  If you have one, call them.  Some cities have free mediation services run by local law enforcement or a social service nonprofit.  Your local library or elected representative may help you find that resource.

3) Creativity: There is a book called “Neighbor Law,” by Nolo, and it gives you lots and lots of other ideas on how to proceed.

4) Important: If there is suspected criminal activity, please call the police.  But you may need to do more, much more.  You may also need to call the DA, your elected representatives, or a lawyer.