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Unfortunately, we do not typically get to pick our neighbors. Whether you are living in an apartment, townhouse, condo, or house, the best you can hope for are quiet neighbors that keep to themselves. Sometimes you even hit it off with your neighbors, friendships are formed, and everyone is happy. Other times though, you end up having a problem with your neighbor and the situation can become adversarial. Either your neighbor is a consistent source of noise and other irritating and disruptive issues, or your neighbor takes a dislike to you, and things escalate to open hostility. Many people have asked themselves what is considered neighbor harassment in Indiana? Do I need to hire an attorney for harassment in Indiana? Just being irritated with your neighbor is not enough; it has to rise to a certain level, and you must be able to prove it to the police and the courts. Read on to find out more about neighbor harassment in Indiana and what your options are if you are the victim of harassment.
Generally speaking, harassment is a series of actions, not just one isolated incident. Harassment is defined as a course of conduct where one or more people subject one or more people to a series of acts that are intended to annoy, offend, or trouble. So, what does that mean? It means that if your neighbor is consistently doing or saying things that an outside party would understand they are meant to make you miserable. It cannot be something that happens to annoy you personally, like a pet peeve; it would have to be a repeated act, done willfully with the intent to harass you.
Types of harassment
Harassment can be split into three types, verbal, visual, and physical. Here are examples of each type:
Verbal: You return from work every day at 5:30 pm. Your neighbor is almost always waiting out on her porch when you pull into your driveway. When you open your car door and step out, she yells, “why do you have to live here? I’m sick and tired of you filthy people buying houses in our neighborhood. You need to move out!” The content of the communication and the repeated behavior would constitute verbal harassment.
Visual: Your neighbor posts a yard sign with an arrow pointing to your home, and the sign says, “nasty filthy people live here. We need to take back our community!” Again, the content of the sign and the fact that you (and everyone else) are meant to see it would constitute visual harassment.
Physical: Your neighbor starts to build a six-foot privacy fence between your homes. The neighbor sinks the posts for the fence one foot over the boundary line, placing the fence on your property. The neighbor does not communicate with you or provide proof that they are legally entitled to build there. Your attempts to communicate with the neighbor about it are met with silence. The work is performed when you are away from your home. This is an example of physical harassment.
These are simple, straightforward examples. It is rarely just one thing that your neighbor could do to harass you; it’s usually a combination of actions. The main thing is that the offending behavior is repetitive, clearly directed to you, and not subject to interpretation.
How Do I Prove Harassment?
So, you know that you are being harassed; it is unmistakable. There are a few preliminary steps you need to take in order to be able to prove to others you are being harassed. There is an essential factor you need to keep in mind when you are dealing with neighbor harassment, and you can’t rely on just your testimony.
You need evidence other than your word. If all you have is your testimony and the neighbor’s opposite testimony, it boils down to the he said/she said. Having witnesses is a bit more helpful, but again, they are probably your friends or family members, and the neighbor could show up to a police interview or court hearing with their own set of friends and family to testify on their behalf. You need physical evidence if you want to win your fight. Some examples would be photographs and videos. Video can be incredibly compelling when it comes to proving that you are the victim of harassment. Of course, if the neighbor who has been harassing you sees that you have your phone out, it is unlikely they will do anything to incriminate themselves. Security cameras and a dashboard camera in your car could end up being very helpful. You could also enlist a family member to film from inside the house, if possible, in order to have physical proof of the behavior.
Another possibility would be to look at any public social media your neighbor has. It’s possible that they may write something about you, and that could be screenshot and used as evidence later.
Indiana has statutes that address both intimidation and harassment. Some of these laws define conduct as a criminal act and rule accordingly. An experienced Indiana harassment lawyer will be able to evaluate your individual facts and circumstances and tell you what the best course of action is for your protection.
The intent is a significant factor when evaluating harassment claims. You need to be able to show that the neighbor intended for the behavior or action to harass you specifically and not just be generally unpleasant. Proof of intent
What Is Not Neighbor Harassment?
As we covered above, it can’t be something your neighbor does that happens to get on your nerves. It needs to be an intentional course of conduct designed to make you miserable and or afraid. For instance, if your neighbor mows their lawn every Saturday morning at nine am, and it drives you crazy, it’s not harassment. If your neighbor blows an airhorn under your bedroom window at nine am every Saturday morning, that is harassment. Again, this is a silly example, but it clarifies the fact that the behavior must be directed at you in particular.
Noise is a common complaint between neighbors. The most helpful thing you can do to determine if the noise could be considered harassing is to look at your community’s local ordinances. Each town, village, and city all have its own local rules governing noise. Most communities have what is generally considered “quiet hours” where excessive noise is banned. An example would be that between the hours of 10 pm and 8 am, noise cannot exceed a certain level. Look at your town’s website to see a breakdown of what is and is not legal. This is one case where the behavior need not be directed at you in particular. If the neighbor is in violation of the local ordinance, anyone who is disturbed by it is allowed to call the police and make a complaint. Be warned that excessive calls to the police when there is no ordinance violation can undoubtedly backfire.
Solutions To Neighbor Harassment
So now you know there is the intent and a definite course of conduct on the part of your neighbor to harass you. What do you do next? Here are some options:
Hire an attorney -schedule a consultation with an experienced Indiana harassment attorney. The attorney has undoubtedly handled neighbor harassment issues before, and they are pretty common. The attorney will be able to listen to your story and possibly look at any evidence you have obtained. The attorney will be able to tell you if you have a case and what steps can be taken in order to protect you from further harassment.
File a report or reports with the police -if you feel like you are in danger at any time, call the police and let them know what is going on. Do not take the chance that any threats the neighbor makes towards you are just hot air. If your neighbor threatens or attempts violence, get the police involved. Even if things “cool down” and nothing actually happens, you need to create a record of the encounter between you and your neighbor. Police reports can be used as evidence if things come to a head and there is an investigation and a court case.
Noise complaints but use them with caution- again, you can always call the police if the noise level coming from your neighbor’s property is violating an ordinance but use them with caution. Excessive noise complaints to the police that turn out to be without merit can backfire on you.
Restraining order -a possible solution that you could discuss with your attorney is getting a restraining order. Obviously, if the person is your neighbor, it can be challenging to create and enforce specific distance requirements, but you still have a right to protection, and that avenue should certainly be explored.
Civil vs. Criminal Harassment
It’s important to understand the difference between civil and criminal harassment. Civil harassment commonly includes disputes such as noise complaints, while criminal harassment includes more serious behaviors like stalking, threats, and violence. The intent behind criminal harassment is to instill fear, cause intimidation, or inflict harm through various patterns of behavior.
Charges of criminal harassment can be heightened to felony status in cases where the perpetrator has a criminal history or makes violent threats.
When to Involve the Authorities
There comes a time when it’s necessary to involve the authorities in your situation. If threats of violence are made, especially with any use of sexual language, indicating a potential for harm, it’s time to involve the police immediately. Also, you should contact the police in cases of crimes like:
- child abuse
- drug-related activities
- domestic violence
After self-help remedies fail or if there’s persistent harassment, involve law enforcement to obtain a statement and case number for legal developments. Furthermore, reach out to law enforcement authorities if the neighbor’s conduct is clearly against the law and your own measures no longer suffice. For misdemeanors like excessive noise, trespassing, property damage, or health order violations that disrupt the peace, don’t hesitate to call local police.
You can also contact authorities for issues involving local noise ordinances and other municipal codes when a neighbor’s actions violate these regulations.
Making Police Reports
In a police report about neighbor harassment, including personal information like age, sexual orientation, and occupation is beneficial in establishing the context for the harassment. After filing a police report for harassment, the police will conduct an investigation of the incident, but they are limited to taking action only if the neighbor has broken the law.
Filing a police report can be a critical step in dealing with harassment, as it serves as an official record even if immediate action is not taken by the police. However, there’s a potential risk after making a police report that the police may not be able to keep your identity confidential, which might result in increased tension with the neighbor.
Reporting Incidents to Management
Before bringing an incident to the attention of your property management, review your lease agreement. This helps you understand your rights and confirm if the harassing behavior breaches any lease clauses. You should then communicate directly with property management by detailing the harassment in a formal letter and asking for it to stop.
Maintaining a detailed record of all harassment incidents is vital when reporting to the landlord. It can bolster your case if the need arises for a formal complaint. If the situation does not improve, consider filing a formal complaint with local or state housing authorities who may investigate the matter further.
If the harassment continues, it might be time to seek legal advice to prevent further harassment and report the situation to law enforcement if it escalates to a safety concern.
Landlords have a responsibility to ensure that tenants are not engaging in disruptive or illegal activities that could constitute harassment of their neighbors. However, landlords who fail to address harassment complaints can face legal consequences. This can include an act to punish a tenant for filing a valid complaint, recognized by law, and includes behaviors such as eviction attempts, raising rent, or changing tenancy terms soon after a tenant’s complaint.
Legal consequences for landlords engaging in harassment can include civil lawsuits, loss of rental licenses, criminal penalties, and in cases involving discrimination, charges under the Fair Housing Act. Landlord harassment includes creating adverse conditions to encourage a tenant to leave the property or break the lease and can encompass property neglect and undermining living conditions.
Indiana Landlord Dispute
If the harassment dispute is with your landlord, you have both the laws against intimidation and harassment on your side as well as the Indiana laws governing the protection of tenants in a landlord/tenant relationship. Landlords are held to a specific set of laws governing how they deal with their tenants, including things such as when they can and cannot enter the unit. If you are having problems with your landlord entering the building or putting hidden cameras up, you need to procure evidence and meet with an Indiana attorney who is familiar with landlord-tenant law to discuss your rights.
Disputes with the neighbors are usually stressful and disruptive to your daily life. Having a problem with someone who lives next door that you are forced to see almost daily can seriously erode your quality of life. Additionally, these disputes can escalate into more violent encounters in certain situations. If you are having problems with your neighbor and feel that you are being subjected to harassment, you should certainly meet with an experienced Indiana harassment lawyer who can discuss with you what your rights and defenses are in order to ensure your protection. Feel free to give O’Flaherty law a call, and we would be happy to help you.
How do you deal with a neighbor that is harassing you?
It's important to have a conversation with your neighbor about the issue and try to find a solution together. If the situation doesn't improve, consider seeking assistance from the HOA, a lawyer, or local law enforcement to address the harassment.
What do I do if my neighbor threatened me?
If your neighbor has threatened you, it's important to prioritize your safety. Consider filing a restraining order and reporting the incident to the police, as this can provide evidence and legal protection against any further incidents. Take action promptly to ensure your safety and well-being.
When should I involve the authorities in a neighbor harassment situation?
You should involve the authorities immediately if there are threats of violence, especially with any use of sexual language, or in cases of crimes like theft, vandalism, assault, child abuse, drug-related activities, or domestic violence. It's important to prioritize your safety and well-being.
What are the legal consequences for criminal neighbor harassment?
The legal consequences for criminal neighbor harassment can include fines, jail time, or both, and depending on severity, it can also lead to civil lawsuits and criminal charges. It's important to address such behavior promptly to prevent further escalation.