According to some sources, legal fights between suburban neighbors are now worse:
Neighbors have long bickered over fences, hedges and property borders. But lawyers involved in such tangles say the pandemic, which kept many people and their neighbors at home—and on one another’s nerves—far more, turned suburban sparring especially toxic. The rancor, they say, hasn’t eased up. Allegations of late have touched on topics including flying dirt, flowerpot placement and stray balls bouncing into a yard…
The leading reasons for flaps between neighbors are trees, fences, parking and noise, “probably in that order,” said Emily Doskow, a lawyer and mediator who edited the book “Neighbor Law.” “Everyone knows that having problems with your neighbors is one of the worst quality-of-life killers ever.”
The New York Peace Institute, a nonprofit that helps people resolve conflicts, got more calls during the pandemic about neighbor disputes, said Jessica Lopez, a program manager who coordinates mediations. Two years later, the caseload hasn’t slowed, she said, adding, “It’s a new normal.”
In a country where protecting single-family homes is vital, suburbanites prize single-family homes, and homeownership is an ongoing ideal plus suburbanites often relate through “moral minimalism,” perhaps this trend is not too surprising.
At the same time, as a sociologist, there are multiple questions I ask after reading this:
- Is there a way to get data on this? Are the number of neighbor disputes up in the courts or in lawsuits? Not all disputes go to court; would qualitative data in communities also reveal this?
- What exactly was the role of COVID-19 in this? One answer could be that more people spent time at home. Another could be that COVID-19 racheted up tension and disrupted regular social interactions. A third could be that rising property values and demand for property in some places pushed people to see their property differently.
- How many communities have alternative options for mediating disputes like these rather than going to court? Are there implementable models that suburbs could offer?