Nosy complaining neighbour is getting under my skin!
Q. My neighbours spy on us, bully our kids, complain to our town for anything - noise, street hockey, long grass. This harassment continues again and again. Is it legal?
A. It’s a terrible feeling knowing someone may be out to get you. How bad will it get and when will it stop?
Frequency and intensity of abusive behaviour help determine when the law kicks in to end your personal horror movie. Legal tools available for relief range from a costly and boring civil lawsuit to a spine-chilling and gratis criminal complaint. A court order helps to end the movie but nothing will compensate for the scars left on emotional boundaries.
Let’s see how this may work in practice.
Beginner levels of nosiness include neighbours sitting for hours just staring at you and your house. This creepiness is legal unless you prove an obsessive intent to poison your life with the inclusion of other stuff. So, add a long grass complaint to a town, a Sûreté du Québec (SQ) call for guests parked illegally, crop circles, and so on. At what level do the droplets of disapproving looks and complaints cross the line? Is there a ‘Geneva Convention’ between neighbours?
We all have to tolerate normal neighbour annoyances according to one section of the Civil Code. But especially pertinent is the idea that rights must not be abused and we must act in good faith according to other sections of the Civil Code.
Unfortunately, what’s ‘normal’ or ‘abusive’ can be obfuscated by a special breed – the serial complainer. These by-law crusaders, armed with a measuring tape, can make numerous complaints at various government levels. Usually protected by anonymity they cost taxpayers a fortune. They may view the issuance of a fine under an obscure by-law as a proper dose of misery medication. It’s prescribed from time to time to supposedly rehabilitate you.
At that stage your neighbours may indeed have climbed up the harassment ladder to a level where court scrutiny could bring a downfall. It’s possible to submit that legal complaints, abusive by accumulation and with the intention to harass, are to be interpreted as abnormal annoyances and an abuse of rights, especially the latter.
Your neighbours do not seem to exhibit the mental impairment or rage found in criminal harassment where you fear for your safety. Instead, it would be a slow civil lawsuit where principles and anxieties must wait a long time before finally reaching the attention of a judge who ponders all of this. It also pits the fear of the financial strain of paying for a court fight against the fear of the ‘crazy’ neighbour becoming crazier. Just make sure that curing your discomfort is worth more than the cost of the legal battle.
A dose of prescribed Valium, taken before a friendly conversation between neighbours, might help to convince them to give it up and get a life.
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