Wednesday, February 26

How to Get Your Nuisance Neighbors Out

I just found out that the neighbors that we like next door are moving out. That's good for them, as they get an opportunity to get a new home of their own. We are hoping it's good for us, too, but just in case it's not, I am prepared because of events that happened on our block about a year ago.

As you can see in the photo, the police showed up in our quiet neighborhood. Twice in two months. One family was out of control, and it was time for that family to move on. When I asked neighbors, I found out that the police had been called in the past on the family, and I'd personally seen someone from the household dragged away in handcuffs. So that's multiple calls, one arrest, and then these two major events. One single family disrupting the entire block.

Because people in Jacksonville generally let others do their own thing, none of my neighbors had really complained about this family. In fact, I never even saw the police calls listed for any of the three events that I witnessed, which made me wonder who was hiding this information. I also learned that requesting a police report for something that happened on your block is more complicated than just asking for it or printing out a map (especially when the calls for service are missing). However, I KNEW the people were trouble, so I acted.

I wrote a letter to my HOA and the rental company that rented the house out. I informed the HOA that another HOA had been sued when a nuisance house within its boundaries was responsible for a death in the neighborhood, and I implied that my information about the house should suffice as evidence that it was a nuisance--three documented police visits and several others attested to by neighbors. In my letter to the rental company, I basically snitched, telling the company that their renters had several visits from JSO since I'd been living in my home, basically saying that the company owned the nuisance home that the HOA and neighbors would monitor closely.

That's all I did, besides watching the neighbors anytime I saw them. Not waving like nothing had happened or harassing them in any way, but if I saw one of them come home, I would watch from my driveway. Within a week of the second incident, a trailer was taking items away. I figured maybe the teenager (or problem friend) was moving out, which was a start. Then, a week later, the real moving truck came, and the whole family was gone. A month later, the house was for sale.

While I assume the family decided to move on its own, I feel that it's important that I weighed in on the issue. Had the family decided to stay, at least my concerns were documented. The HOA and rental company knew what the police and neighbors knew, and all parties were aware of their perceived responsibility in the matter. The truth might be that residents would lose in a court case against the HOA or rental company, but it's also true that there is no court case if those entities were never informed of the nuisance, since I don't think the police let anyone know.

It seems like the new folks who have moved into the house are more typical of the neighborhood, and the police have not been around to deal with any more issues. I am hoping that the new people who move in next door will also be good neighbors, but I also happen to know who owns the place, and I am willing to go out of my way to let him know if there are any concerns. Since it's right next door and not up the block, you can be sure the landlord will be informed whenever there's a concern. What I'm really hoping is that he decides to sell the house to someone who will have more of a stake in taking care of the property, even though the current renters have been great.

The lesson for residents of Jacksonville is that you should take ownership of your neighborhood. If kids are running around breaking into cars, first make sure they aren't your kids or their friends. And tell your kids and their friends that it's not acceptable. Don't sit out in your bushes with a shotgun, but be ready to call the police to do their jobs. And be ready to reach out to your city council members (though they likely will ignore you), your HOA, the people who own a house rented by jackasses, etc. If you just deadbolt your doors and install cameras, it's really not enough. Meet your neighbors. Encourage them to meet the expectations of civilized society. It's possible, even in Duval.

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