From the Forum – Dealing with Dirty Neighbors

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Dealing with Dirty Neighbors:

“Our immediate neighbors have a difficult time keeping their front and back yards clean. They mow the lawn once per season (if so much) and their backyard in particular is literally full of trash and other junk. Apart from being unsightly it is a breeding ground for vermin and mosquitoes. They are the only house in the immediate vicinity whose yard is so awful. It is disgusting!

Talking to them in a nice neighborly way is to no avail, as the situation has persisted for a very long time.

Living in such tight quarters here in DC, clearly what one house does can affect all the surrounding houses.

What do I do? Help? Can I go to the city? Can I file a complaint somewhere? Can they be fined for this?”

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22 Comment

  • Sounds like you have to live with it or just take care of their yard for them. Those are your 2 best remaining options.

  • File a complaint with DCRA. They will fine people if the grass is too over grown or its a rodent breeding ground.

    • +1… sounds like you already did the “talking nicely with them approach”… be prepared to deal with some pissed off people if you get DCRA involved. should probably be a last resort… but sounds like you are there.

    • epric002

      +10. i’ve filed complaints about neighbors who let the weeds in the yard grow waist high. it can take a little while to get someone out their to inspect and issue a ticket/citation, but you can call back and check up on the situation in the meantime and they’ll let you know when the scheduled inspection is. if i recollect correctly, they have about a week to correct the situation before re-inspection. please report. not only is it unsightly, but it does encourage vermin.

  • In addition to DCRA, involve your ANC commissioner. They should be able to help keep tabs on DCRA to get things done.

  • Offer to help with an initial backyard cleaning and maybe try rallying support from other neighbors, specifically the ones on the other side of the house in question. If your a newcomer to the neighborhood, this is especially important. Make sure your interactions with neighbors aren’t just when there’s a problem.

  • Definitely call and report them. I’d be surprised if they haven’t been ticketed already. Apparently there are people who work for the city and just walk through the alley taking pictures in my neighborhood and then sending tickets/fines. We’ve been nailed with a couple in the last year for minor issues, so I imagine DC would want to try to get $$ out of these people.

  • I had the same issue with my neighbors. With DC once your grass is 10″ or higher DCRA can come out and give them a warning that they need to cut the grass. If they don’t it’s a $500 fine. I did this a couple of years ago and my neighbor cut their grass immediately. All you do is email them with the address and they’ll send someone out. It didn’t take more than a week for the notice to appear on my neighbor’s door. The email at that time was [email protected].

  • I think they can be fined, but it’s hard… My mother’s neighbor has managed to make her home the eyesore of the block and we don’t know what to do either….hoping she’ll move

  • Just please make sure you know the full situation before reporting. Are they elderly? Disabled? If so, what they need is neighborly support, not a ticket (which, by the way, may do more to earn you an uppity reputation on your street rather than fix the problem more than once).

    • You can pay a neighborhood kid $10 to cut the grass every few weeks. Being unable to do it yourself is no excuse. By your logic people who work 14-hour days or take lots of vacations are off the hook too.

      • Not necessarily so easy. Elderly or disabled folks may not have any contact with the neighborhood kids and may not have the extra cash to pay them. I’m not saying there aren’t ways to make it happen but getting them slapped with fine isn’t exactly the optimal remedy (nor does it necessarily fix the problem).

    • I can assure you that everyone who lives there is able-bodied.

  • It seems like everyone is afraid of what their neighbor may think if you report them. Clearly they don’t stop to think about what others in the neighborhood think (or the fact they’re increasing the likelihood of rats and other vermin appearing) so why pay them the same courtsey?? I can definitely understand if they had some limitations such as being disabled or elderly but based on the post they’ve tried going the nice way to no avail…

  • Ugh, I can empathize. When I lived in Fairfax County my neighbor to the left had a backyard full of junk (whatever someone put out for bulk trash pickup would end up there) and the neighbor to the right had a yard full of weeds and rats. The rats stayed away, thanks to our dogs, but the house with the junk had a bad roach infestation that kept creeping over to our house. It’s not fair that you have to deal with those issues when you’ve kept your own yard clean. We did bring it up as a health concern to the HOA, who was unsympathetic, but I think the DC Dept of Health would be more responsive.

  • Ally

    It sounds like you have already chatted with your neighbor (bravo!), so you may not have much choice but to include DCPW. But, I will say that, in my case, I was slapped with a $75 fine, with no warning, when I was away for a week or two caring for my mother with cancer and didn’t have time to get out and mow/prune after all the rain. I’m paying the fine and fixing the situation, but even an anonymous note through my mail slot would have done the trick. No need to get nasty unless you don’t have another choice. Good luck!

  • Be careful. We complained to our neighbors about something similar and what happened next was we had slashed tires, a rain of trash onto our property, missing trash cans, etc., all of which we KNOW was our neighbors but of course we can’t prove. Sometimes it’s not worth it.

  • when our neighbors litter (I see them out there late at night drinking and leaving their bottles and snack bags on the street) I gather it up in the morning before I go to work and pile it on their front steps. Not sure if changes their behavior much, but at least it lets them know the world isn’t their personal trash can.

  • Thanks a lot guys for the feedback. I called the sanitation department on July 2 who promised to have someone out to look at the situation by July 9. I don’t think anyone has come out yet, though I’ve followed-up a few times. I suppose I will just have to keep trying. In the meantime it’s still a jungle over there…

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