What can you do when a neighbors kids leave their toys in your yard?
Kids will be kids; but you do expect that your neighbors are teaching their kids to respect other people's property. When those lessons aren't happening at home, kids tend to sprawl their play area to adjacent yards. Especially when dealing with kids, it's important that you not overreact. While it's true that you don't deserve to have your yard treated as though they own it, responding too aggressively is the best way to do permanent damage to your relationship with that neighbor and lose the sympathy of your other neighbors and the authority. Here are some steps that you can take to try to get what you really want- having your property respected- without losing your cool, your ethics and respect in the community.
Know where the property line really is
What if we disagree about where the boundary is?
Have both of you present during the survey, if at all possible.
Never, ever (ever) yell at the kids
As an adult, it is so easy to fall back on the authority that you are an adult and they are a child that it's tempting to just yell at them- particularly if you catch them in the act. You need to show restraint. In today's society, it's really never ok to yell or in any way show aggression to another person's child. Even if we put aside the notion that it is an unethical thing to do (and it is); it is a strategic and tactical mistake that will cut off your ability to get the situation resolved. Initial conversations aside, all of your escalation options depend on societal sympathy for your situation- don't throw that away just to feel the fleeting emotion of "giving them a piece of your mind". I might suggest that you not go so far as talking to the kids at all; but it is ok for you to politely ask older children to remove items from your yard and to please not put them there again.
Too much sweetness isn't good, either
With the advice to not be the "bad guy" in mind, it might be tempted to try to swing the pendulum the other way. You may hearken back to when you were a child in a different time and the nice neighbor who would occasionally give the neighborhood kids baked goods or cold drinks on a hot day. While you definitely do want to be nice to the kids, the world view on neighbors and children has changed. You at best would be viewed suspiciously by many of your neighbors with a move like this and at worst could give a child with a food allergy the wrong treat. Even if none of those things happen, you have effectively invited the children onto the very property that you will be making the case that they shouldn't be trespassing on. In short, leave the kids out of it and try to deal almost exclusively with the parents.
Talking to your neighbor about the issue.
It’s likely an uncomfortable thing to do, but talking to your neighbor about the situation is usually the best start and often resolves the situation completely without need for further escalation or expense.
When should you NOT have the discussion?If your neighbor has a history of overreacting, volatility and especially reacting with violence or retaliation; you should reconsider trying to interact with them one-on-one about the issue. With neighbors like this (or similarly negative personality traits), you should trust your instincts.
Why you SHOULD have the discussion
- help you avoid future issues with just a conversation (because they know that you will escalate), and
- will help your other neighbors understand that you are just interested in resolving the issue and not “that neighbor” who calls the police or an attorney at the drop of a hat.
How to have an effective discussion with your neighborTry to think about how, if the roles were reversed and your neighbor had to talk with you, how would you prefer they handle it with you? In every part of this discussion with your neighbor, you need to keep your focus on resolving the issue with the least amount of conflict possible.
Make sure you aren’t over-exaggerating the issue
Assume that they are unaware of the problem
Once you get agreement, stop
Talk to the landlord
Posting "No Trespassing" Signs
While it may seem like this wouldn't be necessary, most area laws require posting "No Trespassing" and "No Parking" signs in order to enforce the law. There are many styles of signs that range from inexpensive, basic signs to more expensive but more appealing versions. Any will meet the posting requirement, but some will do so in a less offensive way.
Here are a few examples of "No Trespassing" signs:
In many cases, adding an obstruction to the areas of your property that seem to be most vulnerable to trespassing can be a big help. While tall wooden or chain link fences are a clearly effective option, you can also consider more visually appealing options including hedges and decorative fences such as split rail. These options should be accompanied by “Private Property - No Trespassing” signs on the outside of the obstruction.
Contacting the Police
You will want to avoid a, “your word against theirs” situation when calling the police.
Keeping a log
Getting the evidence
Here are a few of the more popular versions of outdoor hidden cameras:
Seeking legal counsel
Lastly, you should consider seeking out legal advice from an attorney that specializes in this area of the law. While websites like Bad Neighbor Advice offer practical solutions to minimize neighbor conflict, they are no substitute for professional legal advice. For scenarios around trespassing, it’s likely that an attorney specializing in Property Law would be the best choice.