How to Report a Neighbor's Messy Yard

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There's always that one neighbor who does their own thing, and occasionally that includes leaving their yard a huge mess. From broken-down furniture in the front yard to overgrown weeds, reporting messes and code violations can help improve the look and safety of your neighborhood. Know when and how to report issues to keep the peace and avoid a rundown look in your neighborhood.

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What Messes Should You Report?

Lawns occasionally get a little longer than normal if the homeowner is busy or sick, so minor overgrown lawns aren't something to file a complaint about. However, majorly overgrown yards or vacant lots full of weeds often violate city codes and warrant a complaint. Check your city's codes to determine what is considered a violation. Common issues the city will enforce include:

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  • Grass or weeds over a certain height.
  • Trash in the yard.
  • Things that don't belong in a yard, such as appliances or furniture.
  • Inoperable vehicles.

Typically, issues that warrant a complaint are things that cause a safety hazard, such as overgrown grass and weeds that can attract pests or items that block the view of traffic. Things that are an eyesore can also be reported.

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Start With a Conversation

It's usually best to address the messy situation directly with your neighbor unless you've had negative interactions in the past. You don't always know what's causing the issue. Your neighbor could be dealing with a health issue that makes keeping up the yard difficult, for example. Reporting to the city could result in fines and leave your neighbor feeling hurt or betrayed. Start with a civil, nonjudgmental conversation to see what's going on and kindly request that they clean up the mess.

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If you don't feel comfortable having the conversation alone, talk with other neighbors to see if they feel the same. One of them might feel more comfortable talking to the offending neighbor, especially if they have a better relationship. You can also have a few neighbors go together to ease the discomfort, but be careful not to make the person feel like the entire neighborhood is attacking them.

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You might offer help, especially if the person is struggling to keep up with yard care due to medical or other personal reasons. Show up with yard waste bags and other tools to handle the job, as long as the owner doesn't mind. Working together, the neighborhood can clean up the yard quickly and give the person a fresh start that's easier to maintain.

Talk to the HOA

If you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, this is a good place to report the messy yard if talking doesn't do the trick. The HOA establishes rules that include how you need to maintain the exterior of your home and your yard. A messy yard is likely a violation of the HOA guidelines. Letting the HOA handle it can eliminate any uncomfortable confrontations with your neighbor. The HOA might issue a warning or fine for the violation.

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File a Complaint

For neighborhoods without an HOA or if your HOA doesn't handle the situation, you can also file a complaint with your city or county. Most areas have regulations on things like grass height, weeds, and trash in the yard, whether it's in the front yard or backyard. City or county officials will contact the owner if they decide it breaks their codes. Homeowners are often given a certain amount of time to clean up the mess before the city takes additional action.

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Contact the Bank or Owner

Sometimes a home is vacant or isn't occupied by the owners. For example, if a home is going through foreclosure, the bank eventually assumes control and the owners will move out. If you can determine which bank currently owns a foreclosed home, you can try contacting them to file a complaint. If the home is being used as a rental, search records through the county assessor's office to identify the owner and contact them directly if possible. They might not realize that the tenant isn't maintaining the property well.

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