We get it. These are not earth-shattering issues or big crimes but rather little neighborhood nuisances that can affect your quality of life.
“I’M SO ANNOYED BUT I’M NOT GOING TO TELL THEM”
Call it human nature. We smile and wave to our neighbor and say “hi” but it’s uncomfortable telling them about a problem. Why?
“I think most people don’t want the confrontation,” said Wichita Police Sergeant Travis Rakestraw. “Most people don’t want to tell someone something is bugging them.”
Rakestraw says barking dog issues are one of the top complaints. The City of Wichita has put together a barking dog packet which details how to make a complaint, suggestions on how to speak with a neighbor about a problem and offers ideas on why dogs may bark and how to stop the behavior.
If you call police, an officer will talk to your neighbor and let them know about the problem. If it is an ongoing issue, you can file a complaint. Since 2008, 74 barking dog cases have been filed in Wichita municipal court.
If your neighborhood has a homeowners association, it can also be a way for you to lodge a complaint. John VanWalleghen is president of the Benjamin Hills/Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association in Wichita. His neighborhood has been around for years – before the days of neighborhood covenants. If someone has a complaint, the neighborhood association will address it.
“If we have a problem we have to try and talk to our neighbors and get them to resolve whatever it is,” said VanWalleghen.
The association will mail out a letter to the homeowner. It usually includes the city code ordinance which backs up the complaint.
“Most people don’t like to do direct confrontation with a neighbor over a problem,” said VanWalleghen. “That’s why the neighborhood association can step in and try and be a neutral party.”
VanWalleghen says if the association can’t resolve an issue, members reluctantly bring in city code officials.
“We don’t want to be picking on someone,” said VanWalleghen. “We just want the neighborhood to look good and be a good place to live.”
VanWalleghen encourages neighbors to set up a neighborhood association – even if it’s just a few blocks of homes. Wichita Independent Neighborhoods, Inc. can help you get started. You can contact the group at (316) 260-8000 or email email@example.com.
OUTSIDE MANAGEMENT COMPANIES
If you live in a newer neighborhood, you may have a hired management company which handles complaints. OMNI Management Services takes care of about 40 neighborhoods in Wichita.
“We are an unbiased third party,” said Tara Parker-Tong, OMNI Division President. “We don’t live in the neighborhood.”
If there’s a complaint, OMNI will send a letter to the homeowner alerting them to the issue. The letter also includes a reminder of the covenants and suggestions on how to fix the situation. Parker-Tong says reactions vary.
“Some seem pretty embarrassed to get that communication and want to fix it,” said Parker- Tong. “At the other end of the spectrum there are people who say ‘you can’t tell me how to live my home because I bought it’. But we go back to the covenants and show them you agreed to this when you purchased your home.”
OMNI also tries to find a compromise instead of fining a homeowner.
“We really try and educate and find a solution,” said Parker-Tong.
IT’S ALL IN THE APPROACH
Everyone we spoke with emphasized how it’s all in the approach.
“If you are tactful and respectful and just try to get them to understand your side,” said Sgt. Rakestraw. “We don't want people going over and banging on the door in the middle of the night yelling at someone about their dog barking. I want people to address the problem in a proper manner.”
Even people we talked with who admitted they were hesitant to confront a neighbor said they would want to know if they were the annoying nuisance.
In the end, it’s more than a barking dog or unmowed lawn.
“If neighbors get along they communicate,” said Rakestraw. “They start building a relationship, they start to care for each other and they start to respect each other. It makes a healthy neighborhood.”