Solving Problems With Your Neighbors

Fix a rift with a neighboring business without your lawyer.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the October 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

A neighboring business may affect yours in ways you'd never expected. Whether it's a conflict over customer parking, a steady stream of delivery trucks that block your driveway or a restaurant venting its kitchen odors your way, neighboring businesses can drive away your customers and cause you endless aggravation.

You might be able to work it out just by talking to the owners of the problem business--but they may be adamant that what happens on their property is their business. You could check your lease and discuss the conflict with your landlord. You might even appeal to the city for help with code enforcement. But despite your best efforts to resolve the problem diplomatically, sometimes you can't.

Time to get your lawyer involved? Not necessarily. Some lawyers start with a threatening letter, which often doesn't produce the desired effect. The neighbor could become defensive or, worse, more obnoxious. Even if the immediate problem gets resolved, resentment may build, which could lead to future problems.

To avoid bitterness and a possible legal battle, try mediation, where a neutral third party helps clarify the issues and find a mutually agreeable solution. What's best about the process is stronger relationships are often forged with neighbors as a result. Your lawyer or local chamber of commerce can help you select a good mediator.

Jane Easter Bahls is a writer in Rock Island, Illinois, specializing in business and legal topics.

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