20September2014

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Solving Disputes

Solving Disputes with the Assisted Family Next-Door

The loud music next door is keeping you up all night.

The tenant next-door parks a car across the sidewalk so your child has to walk in the street.

The people across the street park their old car on the front lawn.

These are some typical problems that annoy neighbors, create a nuisance and make it difficult to enjoy your neighborhood.  Before you do something rash, or resign yourself to living with problems like these, consider this step-by-step approach to solving problems with your neighbor, including when you believe the family is receiving Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) assistance from the Housing Authority of the County of Alameda (HACA)1.

Talk to the Family

Try to resolve any differences by talking calmly with the family in person.  The family might not even know they're causing a problem.  Most people don't intend to cause a problem and they may be the last to know that they have. If you can help solve the problem, offer your assistance.  If the yard hasn't been picked up because the neighbor is elderly or has been hurt, offer to help do it. If you're uncomfortable talking to your neighbor, ask a (calm) friend to accompany you.  A cooperative, friendly approach can resolve most neighborhood problems and may gain you new perspectives and a new friend.

Research Your Case

If talking to your neighbor doesn't solve the problem, do some research into the issue.  The problem could simply reflect cultural differences of which you may not be aware.  While this may not make the matter go away, you'll be more sensitive to the cause of the situation, and more understanding of your neighbor.  Usually, a little information can make us more tolerant.

Speak with the Landlord

Speak with the family's landlord.

  • If the family lives in Public Housing, HACA is the landlord.
  • If you believe the family is receiving Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) assistance1, the lease is between the tenant and landlord.  Only the Section 8 HCVP landlord, not HACA, has the right and responsibility to enforce the lease.

The tenant may be violating one or more lease provisions.  The landlord should either be able to enforce the lease or evict the tenant.  Even if the lease isn’t being violated, the landlord may be able to exert helpful influence with the tenant.

Section 8 HCVP - After Speaking with the Landlord, Speak with HACA

As indicated above, only the landlord, not HACA, has the right and responsibility to enforce the lease when the family is receiving Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) assistance1.  Regardless, when a neighbor reports a dispute with a renter thought to be a HCVP family, HACA collects as much information as possible from the neighbor and investigates.

If the investigation reveals that the tenant is a HCVP participant who is violating the lease, HACA works with the landlord to insure that the landlord either enforces the lease or, if necessary, terminates the tenancy.  By law, only the landlord can enforce the lease.  HACA has no authority to do so.

Apart from any lease violation, HACA also investigates if the participating HCVP family is violating one of its HCVP family obligations.  If so, HACA will terminate its relationship with the tenant by terminating the HCVP participant’s Housing Choice Voucher Program Voucher.  When the Voucher terminates, so does the lease and HACA's relationship with the owner also ends.

HACA takes all appropriate steps to protect the privacy of all parties to an investigation, including that of any person who brings a potential lease violation, or other issue, to HACA’s attention.  Federal and State laws prohibit HACA from divulging the findings and any consequences of an investigation.

Speak with the City or County

Sometimes whatever is annoying us, is against the law.  Typically, one duty of the local jurisdiction is to assist people with neighborhood problems that involve violations of local Codes and Ordinances.  In the various cities of Alameda County, and in the unincorporated areas of the County such as Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, the Livermore Valley, San Lorenzo, and Sunol, the local Codes and Ordinances are designed to protect the peace and safety of the community.  Problems such as junk cars, parking on the lawn, accumulating trash and debris are usually violations of local Codes or Ordinances. Knowledge of the law, as it pertains to your neighbor dispute, can help you deal with an uncooperative neighbor.

Make Your Request To Your Neighbor in Writing

If the problem persists, make your request to your neighbor in writing.  If you learned through your research that the matter is a violation of a local Code or Ordinance, mention that in your letter.  The letter should carefully state the situation and possible actions to correct the problem. If it is a recurring problem, you may wish to keep a log of the occurrences.

Contact Your Neighborhood Association

Your neighborhood or home owner's association is interested in preserving the peace and quality of your neighborhood.  It's likely that they will share your concern about your neighbor.  Talk with the directors of the association and attempt to enlist their help in mediating the problem. Often, an offending neighbor will correct a problem once they realize it bothers the whole neighborhood, not just one neighbor.  If your neighborhood does not have an association, you may want to work with your neighbors to form one.

Try Outside Mediation

If your neighborhood does not have an association, or if the problem persists, a neutral third party may be able to help.  You may consider contacting East Bay Community Mediation, to seek a solution to the dispute with your neighbor.


This article has been adapted, in part, from "Solving Neighborhood Disputes", at http://www.cityofconcord.org/living/neighdis.htm.

1 HACA is prevented by law from divulging if a tenant is a Section 8 HCVP participant.

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