Background: We recently moved to a new neighborhood and it's rather dark at night (not many street lights). Most neighbors leave outside house lights on at night.

Issue: About a month after we moved in a neighbor put a half-page letter in our mailbox stating that our outside lights shine into their bedroom, meaning they can't have their windows open at night. They've asked us not to use our lights at night but ending with essentially "of course it's up to you what you do."

Other info:

  • Only spoken to the neighbor once ("hi my name is...") for about 30 seconds since moving in
  • Neighbors in question are across the street and over one house, so maybe a couple hundred feet from the light source
  • I don't see how our lights (recessed floods pointing downwards) could be shining into their room, but also don't think they're lying
  • The outside area where our outside lights are intending to illuminate is very dark, e.g. wouldn't be able to unlock a car parked there without the lights on.
  • Although I'm not too concerned about crime, the area the lights illuminate is steep so slips/falls are possible.
  • My wife thinks we should ignore the letter, and not give them any power over the situation. My MIL thinks the people are "crazy" for making the request.

Possible options I see:

  • Keep using the lights as we want. They have the problem, so need to adjust.
  • Stop using the lights, since it obviously bothers them and we're "nice people." Remember to bring a flashlight when walking by the area.
  • Plan to turn the lights off at some predetermined time, like 10PM, except when we know we'll be out and need them on when we return (infrequent).

3 Questions:

  1. Is it reasonable for them to make their "no lights" request?
  2. Do we respond at all? I assume we will live across the street from these people for many years.
  3. How much do we "give" in trying to achieve a compromise, assuming they are even open to one?
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    This forum is pretty strict about how to phrase questions to make sure they can apply to a general situation, and not your specific case. We aren't like a court that can decide "right" and "wrong", but only provide advice on how to resolve conflict. Since the focus of your question is "is this reasonable", it'll likely be closed as the answer can only be based on personal opinion. I suggest you edit the question to ask something more like "How can I manage this situation with my neighbor?" possibly also adding "without causing problems with my wife" – Andrew Aug 30 '18 at 18:00
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    @Andrew I don't think it's about being strict with specific vs. general situations as much as an issue with the format of the forum. SE works best with questions that encourage answers that can be measured against each other objectively. A question like "What should I do?" or "Do we respond at all?" is far too opinion based for that. Read here for more. – scohe001 Aug 30 '18 at 18:06
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    It sounds like you are doubting that your lights could actually be bothering the neighbor. Have you tried just walking to their house at night and verifying that there really is a problem? – DaveG Aug 30 '18 at 20:01
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    Hey there! Although the edit to the title improved this question, the questions here are still "what should we do" type of questions, and are too broad to qualify for re-opening. If you can decide what you wanna do, we can definitely help you find the best way to phrase to your neighbor why you do or do not want to comply to their request (but we can't decide for you, or weigh out the pros/cons, or tell you how to otherwise feel about the situation). – Jess K. Aug 30 '18 at 20:20

Even though your lights are recessed floods pointing downwards, it is possible that the light still enters their bedroom by a series of reflections. Since it does bother them, it is alright for them to make the request to you by writing the letter they did. But it is now up to you to decide if you want to accede to their request and not switch on the lights at night, or if you don't want to do that.

If you want to be very nice and accommodating and switch off the lights, be sure that you use a flashlight when walking around in the dark so that you don't get into any accidents. However, if you think that it is important for you to switch on the lights and that the lights don't really bother them that much, you could do that by telling them, either in person or writing a letter, that you really do need the lights on, and suggest that they just use the blinds to keep the light out of their bedroom.

In any case, their letter and its ending suggests that they are open to communication and are not unreasonable. Having a conversation about the matter will definitely help to sort things out between you and your neighbours.


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