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We've lived in our house for 11 years. The house to the south of us is a small rental bungalow while we live in a 3 bedroom obviously family home.

Shortly after the newest renter moved in, we got a nasty gram through an online service that will send anonymous complaints via snail mail on your behalf that our dog was too loud (dog has lived here 4 years without complaints, with four different sets of renters).

Shortly after that, we received a nasty gram from the city that our vegetation covered too much of the sidewalk. Okay, so my husband took a hedge trimmer to some lavender bushes.

Now, a city inspector came by with the complaint that my chicken coop was too close to their residence (we've had chickens for something like 8 years and no one's complained). The run is about six feet away from the garage that is at the back of the lot while the tiny house is at the front of the lot.

She really seems to have it in for us, though she is apparently nice to my daughter and her girlfriend when they walk the dog by the house. In a lovely twist of hypocrisy, there is no fence around her backyard and her dog trespasses daily onto my porch (which makes my dog bark like she's gone nuts). I have video footage of this from our home security camera. I don't know or understand her motivation. We're just living here the way we have for 11 years.

My husband says not to let it bother me, but these complaints have come in rapid succession and I'm not enjoying being under a microscope; I don't know what's coming next and I feel very anxious in my own home.

Question: What are my options for action if I don't want to actually talk to this woman (because I don't want her to know she's getting under my skin because that might encourage her)?

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    Just to confirm--do you have any hard evidence that she's the one sending these complaints? I understand it happened right around the time she moved in, but are you 110% certain that this is all from her? – scohe001 Sep 26 '19 at 20:46
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    You're right, no hard evidence. Plot thickens, eh? Although I don't know why anyone else would complain about the chicken coop as it is in the southwest corner of our property, abutting only the detached garage and an alley. The only problem we've ever had with any of our neighbors is when the boy north of us was a tween, he liked to ring our doorbell and run away. I spoke (not yelled, just spoke) to him once and he stopped. (He's now in high school and a model citizen, I hear.) – SnappingShrimp Sep 26 '19 at 21:04
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    Are the complaints accurate, as far as you can tell? Like, did the chicken coop's location actually violate some ordinance? Relatedly, do you have any reason to believe that these complaints are frivolous? I'm looking for something beyond "previous neighbors never complained", if possible. – Upper_Case Sep 26 '19 at 21:21
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    @Upper_Case The chicken coop is properly situated. The detached garage doesn't count as a residence. Even if it did, we're still suitably far away. As for the dog, she barks at the mailman and the UPS guy. She barks back when other dogs bark if she's outside or a window's open. When she's outside, she's brought in as soon as she starts barking. She goes to bed at 9pm, so doesn't bark late, though she does get up a bit before 7am. But yes, the lavender was leaning into the sidewalk (that's why husband took a hedge trimmer to it). – SnappingShrimp Sep 26 '19 at 21:33
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    I'm a bit unclear as to what your goal is. What is it that you want to accomplish? Are you wanting to get the complaints to stop? To find out if she is behind the complaints? Something else entirely? – Rainbacon Sep 27 '19 at 16:30
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I've been in similar situation twice. One living in a house and one in apartment.
First of all - You cannot be sure it's the new renter.
While living in apartment, the "complainer" was a person who lived in the furthers apartment from mine and on a different floor. They used new people moving in to start sending complains so it would look like it was them who started it. They also complained about the new renters so they would think it was me who was complaining.
While living in a house we used (or tried to) city mediator. The complaining side didn't showed up. But the mediator told me that:

  • sometimes people need to find something to do. Sometimes it's complaining.
  • there is a thing called "social agreement". It means that when you live in a house you should understood and accept that the dogs will be barking, cows will moo or a train will be heard from 3 miles away. When you want to use community provided services (road, water system, electric) you need to pay the price of living with (or within) that community.
  • You cannot fix or amend thing with people who complain. Because that's not their goal (to get things fixed). Their goal is to complain.

On a personal note he added that city with time treat such people are boys who cry wolf. They ignore those complaints (I've learned I had around 20 complaints of fire hazard created by having a wooden shed. The wooden shed was metal garage that I painted brown).

Part of that "social agreement" is understanding that sometimes you will encounter a person who want to not be content.

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  • My kid and her girlfriend are quite sure the neighbor is not to blame--that she even mentioned that she liked living near our chickens. My husband suggests that the property manager visited the property between renters and got their shorts in a twist and that is the source of the complaints. It's an interesting theory that implies that they have a set list of complaints and are not snooping around daily for something more to complain about. – SnappingShrimp Sep 27 '19 at 16:25

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