Can I Make My Neighbor Mow His Garden?

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Can I Make My Neighbor Mow His Lawn?

Q: I live in a single family home in Queens. My neighbor mows his lawn once, maybe twice a year. The grass is knee high and I'm afraid of summer. I'm also concerned that the tall grass might attract bugs and other pests. What can I do to make it mow?

A: I owned a house the first spring and my husband and I bought a cylinder mower. But it had to be assembled. We are postponing the task because how fast does grass really grow in April? Pretty quickly, it turned out. And then my husband had an accident and bed rest, and the grass kept growing. I had young children, an injured spouse, and no idea what to do. Eventually I called a local garden center and, blessed, they sent a team to help.

I tell this story to point out that you may not know why your neighbor seldom mows. It's entirely possible that the lawn isn't his priority or that he likes the wild aesthetic. But he can have more understandable reasons for neglecting his responsibility.

You could call 311 and report the situation. City regulations require homeowners to keep open spaces "free of dirt, grime, trash, or other objectionable material," and a lawn that attracts vermin would break that rule, according to Bruce Cholst, a real estate litigator and partner in the New York office the firm Herrick, Feinstein.

But before reporting your neighbors, do some research and see if you can help.

"It's always better to have a good relationship with your neighbor," said Michele Kirschbaum, program director at the New York Institute for Peace, which offers free mediation to New Yorkers. "You see each other every day – maybe you need them for something, maybe they need you for something."

Talk to your neighbor about the grass and ask openly about their summer maintenance plans. Resist the urge to be judgmental. Instead, explain the problem from your point of view. You are afraid of vermin. Mosquitoes, for example, like to hide in tall grass. Ask him what can be done to keep the lawn under control.

He may have physical, financial, or time constraints that make it difficult for him to keep up. You could offer to mow. If you have a neighborhood or block community, reach out to them for help. Other neighbors might be willing to pool money to hire someone for work (I imagine you aren't the only one bothered by the eyesore). If he rejects your request, you can entrust the Peace Institute with the mediation. As Ms. Kirschbaum said, "The whole point is that you try to make it collaborative and helpful."

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