How to deal with a neighbor that borrows and borrows

Neighbors can be a joy, providing you a sense of belonging and community. They can also be a PITA when they treat your stuff like community property. This is especially true of equipment that we use only occasionally, such as ladders, roto-tillers, chain saws, car jacks, rug shampooers or slide projectors.

Unfortunately, the reason your neighbor needs to borrow a piece of equipment is often seasonal, and you'll need it at the same time. Nothing is more frustrating that needing your leaf blower only to find it locked in your vacationing neighbor's garage. Here are some strategies for dealing with a chronic borrower.

1. Set a deadline. When your neighbor asks to borrow the ladder, request that he return it the next day, because you have plans to use it. Open-ended lending usually becomes just that.

2. Make sure your stuff is clearly labeled with your name. The only thing more ire-producing than unreturned goods is finding those goods in your neighbor's garage sale.

3. Borrow something from that neighbor of equal value and hold it ransom. This can be done with subtlety, so that it doesn't cause a shouting match.

4. Find an imaginative way to decline the loan. Perhaps your lawyer or your insurance agent cautioned against loaning that item for fear of a liability exposure should it cause an injury.

5. Set the terms. If the item you lend requires maintenance, loan it with the expressed expectation that the chain saw chain will be sharpened before return, the mower will be gassed, the crib will be cleaned and in good repair.

6. Store elsewhere. Keep such items at a nearby relative's house, and retrieve as needed. And if your neighbor erroneously concludes that it actually belongs to your relative, is that bad?

7. Lie. This is a harsh tactic, but sometimes the only way to change your neighbor's behavior, while allowing him to save face, is to tell him that your food processor/hammer drill/wheelbarrow is broken, or loaned to another. When he sees you using said implement shortly thereafter, hopefully he'll get the message.

8. Grow a pair. Overcome your Bumsteadism and demand that your stuff be returned before loaning anything more. After all, a neighbor that values you only as a lending library isn't worth cultivating anyway. Talk to other neighbors, and you might find that the same person is working them, as well.

You worked hard for your stuff. Watching your neighbor enjoy it while you sit and fume is not conducive to a harmonious neighborhood, or a content you.

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