Ask your neighbour to turn off their lights
How to resolve conflict over outdoor lighting
It’s important to be nice when you ask your neighbour to turn off their lights. If you’re living in a residential estate, you’re probably familiar with the conflicts that arise from barking dogs and noisy neighbours. But have you ever experienced problems that come from an unshielded lighting fixture that casts a bright light that spills onto your property and perhaps even inside your home?
To be fair, when your neighbour installs his new, unshielded light, he may not even realise that it is shining on your property. So, what do you do?
Goodwill goes a long way. The International Dark Sky Places Conservation Program, which advocates for the preservation and protection of dark sites through responsible lighting polices and public education, offers the following advice on how to go about addressing this issue with your neighbour:
Make friends, not enemies. Your neighbours probably don’t even realise their lighting is bothersome.
When you ask your neighbour to turn off their lights, Stay positive and don’t argue. Be tactful and understanding about your neighbour’s right to light their property.
Suggest alternatives to their current fixture. Ask them to move the light, shield it, or add a motion sensor so it’s activated only when needed. Offer to help get this done.
Be informative. Talking to your neighbour is a great opportunity to be an advocate for good lighting. You may also want to compile a list of local businesses or homes in the neighbourhood with good quality lighting as an example of effective security measures that are dark sky friendly. Having a list of shielded
light fixtures to provide as alternatives
to your neighbour’s current lighting
is also recommended.
Don’t dismiss their need to feel safe. Remember that home is a place where everyone wants to feel relaxed and safe.
Don’t threaten legal action.
The idea of a lawsuit can create bad feelings among the whole neighbourhood.Remember that everyone wants the same thing: a chance to relax in his or her own environment. Work together to create an atmosphere that benefits the community.
Ideally, you know your neighbour well enough to discuss the problem with him or her directly. If not, you can write a letter. See below, for a Sample Letter to Your Neighbour to get you started. You may find it useful in any event to put your thoughts on paper.
Ask your neighbour to turn off their lights – A sample letter
Dear [insert neighbor’s name],
Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m your neighbour [insert your name] and I would love to talk with you about good outdoor lighting. I notice that you have installed outdoor lights on your property, and I applaud your desire to help improve our neighborhood.
However, and I certainly realise that you may be unaware of this, your lights are a bit too bright and are shining in [pick areas as they apply: our bedroom window, the backyard, into our house etc.] and interfering with our [sleep, hobbies, view of the sky, etc.]. As I mentioned, I’m sure you weren’t aware of this until now, but I wanted to bring it to your attention as soon as possible so we can discuss possible remedies or solutions. Let me be clear, I am not asking you to remove the lights, but perhaps re-direct them onto the ground where they will do the most good.
In addition, we could also discuss shielding the lights so that they are even more effective. Shielding a lamp usually requires using a lower wattage bulb, which – in and of itself – is a big money saver. Shielding also reduces glare that can be dangerous and unsafe. Glare can be blinding and create harsh shadows where “bad guys” can hide. Shielded lighting provides real security, not just the illusion of security, which I think we both want for our families and friends.
There are several other ways to improve lighting, save money, and still be safe. One is using motion sensors, which alert you if someone is in your yard after dark and have the added benefit of reducing your electric bills by keeping the lights off when they’re not needed. Timers are another way to save money because these devices turn off your lights when they’re not needed, for example, when you retire for the night.
Thank you so much for your time and understanding. I would love to talk with you about how I can help you to improve your lighting and how it can benefit your safety, budget, and the night sky.
[insert your name]
Use this sample letter when you ask your neighbour to turn off their lights