Dear Heidi: My neighbor is creating a visible mess beyond his property line. Should I tell someone?

Being a good neighbor is a two-way street. But when your neighbors don't do their part, be courteous first to avoid escalating a situation.

Neighbors. They're great when they’re great, and uncomfortable when they’re not so great. When you’re living near someone, you hope for an amicable situation, to at least be on speaking terms.

It’s a great perk to have friendly neighbors who look out for each other and help out if there’s ever a need. You aspire to engage in healthy, open dialog, even if it’s just across the lawn or over the fence. That healthy dialog comes in handy when something is bothering you about your neighbor, perhaps a barking dog or an unkempt yard.

If you have a friendly enough relationship it’s much easier to voice what’s bothering you. If your neighbor has a pipe that is leaking dirty water onto their yard and down to the sidewalk as you described, yes, say something — to them. Allow the neighbor to remedy the situation first, before you go to an HOA or neighborhood grievance committee.

You may be surprised at what you learn when you approach your neighbor. Maybe they did not realize the pipe was leaking because they rarely walk on that side of the house. Or, they are in the process of repair and are waiting for the contractor to arrive.

You never really know the ins and outs of a situation with a neighbor until you speak to them about it. Approach your neighbor in a generous spirit of letting them know there is a leak. Hopefully, your neighbor is happy to fix the problem, and is already working on it.

So, do give your neighbor an opportunity to fix the problem before you run it up the chain to the HOA, and it becomes a big deal. The HOA will have a protocol to handle complaints, and sometimes mountains are made from molehills.

But, alternatively, if you have the misfortune of living next to someone who isn’t interested in having a cordial relationship, let alone fixing a problem, then you may have to go to the HOA or equivalent in your area to gain satisfaction.

I wish you the great luck I have had with neighbors. If you don’t know your neighbors, make an effort to introduce yourself and start a friendly rapport. You never know when you might be in the position to help them, or to have them help you.