Let's cut to the chase -- most hams want the answer to one question: "When one of my neighbors has an interference problem, what do the rules say about whether it is my fault or not?" This question is especially important if one of your neighbors raises it. The bottom line is simple: The amateur is responsible for the proper operation of his or her station. This means that all Part 97 rules must be followed at all times. If the amateur isn't experiencing a problem with his own consumer equipment, it's a pretty sure bet that his equipment isn't at fault.
As an amateur, you are directly responsible for interference that results from FCC rules violations at your station. In the RFI world, this means that if your station is transmitting signals outside the amateur band that cause interference to other radio services, it is your responsibility. This is the only specific requirement under Part 97 rules.
The owner of a transmitter which emits spurious emissions, is responsible for making sure that the transmitter meets all technical specifications of the service in which it operates. In the Amateur Radio Service, Subpart D of Part 97 gives standards for amateur transmissions.
The consumer is responsible for cooperating with the amateur, the manufacturer and the FCC as a solution to the problem is sought. However, nonamateurs experiencing RFI often don't understand many of the technical concepts that are vital to resolving an RFI problem. When you first start talking about FCC rules with your neighbor, start by talking about what the rules require of you, as a radio operator. At this point, your neighbor will probably be listening, because you are talking about what you must do. You can then explain the other possible causes of interference, show them the actual rules and explain that the rules apply equally to everyone.
In its Interference Handbook, the FCC is very clear in its advice to consumers faced with interference problems. This publication can help get amateurs "off the hook" when the interference isn't caused by the amateur transceiver.
Page 1 of this publication states:
I. Check the Installation of Your Equipment
Many interference problems are the direct result of poor equipment installation. Cost cutting manufacturing techniques, such as insufficient shielding or inadequate filtering, may also cause your equipment to react to a nearby radio transmitter. This is not the fault of the transmitter and little can be done to the transmitter to correct the problem. If a correction cannot be made at the transmitter, actions must be taken to stop your equipment from reacting to the transmitter. These methods may be as easy as adjusting your equipment or replacing a broken wire. These and other simple corrections may be accomplished without the help of a service technician.Never underestimate the importance of personal diplomacy when you're confronted with an RFI problem.
The way you behave when your neighbor comes knocking sets the tone for everything that follows. No matter what you think of your neighbor, you have to remember that the best solutions are built on cooperation and trust. Knowing all the technical tricks in the book won't do you a bit of good if your neighbor won't even talk to you!