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How to Deal with an Unreasonable Neighbour

I had a very strange experience last week. The day had been awesome, the skies were blue even at 7:30 pm, I was waiting for my best friend at the bottom of the hill from where I live. We were going to a Greek dinner. Exciting.

But then a white van rushed and stopped just where I was, and a large man came out of it. I knew him; he was my downstairs neighbour, the same neighbour I offered Will+Kate cupcakes on the Royal Wedding day. (Yeah, I know, cupcakes, Royal Wedding. Fuck yeah, they were good and tasty.)

Sketching a hand sign and a nice, “Hello, how are you today?” I was stopped by his very angry face and his, “I GOT TO TALK TO YOU!” shout. He is always complaining about noise when we meet, even though I already explained to him two times that the building isn’t insulated. Hopefully I could see my best friend coming down the street so I wouldn’t be alone suffering what followed.

“THAT IS ENOUGH. MY WIFE CAN’T SLEEP, MY WIFE CAN’T SLEEP! MY CHILDREN CAN’T SLEEP YOU’RE DOING TOO MUCH NOISE!”

Oh. We do not play loud music, and no music at all after 10 p.m. We do not hold parties, instead we have people coming around to watch a DVD or a TV show. When we watch TV, it is at a reasonable volume, with subtitles. We do not walk around with our shoes on. We do the housework in the afternoon. Our flat is not noise insulated at all, after all we are in a 1970s city council building. The building not being insulated explains the fact that we can also hear our downstairs neighbours. In fact, we hear them all the time. We just do not complain because we understand it is not insulated and therefore not their fault. Did I mention that no one is living in the bedroom over his children’s?  Did I mention that most of the evenings we watch TV on the sofa?  Yeah I did, I explained that to him. Very calmly, despite being shouted at. In the street. By a large guy.

To which he answered:

“NO NO NO THAT IS ENOUGH, MY WIFE CAN’T SLEEP AND YOU ARE MOVING FURNITURE AT MIDNIGHT AND I CAN PHONE THE CITY COUNCIL AND THEY’LL MAKE YOU MOVE OUT!”

Then I became a bit irritated and I told him that being subject to joint problems I had something else to do with my night time than to move furniture around. Even if I were healthy, I would not move furniture around at night because I’ve been well-educated. All we do at that time is going to the loo or staying on the sofa/bed. Then I added that if he wanted a 100% noise free life, he had to go buy a house in the countryside, not live in a 1970s non insulated flat. By the way, we heard him snore, it was disturbing at 2 a.m. During that time he managed to shout at me some more, interrupt me with declarations that no one could sleep, our noise level was abominable, etc.

His answer was:

“SEE YOU IN COURT!”

(To which I thought: good luck, my future father-in-law is a lawyer.) All the time, he was shouting, with his repulsed eyes and his very angry face, and I was grateful my friend was by my side. She had a bottle of wine in her bag and her hand holding it in case he actually lashed out to do violent stuff to my face.

So obviously, I was left a bit shaken by the event. I was scared to come back home. When the postman knocked at the door the morning after, I thought it was the neighbour and I began shaking. During the following week I suffered from flashbacks of my “bumpy” childhood. Strangely, he keeps a civil tone when talking to Mr. Flop, maybe because Mr. Flop is a very tall chap, with testicles and a dick. I have a womb and boobs, so maybe I do not deserve to be talked to with respect. It is to be mentioned that even if we live in the same building, they have never bothered to come up and tell us about those supposed noise problems: he always talks to us in the street. When we sought mediation last year, he never answered our letters.

Now, most of the helplines concerning noise are made for people to complain about noise; not for people suffering from unreasonable, harassing neighbours. In case someone else happens to find themselves in the same situation, here is a step-by-step help guide:

– Stay polite. Do not act aggressively towards the neighbour. If you can ignore him, do so.

– Signal him to the city council. We’ve phoned the noise helpline and explained our situation so if he really complains the council will know that he is not being reasonable.

– After such an encounter, go to the police. I was stupid enough not to do so, but what this neighbour did is similar to harassment, as he went out of his way just to shout at me in the street (the van doesn’t stop there normally). If he does it again, I’ll warn him politely of the consequences and then I’ll go to the police station.

– Do some research: what was the neighbour’s behaviour before you moved in? Were they always complaining that way? It appears that we know the previous tenant and he complained himself about the unreasonable neighbour’s behaviour (and he was even calmer than us). In fact, it appears they always been complaining, since they themselves moved in back in 2008. Go ask other neighbours about your noise level; do they have anything to complain about, too? Do they have any experience with the unreasonable neighbour’s behaviour?

– Do not worry. Generally a municipal team will come out to assess the noise and consider that the flat is/isn’t insulated. You can’t be thrown out of your flat without an assessment or just because the neighbours are acting like they own the world.

We do not really feel secure in our flat anymore and the rent has gone up, so we are looking for another flat. We do not do it with passion though because we want to stay here; it is really a pretty cheap flat in a cool area. We feel like we’re being bullied out of our comfy nest, and that is not right. If you are in the same situation, know you’re not alone, good luck, and do not despair!

8 replies on “How to Deal with an Unreasonable Neighbour”

A few years back, my husband and I lived in a house that was divided into three apartments. We lived on one of the bottom ones and had neighbors beside us, and the top part of the house was vacant. Soon after my brother in law moved in with us, and we all three moved to the top part of the house since it was much bigger, and the neighbors remained below us. From that point on, it was hell. We could hear each other through the vents, and at all hours of the day and night we’d hear their screaming fights, breaking glass, their loud tv and their crying baby. We never complained because we understood that it wasn’t their fault that we could hear through the vents. After all, they could hear us, too. Unfortunately we also had to share a communal washer/dryer, lawn mower, AND thermostat with these unsavory neighbors. He was a drunk who was never home and she was a good 30 years his junior, still a teenager, with a new baby and a major drug problem. Once she decided to pick a fight with me over leaving some clothes in the dryer (I got called away in an emergency and forgot to unload them) it was ON. They called animal control and claimed that our dog bit their baby (when in fact she was never let out of the house), the husband came up several times and tried to force his way into our house so he could loudly argue with us, they would scream obscenities at us through the vent and they even alluded to the fact that they poisoned our cats. Any time we’d have clothes in the washer or dryer she’d sneak out to the laundry facilities and throw them on the ground. They left nasty notes on our cars, stole things off our porch, and called the police any time we so much as had a friend over to complain about noise. They were the neighbors from hell. We talked to the landlord about them constantly, but he was reluctant to evict them because of their baby and because he said it was an expensive, lengthy process. Finally after the poisoning cats incident he did evict them, but they left us death threats in the mailbox and threw beer bottles at our car before leaving. Truly nasty people. I wish I’d thought of going to court about it at the time, but I just dealt with the landlord over it. He didn’t do anything about it until so much had already gone on.

This is great advice. When I was in my early 20s, I had an insane neighbor who thought I dinged her car door with mine. I didn’t think I did, but honestly couldn’t say for sure whether I had or not. I told her as much, and said, “well, these things happen–I’ll be more careful in the future, in case it was me,” and thought that would be the end of it. But she wanted me to pay to have her car door repainted. For a very little ding! With no proof! I refused, and she actually DID take me to small claims court over it.

This is the reason that my husband and I worked our butts off to get a house of our own as soon as possible. I’m your neighbour — very sensitive to the sounds of others — though I’ve never harassed a neighbour or done anything more then gentle complaining, and even that was only under extreme circumstances. Even though we would be happier in a bigger house than the one we’re in, the only ones we can afford that are bigger are attached or condo and I know myself well enough that it is not in my best interests to share a wall with someone else if I can help it.

Well at least you know that you are easily disturbed by noise and by consequence you live somewhere appropriate to your needs and so you don’t go scare anyone ;-) For the price of this flat this guy could have bought a reasonable suburbian house. His claims are not realistic at all, I even wonder if the noise is really the issue: returning after a summer abroad my fiancé was greeted by a “it was a bit less noisy…” errrrr.

Yes, we decided to do that as well, and to always signal it to the Police because even if they can’t do something about it, it will be written somewhere and so possibly useful in case of future procedures. Thanks for the good luck but we decided to stay after visiting 5 other flats. For the same price we get a guest room a living room and a balcony while the other flats had a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom only :S The landlords or agencies were asking for a lot of money in advance as well and we can’t afford that. I begin to feel better here now, haven’t seen him since.

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