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!