Elephant People Upstairs

desperaterenterFebruary 7, 2009

I've been living in the same apartment since June 2007. The Elephant Man and his . . . live-in . . . moved in a couple months later. Almost from the get-go, they made an excessive amount of noise. Luckily, not party noise, but stomping and yelling. The first memorable experience was when they decided to have a fight at about four in the morning. Well, it was more like Elephant Man was fighting with Sara ("I'm thirty-f***ing-five years old, Sara. You're twenty-five! I don't need this s***!" SLAM SLAM.) and she was just crying. He's a belligerent psycho, so approaching them is not an option.

I've never been in their apartment, yet I know they have two recliners, because they literally SLAM the footrests back into place every time they get up (which they seem to need to do every three minutes or so.) If you've never heard a recliner from below, it reverberates like a tuning fork after the initial slam. Elephant Man was on the phone with his ex-wife one night at about three in the morning, cursing her, calling her a "f***ing c***" (something about custody arrangements for the Elephant Children, who we'll visit later in the post), finishing by throwing the phone across the room until it clattered right above my bed.

Sara, from what I gather, did not work until just a couple weeks ago (so well over a year). I don't know if she was an online student like me or if they split shifts or whatever, but there was always one of them home during the day. I always know when he's home, because he just drones ON and ON and ON (must be on the phone). I've only seen him once; he looks like Eminem.

The Elephant Children visit most weekends, and they've started to visit on weekday evenings, too. That's where it gets unbearable. They literally do not stop stomping across the floor for five minutes at a time, all day. They THUNDER up and down the stairs (theirs is a townhouse-type unit with an upstairs), and they'll fly off the last couple steps with a crash that shakes the pictures on my wall. He's always bellowing at them, but not about the noise. "Carter! Finish your f***ing cereal and move your a**!" "Stop your goddamn whining!"

I filed a complaint a year ago after they (the adults) stomped around like elephants at four a.m., jumping up and down (Why? Anyone?) until my curio shelf fell off the wall and I had to pick up broken glass for an hour so my cat wouldn't step in it. The nighttime noise got better, but I had to complain again in September. See, water had leaked from their terrace and damaged my ceiling, and one afternoon Elephant Man was jumping up and down in one place so hard that the ceiling seam was bowing inwards, and the paint was cracking.

I've swallowed hundreds of complaints and only filed those two. But I'm sending another letter as soon as I go out, because today the Elephant Children outdid themselves. Thing is, I've been spending most of my time for months at my mother's just to get away from them. Probably fifteen or twenty days a month, at least. And that's not fair, because I pay rent to have my own living space, right? If you have the top floor, you get to not deal with people upstairs (even the quietest ones are sometimes loud, I know), but you have to be careful about noise that the downstairs can hear. If you're on the ground floor, it's reversed. You can't have it both ways.

Please tell me that even if it's primarily in the daytime, there's still some rule that protects me. I work second shift and need to sleep until about 11 or so. I don't wake up when they're going through their morning routine on weekdays, but the children can wake me out of a dead sleep, so it's not that I'm a light sleeper. I tried earplugs once, but didn't hear my alarm go off, so that's not a viable option. No one should have to listen to deliberate stomping regardless of the time of day.

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I'm looking at this from LL/mgmt point of view. If someone is making such a ruckus that they are knocking shelves off walls and cracking paint in the ceiling, that's going to get mgmt's attention much faster compared to a generic noise complaint. Please don't get me wrong, I'm sure countless noise complaints are perfectly valid, but noise is subjective, and what bothers some might not bother others, so it's a tough one to pin down, KWIM?

So here is what I would suggest:
They are doing structural damage. Approach mgmt calmly and professionally. (No one likes to be screamed at or threats made, it only puts the other party on the defensive and is counterproductive. Put yourself in their shoes: which type of approach would you be more receptive to if the complaint were being brought to you?) Tell mgmt structural damage is being done.

Next time they knock something off the walls, don't pick it up. See if mgmt will come and look at it (especially anything broken, maybe cover it so your cat doesn't get hurt?) If the ceiling paint is cracking, ask mgmt to come look at it.

Another alternative might be to set up a video camera when they are being rowdy and just let it run. Show mgmt the tape.

Please tell me that even if it's primarily in the daytime, there's still some rule that protects me. I work second shift and need to sleep until about 11 or so.
It depends on your lease and State laws. Probably moreso the lease in a situation like this because not all state laws address it. (To verify, google your state laws like this "_____ landlord tenant laws". Leave out the quotes, fill in your State name in the blank.) I can tell you that in general, generic lease language addressing 'the right to quiet enjoyment' does not list times of day. But, there are exceptions. I have seen instances where, for example, large complexes will put in time stipulations. Or some municipalities, if they do address noise in landlord tenant legislature, will use their own local ordinance as a guideline for noise (e.g. not before 8 a.m., not after 10 p.m.).

So before you file that next complaint (which should be done in writing), arm yourself with a little knowledge specific to your situation so that you can reference it. It will help you in your attempts to get this resolved.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 11:33AM
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I hope I didn't sound like I'm blaming management for the problem; I only blame the Elephant People. I guess I'm borrowing trouble; you know how you always assume someone is going to give you a hard time, even before they give it to you? :o) I worry that I'm going to get the answer that noise is only noise if it's after ten p.m. or something.

Frankly, I don't like noise, period, and I'm pretty sensitive. Every noise of theirs bugs me. But I only think about complaining to management when it gets really, really bad. In fact, I think I've been so worried about overreacting that I've UNDERreacted for too long.

I know that for management, it isn't fair to suddenly get confronted over noise that they didn't realize was still going on (they only know what I tell them, after all). My letter isn't confrontational, just informative. I wrote the original post when the stomping was going on, and high blood pressure may have made it sound like I was going to storm the office with a posse. :o)

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 4:02PM
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As long as you continue to be 'polite' to mgmt about the problem (while the elephants are storming the place) you will end up being seen as a mouse who can be ignored. You have a problem - fight it. I'm not otherwise an aggressive person but there are instances that you need to deal with sometimes and you're entitled to live in peace, not a din.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 6:29PM
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moonshadow - I hope I didn't sound like I'm blaming management for the problem; I only blame the Elephant People.
I know it's not funny, but the way your worded that made me chuckle ;-)

Oh no, I didn't get the impression that you were blaming mgmt, not at all. Sorry if my post came across that way. I guess I was just trying to reiterate, like I try to so often here, that a more professional approach, armed with some knowledge, is far more productive. It makes the person come across as a worthy opponent (grasping for straws here at the right description). IOW one will be taken more seriously (as in this person knows their stuff, and mgmt needs to be on their toes). Conversely, the person that just bellows and threatens and rants just tends to shut the listener off. Sort of communication 101. ;-)

I know that for management, it isn't fair to suddenly get confronted over noise that they didn't realize was still going on (they only know what I tell them, after all). My letter isn't confrontational, just informative. That's exactly what I was getting at! You seem keen on human interaction and come across as intelligent, that will help your cause.

I do feel for you. My DH has had to work shift work, and when we first moved into our home here, the neighbor's kid (early 20's) decided he was going to take up drums. At all kinds of crazy hours. Made our living room walls shake it was so bad. DH was trying to sleep one day getting ready for midnights and just lost it, went over there and really let them have it. Relations have since been repaired, but it was tense for awhile there. (Much better after the kid ditched the drums, he only learned one song which made it much worse, ack!)

Did you look into your lease language?
If you're comfortable posting your State, I'd be happy to see what I can find for you regarding noise laws if it's in the legislature. If you live in a large city (like NYC) that matters as well, they often have their own set of laws separate from the State.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 7:55PM
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Of course it's funny! That's how I deal with things. I've even written a ballad to the tune of "Clementine" wherein I kill them all with a chainsaw and set the place aflame. Of course, if something DID happen to them and that got out, I'd be in more trouble than Casey Anthony . . .

I live in Maine, and my lease is typically vague on noise (thou shalt not interfere with others' rights to quiet enjoyment, etc). But because I got a sympathetic listener the first time I called (a year ago), I'm going to assume that they try to go beyond the lease language when they can. I hope this isn't one of those states where you can't evict someone with children (even if they're only there weekends). I can't seem to bring up that specific question on Google.

They were up tonight until two a.m., and the thumping and yelling got worse until I actually had the phone in my hand to call the police when they finally went upstairs. Took me ten minutes to find the friggin' non-emergency number, and they wonder why people overuse 911. We don't have blue pages, and it's listed under "P" instead of "B" for the city (Bangor). Maine recently sold its state motto, "The Way Life Should Be", and I think it was the right move to make. Of course, they sold it to L.L. Bean, which charges sky-high prices for China-made junk, if that isn't ironic.

Anyway. I would absolutely go batty if I had to deal with drums! When I was born, my parents were living in a house next to someone with a garage band, and that was bad enough. For them, anyway; I don't remember! Maybe that's where my noise sensitivity began, though. :o) An apartment next to a drummer . . . I'd be writing my will. So that no one fights over my DVD collection or custody of my three-legged cat.

I've been trying to find a job - gigglesnortchuckle, right? - at which point I'll move. I've been thinking that an apartment above a business might be my best bet. My first was above a quilt shop, and it was great; they were out by five, and I didn't have to worry about making noise exercising or dancing after that point. I didn't do much of either when I lived above people, because I actually cared how they felt. The landlord was a real knucklehead, but the setup was nice.

I do remember that a couple of times, it sounded like an argument was going on in the quilt shop. I can't imagine what happened; one of them stole the other's pincushion or made fun of their basting stitch, maybe?

I certainly sympathize with the management office; I couldn't do that job no matter what I got paid for it. And I know the noise could always be worse . . . but I'll take my chances. :o) Thanks for your replies!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 2:41AM
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You can take all this advice about letters to management, phone calls and video tapes, but it's a bandaid fix at best. Apartments are occupied by the bottom rung of society, as your neighbors so deftly illustrate. You will always be surrounded by the unenlightened, beer swilling, TV addicted, divorced, unemployed, illegitimate baby producing, unwashed masses. Apartments are like any other business, and management could not care less of your concerns as long as all parties continue to pay the rent on time. They're trained to tell you what you want to hear in order to keep the money rolling in and nothing more.
Trying to change a communal living situation is akin to putting lipstick on a pig, shining a turd, pick your pejorative. The only solution is to get an education and elevate one's station in life, to be able to afford solitary living quarters such as a house. The alternative is to continue throwing money away each month and being a slave to landlords and your fellow rats (neighbors) in the shoebox.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 7:39PM
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