Escallating complaints

anwrenMarch 31, 2009

I am a mother of 2 kids, and we have moved to our current apartment since July of last year. I desperately need some advice.

The very first day of moving into our third floor apartment, my downstairs neighbor knocked and complained about walking, running footstep noise from my 2 year old child. I admit, it was late around 11:30pm, and we have been winding down from our moving. We were all excited with our new place, and my 2 year old kept walking and at times running around the living room area. We answered and politely said we will keep the noise down.

The following month, he knocked and complained about the footsteps and running and thumping sound around 7:30pm. Again, I explained that my two year old was playing in our living room, and some times he would drop his toys to the ground. I would tell him to stop but after awhile he would go about his business. Kids are kids.

The following day, our car rear driver side tire was slashed and flat. It was parked at our secured basement garage. I ended up buying a new tire and have kept the receipt.

The day after that, I received a letter from our neighbor formally complaining to the Home Owner's association about the running and thumping noise from hardwood floors. Our unit is fully carpeted. As this was happening, I made sure I communicate with my landlord about the incidents. We waited for a reply from the Home Owner's, but nothing came.

I finally brought my children with me and had a talk with the complaining neighbor in hopes to resolve his complaint. I found out that his wife was pregnant and sleeps in the living room area. I explained that I am teaching my 2 year old not to run or make noise, but at times I cannot help it. The kids go to bed before tem pm. I suggested that maybe his wife can stay in the bedroom instead as a compromise. My comment had infuriated the man and he went forward as if to lunge towards me till his wife held him in place. From then on, for our safety, I will decide not to entertain him any longer.

My landlord and I followed up with the Home Owner's association, and she corrected the complaint that her unit has carpeting. The Home owner's conclusion was to try keep our child quiet at all times, take away his toys from him and is okay to let him cry except keep him from walking and running. They advised me to keep a record of everything that transpires and they will get back to the neighbor.

This month he knocked at my door at 8:30pm, and being fed up with the harassment, I called the police to help intervene and I told them what had transpired in the past.

This week I received a call from my landlord saying that she received a written complaint about the same issue and the content of the letter says that it was rude of me to call the police and not answer the door for him. She also said that all my conversation or discussions from within my home; the neighbor can hear and understand. And it had become unbearable for him and his wife.

I fear that this has escalated to the point that our safety is in jeopardy, especially my son since he is the main source of the problem. I am thinking of getting legal help. I am so stressed out that my blood pressure is too high that I now take medication. I have been very hard on the kids that they can no longer do their normal activities. My family's right to privacy is threatened by the written fact that he listens to our every discussions within the confines of our home.

Please help, and if you can offer advice?

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First of all, I would urge you to put everything that's transpired in writing and send it to your landlord. Start off with a simple "This is to confirm in writing recent events regarding Neighbor XYZ..." and then make a written record, the complaints, tire slashing, lunging at you, all of it.

The moment he lunged at you, you should have contacted the police. You can still go in and talk to them again about everything (in my area it's possible to get a restraining order after a cumulative effective of events - in other words an Order of Protection doesn't necessarily have to be obtained immediately after a specific incident). This goes beyond the typical neighbor dispute - when someone comes at you in an aggressive manner and their spouse has to hold them back, it's crossed a line.

How is it that he can understand all your conversations, but apparently it was never an issue with prior occupants? (You should try to find out.)

Meantime, if you have a verbal conversation with your LL, send a short note within a couple days saying "this is to confirm our conversation of 3/27/09..." That creates a written record and a paper trail. If you have a conversation relevant to this with anyone else (different neighbor, someone in HOA, etc.,) immediately jot down everything that was said while it's fresh in your mind.

If it's a large complex, can you request a unit away from him? (Stress your fear for your family's safety.) And try to get a first floor?

That part about you not answering the door was, in his opinion being rude so he had to call the cops? What a nut case. He could have called you and left a message, he could have left a note at your door, he could have asked the LL to mediate. Calling the police because you didn't answer your door is ridiculous. (You could have been in the shower for all he knew.) Regardless, if some jerk lunged at me no way would I open the door for him. Ever. Please inform your LL that you fear for your own and your children's physical safety.

And yes, consult an attorney.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 9:15PM
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Find out if there's another suitable apt. in the complex you could move into (or the other party could use). if not, get your lawyer to draft something or other to present to the LL and/or HOA saying you have as much right to the reasonable enjoyment of your place as nutbar downstairs, and that it's completely unreasonable to expect a 2 yr old to behave like a 90 yr old (and it's not your fault his wife is pregnant). Unless you have grossly exaggerated your innocence in this mess, you need to get some help, but maybe try coming across as unaggressively as possible just to keep things cool all around.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 10:59PM
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My apologies, I was so very tired when I wrote my response above that I got things twisted. I see you called the police instead of answering the door, rather than he called the police because you didn't answer. My bad.

I've been thinking about your situation some more. There are a zillion reasons why not to break a lease, but occasionally there are legitimate reasons. And imho you are getting into that arena with the tire slashing and physical affront. You are entitled to 'peaceful enjoyment' as much as the nutty neighbor.

Since this goes beyond typical lease language, I'm still encouraging you to consult an attorney.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 8:49AM
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Thank you so much for both your advices. You both expressed excellent and helpful points and I will act on your suggestions.

I made a mistake not reporting the incident with the neighbor attempting to lunge at me, or the tire slashing. I was afraid that it would escallate the problem even more, when in fact it could have difused the issue.

Thank you and I appreciate both your help.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 1:44PM
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You need to protect your self immediately. First thing to do, as previously suggested, is to document ALL previous communication and events to the LL.

Second, depending on when the lunging and tire slashing happened(some states deem 90-days max) you can still file a report. I would suggest doing so.

Third, Do NOT open the door for the neighbors again, UNLESS you have a witness with you, OR don't bother to open it.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 3:34PM
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