Nightmare neighbors and landlord...

NeyaNovember 29, 2012

So glad I recently found this forum. I really need a place to vent and it sounds like many of you have had similar issues.

I have been living in a 2nd floor apartment going on 3 years this December with the sameneighbors below me the entire time. I can hear every step the girl now living above me takes, but there's never been any issues with things like loud music, parties, etc. Hearing her footsteps really doesn't bother me, in an apartment I think it's expected to hear some noise. But, given how aware of it I am I always make a point to be quiet. I am either always barefoot or in slippers, I don't give the cats any toys that would make a lot of noise etc. When I vacuum I always try and do it as early in the evening is possible, and never after 8pm.
The couple below me is in their 40s and I never had much interaction with them until earlier this year. Well, a year ago I met the love of my life, who as the months progressed started spending more and more time at my place. I live closer to both of our jobs, he has a roommate, and his apartment is also run by a slumlord. So its just a lot more comfortable to stay at my place.

One day in April I came home, and I heard the man below approach his front door and direct some obscenities at me. I was surprised, and ended up just ignoring it. 2 weeks later I left for clinic in the morning and he opened is front window and screamed every obscenity in the book at me the entire time I walked to my car. I reported their behavior to my leasing office, and since then things have been a nightmare. I already had 70% of my floor covered with rugs, but in response to my neighbors verbally assaulting me I was asked to spend my limited student loan money and put down more rugs and felt pads on all furniture, which I promptly did. The leasing office did tell my neighbors screaming at me was not acceptable.

Ever since then I have been the victim of passive aggressive harassment that is really starting to make me a crazy person. My neighbors constantly call the leasing office and complain about footsteps. But they also make up stories that are blatant lies. They will say things like my boyfriend left and gave them dirty looks or one night that he beat a chair against the floor on purpose. And the nights they allege these happen I know its nights where were in bed by 10 or he wasn't even there. In addition someone went into the utility room and unhooked my internet, I've had my laundry supplies stolen from the joint laundry room, and had obscenities written in dust/pollen on my car. Also, I know my neighbors are watching me come and go. I'm currently interviewing for residency so I've been travelling a bit, and some days have left my place with luggage. The nights I'm gone they always come up with some story about a disturbance that my boyfriend caused while I was gone and mentioned knowing I was away. Creepy. On BF's birthday he had to fly to Boston for a fellowship interview. So the night before we went out to dinner and saw a movie. We got home a little late, at 12am. He printed his boarding pass and went to bed. I did a little work and then was getting ready for bed when the police showed up at my door to investigate a "disturbance." I don't know how my boyfriend being here is that different from the 2 years before he was around. Yes, he's a guy and has heavier footsteps, but it's not like we're constantly walking around. I honestly think it might be racial. He's jewish, and looks like it. I never got complaints when I was dating my irish ex...

The worst part is, I feel like the leasing office is taking their side and I'm afraid of the actions that are going to be taken against me. My lease is up May 31st. I would love to just move, but I have no idea where I'm going to match for residency. I hope to stay in Baltimore, but I have frighteningly little control over the process, and I don't find out until March 17. I cannot afford to move now, do month to month for 6 months, and then move again. The leasing office is constantly calling and leaving me messages notifying me of the neighbor's complaints. They tried to make me add my boyfriend to the lease. I felt this this was odd, and my dad's friend who is a lawyer looked at the lease and advised against it.

Today he was in my apartment sleeping while I was out running errands. He's a radiology resident who has been on nights. He got to my place at 730am and went to sleep. Around noon the leasing manager woke him up by coming in the bedroom. Her supposed reason for being there was a reported water leak. When I actually spoke to her she said she was in my neighbors place and their sink was leaking. She heard someone "washing dishes" in my place and wanted to see if my apartment had a problem. She said when she knocked on my door she heard someone go into the bedroom so she assumed I was there and entered. I know this story is a total fabrication. There is no reason the manager would be looking at a leak, they have a dedicated maintenance guy. And there is no reason to think my apartment would be involved, the leak was on their floor. To top it off, BF was sound asleep in bed, so she did not hear anyone doing dishes. Technically my lease says they can access my apartment whenever they want, but I feel like this was a huge violation of privacy.

What comes from her snooping in my apartment and finding my BF there is that I am now no longer allowed to have him there unless I am present or he can be "charged with trespassing." What really worries me is that they will eventually say he cannot be on the premises at all. I actually have developed a kind of serious health issue in the past year, and it's pretty comforting to have a doctor there with me. To top it off, I'm worried they will evict me. I've told the leasing office about damages to my car, etc and they are clearly not interested. They mention it can't be proved. Yet my neighbor's claims can't be proven and they seem to believe every word from them.

I feel completely trapped. My dad's lawyer friend says my only recourse is just to move out, but like I said I'm stuck for 6 more months. And I can deal with my neighbors being jerks, I'm just afraid it will come to something really ugly. There is a clause in the lease that if the landlord takes the to lease you are responsible for the legal fees. By the way, I live in Maryland, don't know how their laws compare to other states.

Anyway, sorry for the epic post, just really had to get this off my chest.

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What a horror story! I'm sorry you are having to deal with this.

First, there is one thing they may have legal grounds for, and that is restricting how much your boyfriend can be at the apartment. Check your lease. Many leases have a clause about visitors and how long they can stay. If your lease has such a clause, then you do have to limit the number of days per month your BF is there. Or you can have him added to the lease. However, unless there is language in the lease that specifically states that guests must be accompanied at all times, he should be able to stay in your apartment without you.

So you really need to read your lease carefully. And google "Maryland landlord tenant law" to find out more about the laws where you live. In most states, state law trumps the lease. So even if there is a clause in the lease, if state law says otherwise, you don't have to follow that clause.

So know the lease and know the laws, so you know what your rights are.

Then start to document every single little thing that happens. Every interaction with the downstairs neighbors--every time they yell at you and what they say, every time they pound on their ceiling, everything that you can clearly trace to them (so not the disappearing laundry supplies, for example).

And document every interaction you have with the office. Whenever they call with another neighbor complaint, make sure they tell you the exact day and time that the supposed noise occurred, so you can write this down. Also, if you can prove that the apartment was empty at that time, put the proof down. I'd go so far as to copy a time card from work, or have a toll receipt or a receipt for a cup of coffee, a copy of your work schedule. Anything that can prove the apartment was empty.

Do you have a designated parking spot and can this be seen from your apartment? If so, get a small video camera and point it out the window. Then maybe you can capture the person writing on your car on camera.

Call the local police on their non-emergency phone number and tell them that you have neighbors who are screaming obscenities at you as you enter and leave your apartment. You also suspect they are writing on your car and stealing your things from the common laundry room. You are afraid they might escalate from there. What should you do to protect yourself? Write down what they tell you.

Take notes for two weeks. During those two weeks, obey the rules to the letter--boyfriend only over when you are there, tip toeing around, being as quiet as possible.

Then request a meeting with the highest ranking management person you can find. Bring all your documentation and proof. Tell Management that you are tired of being harassed. And use that word--harassed. You have been contacted X times by the neighbors and Y times by management in 2 weeks and it has to stop.

List everything you have done to reduce the noise coming from your apartment. Point out that it is above and beyond what the lease requires. You are not going to listen to the neighbors or management about noise issues again, unless there has been an actual violation of the lease.

You will now be calling the police if the neighbors scream at you again. You are tired of being harassed like this. Since management hasn't been able to do anything, you are being forced to take the next step.

You have consulted a lawyer about the continued harassment from both management and the neighbors. You do not wish to proceed to legal methods, but given the seriousness of their actions towards you, that is the next logical step.

Point out that you are not in violation of any of the clauses in the lease. You are willing to add additional noise reduction to your apartment, if you are told of specific things that would definitely (not "might") help your neighbors. You are willing to be a good neighbor and a good tenant. But you are not willing to be harassed on a daily basis where you live.

I think these people are taking advantage of the fact that you are a young single woman in her 20s. You have probably been very accommodating and polite, so they think they can walk all over you. I think it's time to stop re-acting to them and become more pro-active. As long as you aren't violating the lease, you should be standing up for yourself.

Oh, and buy a chain door guard and use it whenever you are in your apartment. That will stop the management from entering while you are in there. Can't stop them from coming in when you aren't there, but at least they won't be able to surprise you when you are sleeping or showering.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 9:12AM
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Talk to your Dad's lawyer friend about contacting someone higher than the leasing office about breaking the lease and getting out now. You can't win this, and you don't have time trying to.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 8:33PM
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Oh, and you should also check your lease about guests needing to be escorted at all times. If it's not in the lease, check with management and demand to see that in writing--and as it applies to all tenants. Check with your neighbors to see if they have heard about this rule.

They can't make a rule that applies to you alone.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 7:20AM
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The neighbors have only screamed at me on the two occasions months ago. I should have called the police at the time, but I didn't think to do it then.

Now that the neighbors know they will get in trouble by doing something direct, they have been smart enough to not directly confront me. I wish they would because I would finally have something concrete.

What my lease specifically says is that any guest that stays more than 14 days in aggregate for the year can require permission of the landlord. So, its rather nonspecific and gives them a lot of control. I think it could even come to them completely restricting him from being on the premises. There is nothing in Maryland law that I can find that contradicts that.

Unfortunately, most of times there are complaints is when I'm home in bed, or just watching TV. So, I know I'm not making the noise, but I've got no solid proof. I can't show a time card or receipt or something else.

I contacted the leasing office to see if my boyfriend could be added to the lease this Weds. I also notified them that my internet connection had been tampered with in the utility room and disconnected (the 2nd time this has happened). In addition I vacuumed on Thursday and heard them yelling and banging on things so I reported that. I have not heard a word back. I'm so frustrated I feel like I'm going to lose my mind. I have addressed 2 letters that I asked to be actually forwarded to the property owners and I have never heard back.

I was lax about reporting little things like them yelling occasionally because it seemed to petty and I didn't want to sink to their level. I guess trying to be the bigger person hear means I am going to lose out.

I am definitely angry about the leasing office's lack of response to anything on my end. The people below me are complaining about noise, while I'm concerned for my safety. I'm going to talk to my dad's lawyer friend to see what I can do to at least get an answer from them. I think I would like to have a sit down with leasing management, owners and my boyfriend present. I think what they are trying to do is coerce me into moving out or put crazy rules in place so that if I break one they can evict me.

Technically Maryland law has a "covenant of quiet enjoyment" which refers to not just noise but also peace of mind. If something is happening and tenant notifies the landlord, the landlord has to make an attempt to rectify the problem, and if they don't they are in breach of lease. In theory I could move and hold them responsible for my expenses. But, I don't have the resources to actually take to court.

If I have to I will move back home for a few months, but it will be extremely difficult. My old room was given to my sister and my parent's took in my sister's friend 2 years ago so there's no extra room. He has become a bit of problem and is now over 18, so they could just kick him out, but I hate to cause that. I also have 2 cats, and my sister is super allergic, and my parent's have 2 dogs, one of which may harm the cats. And my boyfriend has a room mate that is extremely allergic so moving in with him is not an option.

And as I type this I hear the girl who lives above me and her boyfriend stomping around upstairs. And it was really annoying for a little while when they were hammering/building something. But I'm not a crazy person so I put in some headphones while I studied rather and complain or call the cops.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 9:56PM
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Can you ask the leasing office to swap you to another apartment in the building, so you are not over these people?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 9:21PM
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