We're Not Dead

I pulled a tendon in my shoulder, we went to a barbeque, all sorts of other things have kept us from doing much work on the house in the last couple weeks. But I just wanted to point you all at Daniel Neumansky's excellent explanation of why buying a house with lots of unpermitted construction work (or, relatedly, doing a lot of unpermitted construction work on your own house) is a bad idea: Why Do You Harp on Permits So Much?

Over the last few months one of our neighbors has gotten really belligerent with us and has been trying to use the legal framework of the city to harass us. It's when things like this happen that I am very glad all our work is done with permits (or doesn't require them). So when you think it might be cheaper and faster to just redo your bathroom on the down-low, consider that you are also giving your neighbors the power to cause you some serious financial setbacks.

On a lighter note, I got a super fancy new lens for my fancy new camera, and it allows me to take near-180 degree photos. Which means I can stop piecing together crazy panoramas of rooms and just show you things like this:

Back bedroom, messy

That's the back bedroom, spectacularly messy. Yup, I didn't even bother to close the closet door, or pick up the comforter lying on the floor, waiting to be taken to the laundromat (it doesn't fit in our washer). You know how it is when you get a new toy.

On another note, I figure it's been about six years since I took down the paneling in this room: maybe it's time I got around to finishing repairing the plaster and painting it?

posted by ayse on 06/11/10

17 Comments

What has the neighbor's knickers in a twist?

She's a very light sleeper, and if we make any kind of noise after dark she finds that unacceptable. We've made accommodations, been very careful, but sometimes noises happen (our side door, twelve feet from her single-pane bedroom window, can be loud if you aren't careful to shut it quietly). None of this matters to her. She considers us completely thoughtless and inconsiderate if she ever hears a sound from us, no matter how much of an effort we make to be polite. Nothing we do is good enough.

(Keep in mind that we're well inside the allowed noise ordinances; this is not about us just trying to justify being noisy.)

Last week she made a false noise complaint against us (the city sent us a note telling us about it, but obviously no citation because we weren't making any noise). We figure it's just going to escalate from here. Though I doubt she would try calling the city on us, since she hasn't gotten permits on any work she's done on her house since 1993.

I had a roommate like that in college. She couldn't stand it if I turned the pages in a book after she'd gone to bed. Of course, she was up at the crack of dawn, slamming drawers and such . . . Happily, after a month or so she moved to another dorm and I didn't have to put up with the drama too long. Too bad that's unlikely to happen with your hypersensitive neighbor.

Fortunately, we don't actually live with her. It's pretty easy to ignore a neighbor who never gets involved in any of the neighborhood social activities.

Deja vu.

Like Kate, I had a college roommate whom I was totally out of synch with. I was stuck with coming in at late hours, which I tried to do quietly, due to astronomy work. I could understand that she liked to get up early and that involved some noise, but turning on the radio???

She was slightly handicapped, and her family had raised her to have other people fetch and carry vs. trying to be more self-sufficient, resulting in a pathologically spoiled person who never considered anyone but herself. Also only a one semester mess, thank goodness. (venting mode off.)

Could you set some cutoff time for your night work, like 9 pm? When there was construction going on next door, it made a huge psychological difference to me knowing it would be quiet after a certain time. Of course, that's no help if opening a door causes her a problem.

Grrr....This reminds me of my neighbor who claims that the light in my dining room shines into her bedroom at night. I have a one-story Queen Anne cottage; she has a two-story (bedrooms on second floor!) Cape Cod. Go figure. Some people!

Your neighbor should come to the Oakland hills where it's always quiet...oh, wait -- a crew started up with jackhammers two doors down.

Karen Anne, in fact we don't do loud work at night at all. I always figure dark is the signal that it's time to be quiet -- local regs have it at 11pm, but we're lots more considerate than that.

(We often stay up late painting, but that is it for the late-night banging and clomping.)

And yes, she is complaining about the door and the sound of people/dogs going up and down the side stairs. I think she's angry about something else and this is the only vent she has for her ire.

I LOVE your new camera lens. I take a lot of interior photographs for work, and I really need something like this. I know you'll enjoy it!

Ayse, you are never going to make this woman happy. I certainly wouldn't change my lifestyle to accommodate her imagined needs. Is there any was of bringing the whole thing to a head so you can be done with it and move on? Have you talked to the neighbors on the other side of her?

It sounds like your neighbor needs to live in the country, not in a place where houses are close together. Painting is not a loud activity! A recent article in our paper suggested caulking seams where drywall meets trimwork, the ceiling, and the floor to help reduce noise infiltration. Hopefully she gets a white noise machine or looks up some ways to reduce noise in her home soon.

Just to be clear: she's not complaining about us making noise while painting (yet). She's complaining about us using our side door, which is near her bedroom window, at all hours of the night. She basically doesn't like the fact that we're night owls and have been known to stay up all night (not working on the house; we're eccentric, not insane). If we need something from the basement we have to go out the side door, walk under her bedroom window, and go around the house to the door to the basement. Not to mention that when we stay up, the dogs stay up, and they need to use the yard as well. There's lots of opportunity there to make noises she feels are unacceptably loud. Of course, she seems to feel any noise is unacceptably loud.

I suggested she wear ear plugs, and she said, "I don't feel I should have to wear ear plugs because of this." At that point I told her we'd been as accommodating as we planned to be, and if that was a problem, too bad. Eventually, the city will get involved in mediating, but in the mean time, we're considering building a fence between her house and our side yard.

I'm starting to feel a little twinge of sympathy for your neighbor.

Even being on the second floor isn't going to help if someone is banging a screen door at 2am or dogs are running around in the yard barking.

Having sleep interrupted every few hours means she never gets into deep sleep, which is the kind the body needs to repair itself (and the mind to not go nuts.)

Ear plugs are uncomfortable, and block the sound of a smoke alarm, or a family member calling about an emergency.

Is there any way you can avoid using the side door after 8-9 pm? I mean what's in that basement anyway :-) Can you bring it upstairs before evening?

Karen Anne, that makes it sound as if we're deliberately making lots of noise all night every night. We're not. (And the dogs don't run around barking. It's after dark, after all, so they go out, do their business, and come back in.)

I'd have some sympathy for her if we were banging around and making intermittent noises all night every night -- that would keep anybody from getting quality sleep. But she's complaining about our very quiet use of our home. There might be a single noise maybe once a month that could really qualify as being intolerable. She's not being interrupted every few hours.

(I admit, since she made the noise complaint to the city, I've been letting the screen door slam. Because I'm sick and tired of being considerate to somebody who only tells me how inconsiderate I am. But even that is only maybe once a week. We use that door, but not incessantly.)

As for ear plugs, I've slept with them before (my apartment in architecture school was particularly noisy). You can hear the phone and alarm clocks and definitely smoke alarms just fine. But it might make it possible for her to sleep through the ear-splitting sound of a dog's tags jingling as it walks, or the intolerably loud sound of my footfalls on the path.

And no, we cannot bring the rack of servers and all our tools and stored items upstairs every evening before 8pm. That's ridiculous. Not to mention that it's criminal cruelty to animals to refuse to allow a creature to eliminate. Unless you're suggesting that after 8pm we just let the dogs poop in the house?

Ah yes the crazy neighbor scenario.
Here's a quote I read somewhere that I repeat to myself as a mantra when I've had to deal with these sorts of situations in the past.
"You can choose your friends and to some extent you can even choose your enemies but you can't choose your neighbors, so choose to make your neighbors your friend." Otherwise your life can become hellish and you can get into a Hatfields vs. McCoys kinda mindset.

We had a similar issure with the neighbor across the street who seemed to be disconnected with reality. She complained that we were constantly doing construction at 5am!! We weren't even out of bed by that time...ahhhh the days before the baby when 7:30am seemed early! I went over there and let her vent all her crazy while calmly nodding and that seemed to chill her out.

Daniel, we've been very friendly to this neighbor. Every year I plant her favourite kind of tomato and we give her fruit, veggies, and eggs all the time. We put up with harassment from her tenant, who likes to yell obscenities at me over the fence.

We're going way way way beyond what is required by the law because we're trying to be considerate, and she's never happy. There's really only so far we can go. We're not going to not use the property we paid so much to buy just because it pisses her off.

Ayse,

There will always be people that are not happy unless they are causing or spreading drama. I have had my share of bad neighbors-the last one had three dogs that barked at us while we were INSIDE our home! She had a screen porch and the dogs could see us in our kitchen, living room, master bedroom and dining room. When I discussed it with her she told me that "dogs lack spacial vision to see through screens" and that I must be mistaken. Crazy! She would randomly call the police on us for anything and everything. I really don't have any advice, just know that it could be worse! Hang in there, love your site.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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