Get off my lawn. Forever.
April 18, 2010 4:57 PM   Subscribe

My neighbor's kid caused property damage and neighbor refuses to do anything about it.

I am 99.999% certain that earlier this afternoon, the neighbor's 7 year old daughter broke the window in my back door with a rock. A while ago, she came over and asked my daughter if she wanted to play. My daughter was supposed to be cleaning her room and we were eating dinner after that. I said maybe tomorrow.

Neighbor kid asked if she could ride her scooter in our driveway (it's big and sloped so a lot of kids on the street use it to ride bikes and stuff and that's fine normally). I said sure, that's ok. Then I went into the basement to do some laundry.

10 minutes later I came upstairs and saw 1.) neighbor girl hauling ass back to her house, 2.) a good-sized rock from our landscaping laying in a pile of broken glass on my kitchen floor. Since nobody else was by our house at the time and I saw her running away just seconds after that, I'm reasonably positive she did it.

I went down to their house and told the neighbor what happened and he said, "Well, what do you want me to do about it?!" I told him that I thought his kid should apologize and I also thought they should pay to have my door repaired. He got really shitty with me and said, "You don't have any proof she did it." and slammed the door in my face. I pounded on the door again and nobody answered it.

Really, it's the principle of the thing more than the cost, although that would be nice if they would cover it. The part that really pisses me off is the guy's attitude. If I did that when I was a kid, I would have been made to apologize and pay for the door. These are the same people who got pissed at me for like a month once for making their teenage son pick up all the garbage (it was a considerable amount) he threw out right of his car onto my lawn. It's apparent they don't give a shit what their kids do.

We're moving fairly soon and I sort of don't care if they hate me anymore but I'm not going to waste my energy on a huge pissing match for no reason. I just feel like there should be a consequence of some sort, I guess. Hopefully payment, but even if they were too broke to cover all of it, an apology would be decent.

So now what? Do I just ban the kid and her siblings from my property and eat the cost since they're probably not going to pay on their own, or should I pursue this further (legally?) somehow?

(God, I sound like an old crank now.)
posted by howrobotsaremade to Human Relations (27 answers total)
Unless you absolutely don't want to pay for the repair of the door, I would settle with banning the kid and her siblings from your property. Perhaps attach a condition that if they apologize (at the least - at most pay for repair) then they can return. You can help at least let the kid know that actions have consequences. Suing her parents will likely only increase the bad blood between you more than simply banning their kids from your property. Going forward with a legal option will only add to your own stress and frustration and life is too short to let bad neighbors ruin it.

In brief, ban kids, and just look forward to moving on from both the neighborhood and the neighbors.
posted by Atreides at 5:03 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

you know, of course...he's right... you don't have any proof.

You could call the police. They would follow up on it, if she did it, she'll probably cave.
posted by HuronBob at 5:05 PM on April 18, 2010

You're moving soon anyway, so this looks like it has the side benefit of making the move more of a happy occasion.

But why pound on his door? If somebody pounded on my door after I closed it in their face, that would definitely be the end of the negotiations. So that move may have cost you some reconsideration on their part. They may have let you talk to their kid in person if you had approached it differently.

When I was 18, I had a neighbor accuse me of shooting a hole in his front window with a BB gun. He came over, was very polite about it, asked if he could talk to me directly, and in my parents' presence I told him I didn't do it.

He then went into how perfect the angle was from my bedroom, how he knew I had a BB gun, how the hole was just the right shape, etc.

But the fact remained, I didn't do a thing. And at 18 freaking years old, I was trying hard not to roll my eyes at this thing that any 12 year-old might have done.

In the end, he chose not to believe me. He stayed calm and walked home, but he was completely red-faced, steam coming out of the ears, etc. To this day I know the family and last I heard he still doesn't believe me.

What amazes me is that this still irks me. He has every reason to believe I did it. But I didn't. However, because of HIS attitude toward the whole thing, we both get to be conflicted and upset about it.

Anyway, hope you find a way around this mess. I would just drop it and buy the kid some ice cream (either way it could only bring good), but then I've been in her shoes.
posted by circular at 5:07 PM on April 18, 2010 [13 favorites]

Ahhhh, you differently have every right to be angry. Also, IANYL but I think you have a pretty good case. It's civil law and the preponderance of evidence is on your side (unless they can show additional facts).

As to whether it is worth your while in terms of neighborhood harmony (and childhood friendships), I can't say (I never know what to do with that.)
posted by Some1 at 5:08 PM on April 18, 2010

Really, it's the principle of the thing more than the cost

Generally, when people say this, it really is the cost.

That said, if you want consequences for things like people littering on your property and breaking your windows, call the police.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:08 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cut your losses. Ignore. Especially since you are moving, and no longer have that family to contend with. Had you a "case" you could get money from him via small claims court but you have no prove that will stand up. You are taking the attitude a kid takes when bad things happen: it's not fair. True enough. But things like this do happen. Ban the kid from your property. If she did it, she will know why she is banned.
posted by Postroad at 5:11 PM on April 18, 2010

Unfortunately, you can't parent your neighbor's kids. There is nothing you can do except use it as a lesson for your own daughter about acceptable behavior and the general unfairness of the society in which we live.
posted by meerkatty at 5:15 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm going to suggest a different approach. I'm all about conflict resolution.

What I would do is write a letter. Something to the effect of "When I came over to your house, I was reasonably upset, but perhaps I didn't explain myself as clearly as I could have." Lay out your explanation of the events as they happened and end it with "I think this could be a teachable moment. Whether accidentally or on purpose, your child destroyed property that was not hers. Teach her that there are consequences to her actions and that telling the truth is the best option. To that end, I will not ask her to pay for the damage, but I would like an apology so that we can move past any tension this may have caused."

If your request is ignored, so be it. You probably weren't going to get anything from it anyway. But you will be the bigger person and it will certainly give them something to think about if this kind of thing ever happens again.

As for barring the kid from your property...I would make that conditional on the apology. But work WITH the other parents, not against them. Most people are willing to do the right thing if approached in the right way.
posted by ColdChef at 5:20 PM on April 18, 2010 [9 favorites]

I say forget about it.

You can probably fix your window for under $200, say (I repaired the glass in one of my windows for $50 recently so I'm guestimating the maximum). Is saving ___ hours of your time arguing and being upset at the continued asshattery of the neighbor worth $200? I would imagine so.

Add to that that you have zero proof other than seeing her run away (and how do you know she wasn't running from neighborhood bullies who had broken the window and were out of sight from your angle?).
posted by lorrer at 5:37 PM on April 18, 2010

Do I just ban the kid

Doesn't that punish your own daughter too? They're playmates, right? It would be kind of a crappy move to not let your daughter play with her friend in the last weeks before they get separated for good.

You can explain to your daughter what happened and why what her friend did was wrong without also denying your daughter the chance to enjoy time with and say goodbye to her buddy properly before the move.
posted by mediareport at 5:46 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go back and apologize for getting angry and accusing the guy's daughter of breaking the window without any real proof. Let him know you'll be paying $XX dollars to fix the window and that if she did do it you'd appreciate him paying for it, but if, in his estimation, she didn't break it, then you won't mention it again, and that you hope the kid will feel welcome to come back anytime and that you understand how kids do crazy stuff because they are kids. Her apology would be meaningless anyway, she is 7, it will only mean Sorry I Got Caught.

Either way, let it go. It's a window. The world has enough misery with real consequences--why add to the anger and confrontation over a matter of "principle" (which principle are you referring to: Don't Fuck With Windows?) that comes down to a guy protecting his kid, something most people do as a matter of course, and your pride being hurt by his rudeness.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:54 PM on April 18, 2010 [9 favorites]

I would lie when I called the police and tell them I saw her do it. But that's because I suffer from an overactive desire for vengeance from people who are complete and utter dicks. YMMV.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:42 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I share Civil_Disobedient's overactive vengeance desire. This does not, however, make us good people, not does it make us correct.

Banishing the kid punishes your kid. You have no proof. The kid probably did it. The dad was a jerk.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:08 PM on April 18, 2010

In case you feel that there's a chance your shitty neighbors may give their kid a inappropriately harsh whupping because of your persistence, consider dropping it for her sake, as well.
posted by glibhamdreck at 7:20 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do I just ban the kid and her siblings from my property

Whatever else you decide, I think this is a very sensible thing to do. It's not safe to host kids whose parents are hostile toward you--if the kids are going to be playing on your property, you need to be able to communicate with their parents in case of accidents, emergencies, property damage, etc. Kids get hurt and break stuff and cause trouble; it's inevitable. Because you know that this girl's parents don't react appropriately when their kids act out or get into trouble, you know that you won't be able to resolve future situations in which one of their kids has (or creates) a problem while playing at your house.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:38 PM on April 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

Seems to me you don't have to involve emotion, desire for vengeance, or your opinion of your neighbors at all. Someone caused property damage. When someone causes property damage, the property owner calls the police--for an official record of it, if nothing else. The police will ask you what, if anything, you know, and what, if anything, you saw. You can put it at a certain time (spoke to neighbor's daughter, went downstairs to do laundry, came back up and damage had been done), and you saw the neighbor's daughter running away. Their next step is to go to the neighbor's house. Be sure to tell them that you already visited the neighbor, and what passed between you, before they go, so that is all on record as well.
posted by tzikeh at 8:01 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I once was accused of breaking a window when I was a kid. The person didn't believe my denials and listed several reasons why I was the only person who could have done it. I have little doubt that the individual felt absolutely as justified in pursuing my admission of guilt as you do.

Except I didn't do it. It was someone else.

If you want to take the chance of teaching a kid a solid lesson about their relative powerless against an adult figure, and how life is completely unfair, you would be doing a great job of it here by insisting that it must be the kid and that there will be consequences without further proof or action. Even though you don't know it for a fact. I mean, after all, kids have to learn those vital life lessons anyway, right? So it might as well be from you. Besides, the kid probably did it and that should be good enough. And certainly, civil law rules about preponderance of evidence should apply to neighborhood spats in our litigious socity.

Or maybe on further reflection you decide that imposing a serious consequence is not exactly how you want to handle this, unless and until you know more about what happened. It's your choice to make as responsible adult.

However, the suggestion of lying to the police to get satisfaction is simply a fantastic idea. On the chance the kid didn't do it, you can teach them two important life lessons about disrespecting authority, and about how lying to accomplish a goal is natural and reasonable part of getting things done that you want done.
posted by mdevore at 8:01 PM on April 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

^--for an official record of it

to have an official record of it
posted by tzikeh at 8:02 PM on April 18, 2010

But why pound on his door? If somebody pounded on my door after I closed it in their face, that would definitely be the end of the negotiations. So that move may have cost you some reconsideration on their part.

That doesn't make sense, inasmuch as if somebody closed a door in someone else's face, that is the initial act of aggression, not the subsequent pounding.

Anyway, the other parent didn't even bother to ask their child -- they simply said "tough, you can't prove it", which tells me they either don't care if their child did it, or their child already 'fessed but said nobody saw her, and he's a cheap nitwit. A bad person, basically.

So, yes, eat the cost of the glass, and the next time the daughter wants to play at your house, I recommend taking the standard approach you'd do if you knew your daughter was going to play with a child whose father was a bad parent: only at your house, only under your direct supervision, and never ever at the other child's house with that bad parent supervising. Just common sense, that, inasmuch as you can't trust him to properly supervise children, and there's a chance that your daughter will start learning sketchy behavior from his daughter (not definite, but certainly a chance.)
posted by davejay at 9:06 PM on April 18, 2010

Do you have some experience of this girl as particularly destructive and violent? A 7-year-old would realize they could hurt someone doing that, either with the rock itself or someone stepping on broken glass.

I ask because I actually disagree that you have strong evidence that she did it. Motive is extremely weak. She threw a rock through your window because ... you said your daughter couldn't play? Even though you also invited her to ride her bike in your driveway? It sounds like you didn't even hear the crash; you just came up from the basement and saw the damage, and at the same time you saw the girl running. Your seeing those two things at the same time has connected them in your mind as happening at the same time, even though they may not have. Seven-year-olds run; that's just their typical mode of transport.

Granted, the parent was reflexively protective, but then again, that's how parents generally act when someone comes over all "99.9999% certain" their kid did something really super-wrong (this is not like hitting a baseball into a window by accident, for instance) without even asking first if the parents would talk to their child and see whether she saw anything.

That's how you probably should have approached it: like you were trying to figure out what happened here, not like you were coming to execute judgment by demanding apology and reimbursement. And then the pounding on the door doesn't exactly make you out like the most reasonable party to the dispute, either.
posted by palliser at 9:17 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think you wasted enough time on this already. I would have waited until the kid came to play one day with my daughter and asked her (not accused her) about it. If she admitted it (or denied it), you could make it a teachable moment. The chance of getting the $ from her father seems pretty slim based on their previous behavior.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:32 PM on April 18, 2010

Wow, you guys. Some of you are harsh. I'm not going to lie to the cops and say I saw it. But I am also totally not going to buy an ice cream for some kid who threw a brick-sized landscaping stone through my back door.

About an hour after I posted this, the neighbor's wife came down to the house with her kid. This woman is much more reasonable than the husband. Apparently, the kid was filthy and had mysterious white paint streaks all over her hands and clothes. My rock was also painted white, that kind of old chalky paint that leaves smudges all over everything. It was an edger in one of the flower beds, which means she had to pry it out of the dirt partway. When she asked the daughter about where she got into paint like that, the kid burst into tears and confessed. She said she just wanted to see what would happen I guess.

We had a looong chat, worked pretty much everything out. I explained to her that I am stressed to the point of cracking over not just moving out of this house, but also wrangling contractors to make the new house handicapped accessible for my mother. On top of that, I'm paring down and packing 40 years worth of my disabled mom's possessions so she can move in with us. This last thing going wrong was the straw that broke the camel's back and I apologized for escalating things and being sort of an asshole to them too.

The neighbor lady said they might not be able to afford to pay for the whole thing to be fixed, but to let her know what it came out to and she would see what she could do. It was a fairly large stone. I'll have to see what the damage comes to in the morning, I really have no clue. This house is a rental, so either I fix it, or it comes out of my deposit anyway.

The neighbor kid actually apologized on her own when they were leaving. I told her her the truth: she did the right thing by telling me, but that I would have been a lot less angry if she had just said something straight away. It's the same thing I tell my own daughter.

I guess it resolved itself in the end. I know I posted this in the height of pissyness and the question is sort of disjointed, but it really was more the principle of the thing overall. I think a lot of my intial rage-on comes from my issues with the type of parenting where there's that attitude of "how dare you upset my precious little special snowflake!" even when their kid screwed up. The dad I was dealing with is a lot like that.

So yeah, I'm sort of over it now. Thanks for the reality check. Even the harsher answers made me stop and wonder if I went overboard on getting mad and that was good.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 10:45 PM on April 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you didn't even hear the crash; you just came up from the basement and saw the damage, and at the same time you saw the girl running. Your seeing those two things at the same time has connected them in your mind as happening at the same time, even though they may not have. Seven-year-olds run; that's just their typical mode of transport.
I assume the reason the dad said "You can't prove it" is because he doesn't want to pay, whether or not she did it, but based on your story, you really can't.
posted by delmoi at 11:57 PM on April 18, 2010

(ah, whoops. I forgot to post that earlier, then posted it without reading the reply)
posted by delmoi at 11:58 PM on April 18, 2010

I'm glad it all got worked out.

This is not a direct answer, but an anecdote. I broke a neighbor's window when I was twelve or so, and ran off afterward and didn't own up to it. I was found out later, and I had to go over to their house to apologize. The neighbor told me that he was going to pay for the window, and that I should do the same when some twelve-year-old kid breaks my own window. I still don't own a house, but I'll never forget what he said.
posted by number9dream at 2:19 AM on April 19, 2010 [7 favorites]

If her parents can't afford it, could you let her work it off? I realise that 7 year olds aren't actually that helpful, but maybe there's something she can come and help you do for a day.
posted by kjs4 at 7:44 PM on April 19, 2010

[bunch of comments removed - take this to meta if you need to continue it]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:57 PM on April 19, 2010

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