Neighbor Craziness Problem
April 26, 2010 7:43 AM   Subscribe

What kind of crazy is my neighbor and can my landlord do anything about it?

Neighbor Craziness:

How would you react if you overheard a neighbor in an adjoining apartment clatter a pan in their kitchen? Or drop a book in their bedroom?

How would you react if you overheard your neighbor making more than one trip to and from their apartment to load or unload their car?

How would you react if in the whole time you'd lived there, you once overheard your neighbor take a few minutes to put together a piece of flat-packed furniture?

There's a neighbor in a building who reacts to these events by echoing the rhythm of what he's heard or opening and slamming his apartment door or jumping up and down to make the whole, lightly built building vibrate, or plays his music loudly for 24 hours to drown out these perceived offenses. (This has been going on for several months so the other neighbors are now sure there is a pattern and he has admitted that he perceives the other neighbors as too noisy.)

It's gotten so that the neighbors in the adjoining apartments have become intimidated and second guess their own every move: dare I do my dishes? is it going to cause trouble if I can't get my groceries in in one trip? what if I can't move sufficiently stealthily about my own bedroom?

These neighbors couldn't be any quieter than they are. They're the types who like their homes quiet (without the sound of music or TV) and do most of their socializing outside of the house, so it's really not them who are causing the problem. They have tried to be friendly to the craziness neighbor but he is generally not friendly and will either give the briefest of greetings or ignore them completely.

It seems as if the problem is that the neighbor isn't able or willing to accept that in apartment dwelling there is likely to be some sound overlap and, for everyone's sake, the polite and rational thing to do is not to react, whereas he seems to be making it his business to take it personal and respond with action.

So, I have two questions

(1) What kind of crazy is this?

(2) Can their landlord do anything about it?

(This is Northern Virginia)

Thank you.
posted by fries to Human Relations (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1. Doesn't matter.
2. No, but witnesses can.

If he's really playing music loudly at all hours, the people affected by this noise pollution (that's what it is) can call the police, more specifically, the local non-emergency number (obviously). This is part of what the police do — I've called them for noisy neighbors who wouldn't heed my polite requests to turn down their music before, and it really works. Plus it creates a paper trail, just in case the crazy ever gets any worse. Some people think calling the police for clear noise pollution is overkill; having experienced neighbors who did indeed turn up the crazy, I really don't think so. The police are trained to deal with crazy folk; we others are not. (Let me be clear: I am advocating calling the police after having tried polite requests and in the case of clear noise pollution, not just whatever sound annoys someone.)

He can't complain about normal, everyday noises. Most cities will have noise ordinances; they're usually along the lines of tolerance for everyday noises, including hammering, drilling etc., between 9am and 10pm (exact hours may well differ). Where I live, "construction" noises are limited to weekdays and are prohibited at lunchtime. (I mention it so the people making "reasonable" noise don't worry too much.) That said, unreasonable noise, such as, say, drunken brawls along with eardrum-numbing music blared at top volume (speaking from actual experience...), can nonetheless be reported to the police during the "tolerance" hours. The police will also be happy to tell you about local noise ordinances if you ask for the information.
posted by fraula at 8:00 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

None of us can diagnose the neighbor from that description. I can think of a lot of things that might be and I'm no pro.

Also, your question is kind of offensively phrased. There's "does this man seem to have a mental illness based on these factors," and "this guy does X, Y, and Z things that annoy others, what kind of crazy is he."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:00 AM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

Sounds like your neighbor is being noisy. Maybe you should report him to the landlord. This is exactly what landlords are for and yes, they can do something about it. If the conversation goes like: "Hey, the other tenants say you're being noisy." "Well, THEY're noisy! I heard Fries clatter a pan, so of COURSE I had to jump up and down on my floor and blast my music for 24 hours in vengeance!" "Oh, well that makes total sense. Carry on, good sir." ... then maybe you should move.
posted by The otter lady at 8:03 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

He's not crazy he's just an asshole. If he's making a noise violation with loud music call the cops. Elsewise go about your business and don't mind him. He probably feeds off of everyone complying to his hissyfit complaints.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:04 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Report it to the landlord and tell them you're thinking of moving. Tell your neighbors to do the same. Call the cops every time he does it.
posted by Slinga at 8:12 AM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

If the neighbor is disturbing you, first talk to them (yes, you actually have to have contact with them if you want to change things), then if that doesn't change anything report them to the landlord, if the landlord is unavailable or uninterested then call the police if they're making noise between 10pm-7am. Otherwise you have to find a way to live with them.

It's gotten so that the neighbors in the adjoining apartments have become intimidated and second guess their own every move: dare I do my dishes? is it going to cause trouble if I can't get my groceries in in one trip? what if I can't move sufficiently stealthily about my own bedroom?

I'm confused as to why you care so much about this person. Why would you change your own behavior and be so paranoid for a neighbor's noises? Have they made threats, seem violent, or other personally "intimidating" behavior? Are you saying it's more people than you, because the phrasing of this makes me unsure. If you have a group of people disturbed by this person's activity, then why are you asking us and not them? Why aren't you all reporting this person as a group?
posted by scazza at 8:25 AM on April 26, 2010

You're neighbor isn't crazy, he's a jerk with an expansive sense of entitlement. Next time you plan on washing your hands, or tying your shoes, or whatever will set him off, go over to his apartment, knock on the door, explain "Hi, I'm going to be washing my hands shortly. Just thought I'd give you a heads-up"

And then hand him some earplugs. You can get a big can of them pretty cheaply at a drugstore.
posted by adamrice at 8:44 AM on April 26, 2010

It seems like most of the people who have responded have missed the point. The point isn't really about the neighbor's music. That is part of the problem but not the main problem. The main problem is the deliberate retaliation to the goings on of the people around him. The music is a more enduring form of retaliation but opening and slamming your own apartment door in response to your neighbor using theirs? Not normal.
Also, I think the kind of craziness is relevant because you need to know where a person is coming from in order to know how to respond. I've never heard of anyone behaving like this before and I don't think it's normal asshole behavior. Seriously, how many of your neighbors tap on the floor or wall in the rhythm of whatever you are doing in your home (washing dishes, whatever)?
posted by fries at 9:37 AM on April 26, 2010

And loud noise is intimidating. Having someone use startling abrupt loud noise (door slamming, floor jumping) to communicate is unnerving. It feels much the same as being yelled at. If the neighbor yelled at the passers by, would that not be intimidating?
Having disturbingly loud music played at all hours is also intimidating as it means that people can't feel free to plan their sleep.

I think the kind of crazy that he may be affects his ability to be reasonable. And that's why I make no apology for wondering whether he has mental illness, even if "crazy" is not the politically correct term for such.
posted by fries at 9:46 AM on April 26, 2010

Go talk to your landlord about the issue. One reason people are latching onto the loud music issue is because it is something that can be latched upon if you want to get attention, be it the tenant or police, directed toward your neighbor. Check your lease, there's probably a clause stating certain things about keeping quiet at certain hours (if you don't want to go police route).

Again, just go talk to your land lord about the behavior. That's what the guy is there for. If you can get your other neighbors to join you, or at least promise to support your claim about this guy's weird behavior, it'll motivate the land lord to talk to your neighbor.
posted by Atreides at 9:57 AM on April 26, 2010

Sorry, one more response: it is two apartments that are affected and his behavior is weird enough that I don't know whether he is dangerous. e.g. opening and closing his door as people go by but not saying anything.
posted by fries at 9:57 AM on April 26, 2010

Also, I think the kind of craziness is relevant because you need to know where a person is coming from in order to know how to respond.

Even if we were to assume that he has a mental illness, fairytale of los angeles is right: nobody here would be able to diagnose it from what you're able to describe. It could be a lot of different things and thus call of a lot of different, probably contradictory, ways of responding.

It's sort of on par with "My friend has a headache; what disease does he have and how can he cure it?"
posted by CKmtl at 10:06 AM on April 26, 2010

Also, I think the kind of craziness is relevant because you need to know where a person is coming from in order to know how to respond.

The only way to find out where a person like this is coming from is to talk to them. Random people on the internet aren't going to know about your neighbor because all we have to go on is your sketch of his (admittedly weird) behavior.

Next time you open/close your door and he slams his in response, or the next time he's tapping on the walls along with whatever you're doing, knock on his door and politely say that you heard him knocking and was wondering if he needed anything. If he says no then you can ask him to please not do that anymore. If he says yes, please be quiet, then assure him that you're being as quiet as is reasonable and let him know that he can always come talk to you if there's an issue.

How he reacts to your presence and inquiries will help you gauge his craziness and you'll have started a dialogue with him so progressing to the next step (cops, landlords, wevs) will be easier.
posted by carsonb at 10:49 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's a neighbor in a building who reacts to these events by echoing the rhythm of what he's heard or opening and slamming his apartment door or jumping up and down to make the whole, lightly built building vibrate, or plays his music loudly for 24 hours to drown out these perceived offenses.

This is totally unreasonable, hostile, quite possibly reason to call the police. ABSOLUTELY call the landlord. People get evicted FOR CAUSE if they make themselves enough of an unreasonable annoyance.

24 hours of loud music? Call the cops. Disturbing the peace. Mention that he has a history of being hostile.

-I recommend perusing Marc MacYoung's article on Problem Neighbors: Those Who Live By The Feud. He's not crazy. In his mind, he has very good, logical, morally upstanding reasons for what he's doing. He's seeing himself as the aggrieved party, and taking action to make sure those who have violated his sanctity suffer as he has suffered. What he is is possibly dangerous.

-Look over your lease carefully. It probably has a clause or two about noise levels and not being an unreasonable burden on your neighbors. Also, check with whatever local tenant's rights organization is in your area. Find out from them what the local residential noise regulations are.

He doesn't have the legal or moral right to inflict this behavior on an entire building. And you have the legal and moral right to have your landlord require your neighbor to live by the terms of the lease he signed.

Don't talk to him yourself, have the landlord do it. If this guy reacts like this when sounds come through his walls, how is he going to react when the people who (in his mind) are already being so unreasonable and hostile to him come confront him in his own home, intruding physically on top of the sonic intrusion they already inflict on him?

Absolutely get the landlord involved. It's his job to take the vitriolic abuse and risk of violence at the crazy guy's door. That comes with cashing those rent checks.

-Start documenting each and every time this happens. Time, date, circumstances, your apartment or another neighbor, so that if/when you have to go to the police after this guy blows up in violence (or even verbally threatens it), you have a paper trail to show how this guy has been behaving and has a history of anti-social behavior.

-Be prepared for the fact that this guy might get violent. Maybe people think I'm overreacting, but do read that MacYoung article. The thing about people like this is they're not the types who go to the police or the landlord. They take care of their own problems.

Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:06 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

This all depends on the landloard. I have a crazy neighbor just like this. Due to the fact that they come from the same country as the super and the fact that they have been here 9 years they can do no wrong.

So he might be doing these things because he knows he can get away with it . The only thing you can do is move. Bring your money somewhere else that deserves it.
posted by majortom1981 at 11:21 AM on April 26, 2010

I'm confused as to why you care so much about this person. Why would you change your own behavior and be so paranoid for a neighbor's noises?

For the same reason that you walk your dogs on the other side of the street, if every time you walk them past this one person's house, their dogs start barking and don't stop for twenty minutes: when you know an innocent behavior is going to trigger an inconvenient response, you change your behavior to avoid that response.

So: landlord? If you've already tried talking to him, then yep; hopefully you've said "look, I'd really rather work this out with you than talk to the landlord about it" first. Now take a few steps to avoid seeming a bit crazy yourself:

- For one week, and only one week, keep a diary of the number of times he does this. Granted, every week is different, but what you're doing here is making sure that you aren't mentally exaggerating the number or duration of events.

- Talk to the other neighbor experiencing this, letting them know you're going to approach the landlord, and see if they plan to as well. If they don't, then you're on your own, but better to know now than to say "they hear it too" and hear back "they've never complained to me about it."

Contact your landlord (better if you can see him in person on-site.) Be polite, and for now don't waste time talking about why you believe he's making the noise, or speculating about historical event frequency/duration; just focus on his noise, and a brief factual statement about last week's event frequency/duration, and let him know you've made attempts to resolve this yourself.

Bad: "Every time he hears us make a loud noise, he responds vindictively by making a similarly loud noise over and over for an hour, or turning up his radio for three hours. We all think he might be crazy. He's been doing this since I moved in. You have to do something or I'm moving out."

Good: "He's been making a lot of noise. I kept track last week, just to see if I was being overly-sensitive, but it's pretty bad -- for two days and nights in a row non-stop he had his music turned up quite loud, and yesterday around ten-thirty at night it sounded like he was pounding on the wall with a hammer for more than half an hour. I've gone over to talk to him, but he [has closed the door in my face/nodded politely but kept making the noise/told me to fuck myself] and frankly, I'm not sure what to do next. What do you think?"

Good luck. This sort of thing is why I won't rent apartments in converted buildings, or with units over other units; it's just not worth the stress and frustration.
posted by davejay at 11:54 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Two things:

1 -- Calling your neighbor crazy does not help. No, you don't need to be aware of his particular psychosis so as best to defend yourself. It's not like he's going to use fire-breath on you if he's paranoid, and ice-vision if he's schizophrenic, and you want to know whether to take your Asbestos Shield or your Bucklers of Warmth. The guy has issues, and they are of nearly total irrelevance to you as long as he stops banging on the walls.

2 -- If this makes you ready to move, then you may be able to bring the landlord around by threatening to move. I don't know what the market's like in NoVa, but in a lot of places these days, landlords are looking at serious issues replacing tenants -- he'd probably rather get rid of one than two. If this doesn't make you (and the other neighbors) ready to move, then you can complain, but don't make any promises you're not willing to keep.
posted by Etrigan at 12:07 PM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

I am nthing the "keep a log" aspect of this. If you tell your landlord that one of the neighbors is acting irrationally and scaring the neighbors, that's one thing, but if you can produce a notebook in which you have written every behavior you have witnessed with a date and time - and if everyone else does something similar - you will have a decent chance of proving your point.

It is not likely however going to result in someone being evicted.
posted by micawber at 1:43 PM on April 26, 2010

I agree with both Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey and davejay. I wouldn't approach this person, they're clearly not rational, and they're a stranger to you. You have no way to predict how they might react to this. They know what they're doing is disruptive and offensive, that's WHY they're doing it. Log it, talk to the neighbors, and get the landlord and the cops involved.
posted by lemniskate at 8:31 PM on April 26, 2010

There have been ask.mes on noise abatement in apartments. Talk to the landlord to see if he can help weirdguy put up some wall panels, use rugs, maybe get headphones. Other ideas here are good, but weirguy seems to be really sensitive to noise, and his needs are not negligible, though his methods of dealing with his needs is aggressively stupid and ineffective.
posted by theora55 at 8:45 PM on April 26, 2010

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