Like a bad neighbor...this dude is there
February 4, 2015 7:16 PM   Subscribe

My sweet, suburban parents have got a tricky Bad Neighbor conundrum and I want to help them take the smartest next steps here.

The late 50's aged parentals live in a quiet, upper middle class Western/Midwestern suburban neighborhood. About 7-8 years ago, new residents moved into the house behind them, which is separated from their home by a wrought iron fence and a fairly steep hill (parentals are at the top of the hill). Throughout those years, they have been listening to various acts of loudness and inconsideration from Bad Neighbor, such as yelling at his kids, blasting music through his outdoor intercom, and, recently, taking up playing the bass with the back doors open. Granted, none of this sounds terribly major, but is quite out of character for the neighborhood and, due to the close proximity of the homes in the neighborhood and possibly the terrain, my parents master bedroom is in the direct line of fire of all of this noise and they have basically HAD ENOUGH.

My dad made the unfortunate choice of calling down to Bad Neighbor at some point to "close his doors" when he was making a lot of noise. However the real trouble occurred last night, when my mom had been sick all day and was trying to sleep at about 10PM. Bad Neighbor was in his backyard talking very loudly on his cell phone, and after About an hour of hearing every word of his late night conversation, she made the decision to head outside to tell him how she felt. (Again, I acknowledge that this was not the most well thought out move, but I've been in that situation and know just how grating it can be). She called down to him that his voice was carrying right into her bedroom, that she was trying to sleep, and asked him if he could possibly go inside and have some consideration for the neighbors. According to her, he responded flippantly and exaggeratedly told her that he was very sorry and that she should go back to bed.

At this point, I realize that this sounds like previous Bad Neighbor AskMeFi questions, but here's where it got weird. He did not end the loud phone call or go inside. About an hour later my mom heard him yelling "You fucking pussy - you messed with the wrong people. And I know where you live. I will fuck with you all night" followed by loud growling/screaming sounds.

My mom is home alone a lot of the time, as my dad travels extensively for work. She is pretty freaked out and scared to go into the backyard now. What are the smartest next steps I can recommend to them in a situation such as this? Police report? Calling the police immediately NEXT time something goes down? Filing a grievance with the HOA? I am concerned that this neighbor is volatile and retaliatory, and while I wish that they had not already spoken to him, it is too late to undo that. Any advice is greatly appreciated!
posted by couchtater to Human Relations (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If there's an HOA I think that's where they should start. HOAs usually have strict rules about quiet times and will readily enforce them. I agree that confronting the neighbors is a bad step, especially since they're so contentious.
posted by bendy at 7:21 PM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Record everything, photograph everything, keep a diary of everything. And if they have an HOA, their whole raison d'ĂȘtre is to enforce rules that keep a neighborhood "nice."
posted by adamrice at 7:23 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Not denying that this is a bad neighbor or to downplay his definitely lousy behavior - but are you sure the yelling and "growling/screaming sounds" were directed at your mother and not just the person on the other end of the line?

I mean, if he's saying that he knows where his neighbor lives...Sherlock there must be pretty dumb!
posted by Seeking Direction at 7:23 PM on February 4, 2015 [18 favorites]

What is the goal? Is it to stop him from making noise? To ensure Mom's safety/peace of mind? I think they conflict a little bit. If it were me, I would look to deescalate. I would not call the police or call him next time. I am a 50s "aged parental". I would set up a security camera in my backyard that faces his house. In case anything comes flying over the fence or he is doing something rude/lewd. Otherwise, I would ignore the next few times he is making noise. Disengage.

He is an asshat, but that won't change no matter what you do.
posted by 724A at 7:29 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

After posting, I read Seeking Direction response. I think that scenerio is a distinct possibility. He could have been talking to the person on the phone. Either way, he is still an asshat.
posted by 724A at 7:31 PM on February 4, 2015

I mean, if he's saying that he knows where his neighbor lives...Sherlock there must be pretty dumb!

Yeah, I agree that it was probably the person on the other end of the line he was talking to. As someone with an actual Bad Neighbor who shouted that shit at me, let me tell you they usually do it from outside or nearby your door.
posted by corb at 7:46 PM on February 4, 2015

Best answer: I would set up a security camera in my backyard that faces his house.

Good suggestion for peace of mind. Your mom can't know whom the neighbor was addressing, either way his behavior was disconcerting.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 7:48 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

And this may be obvious and I don't want to start from doubt or anything, but was your mom 100% definitely awake when she heard this? Not half asleep, on cold meds?

The guy sounds awful but it is a little tough to understand if this was all related. There definitely are scenarios where what she heard, or remembers she heard, had nothing to do with her calling out to him.

Had your folks ever had a friendly chat with them before this, or just these interactions in the midst of something they didn't like going on?

What do the other neighbors say?
posted by Miko at 8:54 PM on February 4, 2015

I'm not 100% convinced your parents aren't being a bit Bad Neighborly as well. I mean, really, your mom is objecting to someone talking on a cell phone in his own back yard?? People do have the right to do that, you know. That's not going to fall under any noise ordinance. Your mom seems to want to restrict the neighbor's free use of his home, while taking no steps of her own to address the issue. If she has sensitive hearing, she can always use earplugs to sleep. That's preferable to expecting the whole world to be entirely quiet.

And I second the idea that what she thinks she heard w/r/t the "pussy" rant sounds improbable. If it even happened, it may not have been directed towards her, may have been a tv playing, etc.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 9:04 PM on February 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

I will also note that the use of the word "pussy" implies the guy was talking to a man, not your mom - it's a gendered insult, used specifically to imply that a man is not being manly enough.
posted by corb at 9:19 PM on February 4, 2015 [10 favorites]

I'm surprised so many people here are immediately doubting your mom. Honestly. I think your mom's instinct might be correct and the neighbor was addressing her. However she phrased it, he seemed to take it as a form of hostility. And if she was exasperated, she might have come off as somewhat hostile.

She should probably wear earplugs and try to avoid talking to this guy. It wouldn't hurt for your parents to install outdoor security.
posted by gt2 at 9:44 PM on February 4, 2015

Is there a mediation service available like this one?
It's a voluntary process in which people in dispute meet with a neutral third party (a "mediator") who guides them through a structured and confidential negotiation. The process really does work. Perhaps something like this is available through their HOA. It does require that both parties are willing to talk, albeit in a safe environment with a neutral third party but when it works, it's amazing. Worth considering.
posted by lois1950 at 10:22 PM on February 4, 2015

Best answer: The HOA is almost always there to enforce middle-class norms, like not shouting misogynist slurs from one's backyard. I think they're likely to make the biggest stink, even if they have limited power, and if it were me I would certainly get them involved first. Even if they can't do anything immediately, they can probably document complaints in a way that might build a case against the neighbor.

I would then call the police non-emergency line and describe the situation and ask if there was anything they could do, with the assumption the answer would be "No," and get information about what would need to happen that would allow them to do anything.
posted by jaguar at 10:31 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to the wonderful hivemind, as always!

Just to clarify a couple of things; I am not doubting that the lunatic rant was directed at my mom. That was never really a question in my mind. Even if she hasn't been involved in any way, shape, or form before the rant started, hearing something like that being screamed outside my bedroom window at midnight would be cause enough for concern and getting the HOA involved, at the very, very least. I also love the idea of a webcam for the backyard, which would be helpful in documenting any further problems as well as to keep the yard safe. Mediation is also an interesting idea I hadn't considered. Makes me feel grateful for my nice, quiet neighbors, that's for sure. Thanks again!
posted by couchtater at 11:06 PM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

As a stopgap measure, can she move her bedroom to the other side of the house? I mean, it sucks, but it's better than being woken up by this dude.

And I say this as someone who has done it. I sleep in the smaller bedroom because my downstairs neighbors make a lot more slamming-door type noise under the larger bedroom. It is what it is. I'd rather sleep in the smaller bedroom than start a sound war with a neighbor.
posted by pie ninja at 5:38 AM on February 5, 2015

Rather than have the wrought iron fence, does their HOA allow for the option of installing a wall? Expensive for sure, but it would block out a lot of noise.
posted by vignettist at 9:17 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Talking on a a cell phone in your back yard at 10pm isn't being a bad neighbor. It's being an ordinary human being. Dealing with such minor annoyances is a natural part of living in a community with other people.

On the other hand, complaining about people speaking in a normal voice, paying detailed attention to what your neighbors say in their own space, and then jumping to conclusions about their evil intentions based on weirdly implausible threats *is* being a bad neighbor.

The best advice you can give your parents is to relax and try to treat their neighbors with the same respect and good will they would expect.
posted by eotvos at 11:57 AM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

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