Best practices for upstairs neighbor
April 12, 2015 2:53 PM   Subscribe

So the upstairs neighbor keeps complaining that WE are too noisy. This is insane -- we hear every footstep, every word, and their dog barks for hours. I'm pretty sure they have a bowling alley in their living room. The landlord is on my side, but doesn't really care because they're a large management company. How to best get neighbor to stop bothering us?

So, disclaimer: I have tried to accommodate her where possible. They do not have a rug, despite me recommending that for both of our sakes. Previous neighbor was pretty quiet (think they had a rug) and certainly never heard our noise. Current neighbors are the noisiest I've ever had, and are basically intolerant of anyone else making noise. I have never complained to them directly, except as a counterpoint when she comes down to complain. I can deal with their noise, because I think it's just something you deal with in old buildings. What can I say (in a written note, CCed to our landlord) that will get her to stop?

Here's how things have gone down:
*They moved in nearly 2 years ago. Had a party with bass pounding till 4am.
*They have a yappy Chihuahua who barks incessantly every time they leave, and a lot when they're home.
*A little over a year ago, I had people over for a secret santa exchange. This was 9pm on a Thursday night, because I knew we'd be noisy and planned this outside of our building's quiet hours. We were noisy, but not in violation of anything in our lease. She came down to complain because she "could hear cheering." I apologized and said we were almost done with presents. She was seething, tried to get us to be quiet, said we woke her up, etc. Argued for several minutes. Finally went back upstairs, was stomping on her floor. We were significantly quieter (snap-clapping instead of actual clapping). She came back down ~10 minutes later. My then-roomate answered the door (and was basically like, seriously, your dog barks constantly and it's horrible to deal with daily but we never complain), she pushed inside demanding to talk to me and was yelling in front of my guests (who, incidentally, were laughing at the situation). I saw her boyfriend later that week and he -- unprompted -- apologized for her behavior.
*After that she was fine for a long time, but then this summer my boyfriend (who moved in over the summer) got a sound bar. We keep the bass low, and even when we've had it turned off she's complained. Like it's to the point where we can't watch a movie without her complaining.
*A couple months ago, her boyfriend came down to complain about the noise when only my bf was home and was legit blasting music. Bf opened the door and their dog, who upstairs neighbor bf had brought down with him offleash, came running into our apartment! We have a cat who is not familiar with other animals & fortunately my bf ran and caught the dog before anything happened.
*A month or so ago, we were watching a movie on a weekend night, credits rolling around midnight. Bf and I had been drinking. She came down, bf answered the door, said the movie was over, but she wouldn't leave and he got really mad. I went into the hallway to talk to neighbor and closed the door behind me. She was going off about it, and I was basically like, movies over, we're done watching TV. She wouldn't have it, brought up the incident from OVER a year before of the Xmas party, saying how she was so mad that I hadn't apologized at the time... I was like, we hear constant noise from your place and I understand that you can only do so much, but we constantly hear the dog, walking, talking, fights, convo, video games, they've partied all hours of the night with loud music (she tried to claim it didn't count because she wasn't there?), movies, moving a chair sounds like they're moving house... And she was SO mad that I didn't apologize, she refused to leave. My simple request was "we put up with a lot, surely you can too." She then started verbally attacking my boyfriend, I shouted at her, and she threatened to report us to the landlord.
*The next day, I get an email from my landlord that included a complaint and "threatening behavior." I was nearly in tears. I called up the landlord office, spoke to someone, and she was wonderful. They took my report, and said she was writing it up and they'd have someone speak to neighbor. She also said if they came down to not answer the door and to call the police if neighbor wouldn't leave.
*After this, things were quiet for a while. Then again, last week, we're watching a movie (again, movie finished and credits were rolling) and she comes down. It was NOT loud -- we had the bass off, volume normal. Per landlord, we ignored the knock. Finally she shouted through the door to turn off the bass & bf replied that it was off.

Other possibly relevant facts:
*Downstairs neighbor has never complained, nor has anyone on our floor.
*Upstairs neighbor also has dog off leash in the building and outside, which is a violation of the city code and of our leases. His dog likes to sit and sniff at our door because of our cat, and he just chills in the hallway and lets her. She has come in our apartment twice without our permission. I like the dog fine, they just let her do what she wants and yell "shut up" at her when she barks and they're home.
*If I complained every time they made noise that bothered me, I'd be up there every half hour.
*They definitely don't have any rugs, I can hear chihuahua nails on hardwood floor.

I want her to stop knocking on our door, and I don't want to escalate. We've obviously not handled this the best way so far, but I think we've been reasonable and tried to be accommodating. I wish they would just get a rug because that would probably stop any noise coming through. We are not moving until next May. I can deal with their noise, what I can't deal with is the complaining -- especially because it's so hypocritical. How can I reason with her? Or can I? Should I just be complaining to the landlord? I don't think either of us are breaking the lease in terms of noise levels, so my only complaint is to turn them in about the dog which is (to me) just vindictive because I don't care that much if their dog is off leash because she's small and friendly.
posted by DoubleLune to Human Relations (17 answers total)
Best answer: She also said if they came down to not answer the door and to call the police if neighbor wouldn't leave.

Sounds good to me. I don't think you should engage them directly. Let all communications come through the landlord or some other authority figure.
posted by sam_harms at 3:28 PM on April 12, 2015 [24 favorites]

Do not engage or speak to these neighbors anymore. It's clearly not working as they're not reasonable people. I'd document everything and share it directly with the property management office. There's likely a "right to quiet enjoyment" clause in your lease. You can press your property manager on that issue if the noise doesn't stop. Good luck!!
posted by ACN09 at 3:28 PM on April 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

Complain to the landlord everyou time the dog barks and don't engage with her. She doesn't want to be reasonable.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:28 PM on April 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

She sounds horrible, and I'm thinking maybe she has some mental illness. She might also have hyperacusis or misophonia or both, but that's her problem and not yours, and in any event, those conditions are both easily mitigated with white noise machines and so on, as long as you're talking about normal apartment noise from neighbors.

But her behavior is bizarre and it's not about the noise, not really. I would not engage with her at all anymore, since she's clearly getting something out of fighting with you (who knows what) and nothing you do will deescalate her nonsense. I would do what the landlord advises with respect to ignoring her and calling the cops, and document every incident in writing. It's possible that if you stop responding she'll get bored and go pester someone else -- behavior which might well get her evicted.
posted by holborne at 3:34 PM on April 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

It should not take many instances of calling the cops on a jerk yelling at your door before they knock that crap off. Don't make stuff up, but if the neighbor is making any threats, say so when you call. Obviously, call the non-emergency line if you are not actually in any danger.
posted by ktkt at 3:36 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have a note ready to slide under the door next time she comes and bangs on your door, refusing to leave:

"This is to let you know the landlord has advised us to call the police on you whenever you harass us like this. This is your thirty-second warning, please leave".
posted by lizbunny at 3:49 PM on April 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

Also, if she is at your door telling you to turn off the base and it IS off, turn it on. Just so she can hear the difference.

Like when people are driving and have their regular beams on, and you think they have high beams so you flash them, and then they flash you with high beams that are SUPER bright and you're like, ok ok you had them off, geez.
posted by lizbunny at 3:54 PM on April 12, 2015 [9 favorites]

Having been on both sides of this: you can't do anything. It's not you, it's not her, it's the building. It's never going to be like having your own house, where you only hear yourself. She's either going to get over it, move, or keep making herself crazy trying to convince you to do the impossible. You'll either put up with the crazy until it stops or move. The management company, the police, and especially you can't do anything about her unrealistic expectations regarding the building's acoustic properties.
posted by ctmf at 4:10 PM on April 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Have your landlord write her a formal letter inviting her to complain to them and SPECIFICALLY telling her not to approach your door.

Understand that if you tell her you will be calling the police, they may show up at your door because then she'll have the idea to call them. I'm scared for you on this account.

Talk to your landlord about requiring them to put down rugs.

Talk to your landlord about moving.
posted by jbenben at 4:19 PM on April 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Yea, I've had a friend who went through something like this. Just tell them that you're not going to talk to them any more. Tell them that they can take it up with the landlord if they think you're making too much noise; then wish them good luck with that and remind them that you had X number of years prior to their residency with no complaints attesting to the fact that you are not an unreasonably noisy tenant. Finally, tell them that they aren't exactly the quietest neighbors in the building and that if they want to go that route, you're more than happy to take it to the landlord every time you can hear noise coming from their apartment. But in any event, the point is that you should make sure they get the message that you are telling them to fuck right off and never talk to you again.

ctmf has it right, and this was exactly the situation my friends had: Your upstairs neighbors are suffering from a serious lack of understanding how city apartment living works and have no compatibility with this kind of residence.
posted by slkinsey at 4:25 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I agree strongly with the advice not to engage and to follow your landlord's suggestion to phone the police if your neighbor won't leave. You don't have to answer the door just because someone knocks. There are no magic responses we can suggest that will get her to change her reactions. Disengage and she just might focus her ire elsewhere since you're no longer responding to it.

Though I totally, 100% believe you that this is normal life-noise, you certainly can, for your own peace of mind, make extra-sure you're not actually being noisy. If you're watching a movie late at night and you have a decent sound system, that actually can bother people trying to sleep even if it doesn't sound loud to you, though it's not something people usually freak out about. (Ditto your BF "legit blasting" music: technically never okay in an apartment building, even if most neighbors are too nice to say anything or wouldn't be bothered as long as it's not a daily thing.) You want to make sure you actually have a leg to stand on in case she calls the cops on you.
posted by kapers at 4:37 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your question has enough details to give to the police ahead of time, so that they will already know the situation when you call them to report a crazy woman banging at your door and refusing to leave. You can call their non-emergency number and ask an officer to come over to talk to you. There is a good chance that the officer will go up and talk to your neighbor as well, letting her know what your rights are, and that it is not okay to harass you.
posted by myselfasme at 4:43 PM on April 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

And your boyfriend needs to stop yelling at them through the door. Zero engagement.
posted by jbenben at 4:48 PM on April 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

Leases often have a provision requiring that 80% of the floor area be covered with a rug. Check your lease for this. If it is a requirement, ask the landlord to enforce it with the upstairs neighbors. As you mentioned, it might alleviate the noise problem in both directions.
posted by merejane at 5:39 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

My then-roomate answered the door, she pushed inside demanding to talk to me and was yelling in front of my guests

This is the point where she became totally unreasonable. Your landlord is right -- don't talk to her, just call the cops if she won't leave. Your landlord has probably had a thousand other complaints about these neighbors and knows you're not the problem.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:42 PM on April 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Effective immediately, these people do not exist. You don't answer the door for them, speak to them anywhere, not even to say "take it up with the landlord", nothing. Any complaints about them go directly to the landlord. You do not slip them notes, yell through the door, or anything like that. IF they catch you in the hallway, just go in your place and shut the door in their face without saying anything. do not let them barge in your place, block them with your body. If they touch you trying to get in, call the cops and consider filing charges or getting a restraining order if applicable.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:28 PM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just ran into her boyfriend, who stopped me in the hallway to "clear the air." (After another incident where she was banging on our door with a textbook, shaking the entire wall, and we had to call the cops, and spoke to the apartment manager...) He said they're moving to California in August, so we're going to be on our bestest behavior until they leave, there's light at the end of the tunnel.

He also said it would be great if I could "control my boyfriend" to not have the sound on after 9pm (our lease says 11pm, and it was heavily reaffirmed by our apartment manager that we can do whatever the eff we want before 11) because his gf "doesn't like noise after 9." I suggested rugs (like a $10 Craigslist one) and he said they had rugs, but the dog "didn't like them" so they're rolled up in the closet... I mean we're going to acquiesce to their demands until they move out, but this just infuriated me. They have an obvious solution (and this wasn't a problem when they had rugs down! I thought it was a different neighbor but I guess just they took up the rugs) and won't do it! He also went into depth on her anger issues (including how the road rage is getting better but still a problem, and how she only stopped being verbally abusive towards him when he threatened to leave her), which oddly made me feel better just knowing that her boyfriend thinks she's overreacting and is actively telling her to stop.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:32 PM on April 30, 2015

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