Maybe there's an annoying-neighbor-child version of deer repellant?
May 25, 2015 1:47 PM   Subscribe

I live in the back corner of an apartment building that borders on the backyards of multiple house-neighbors on the perpendicular side street to mine. The people opposite me have elementary-age children and let them stay in the yard for hours with minimal/no supervision. The children's friends come to visit and they all get a kick out of wreaking tiny havoc directly on the other side of my apartment. I am at a loss for nipping this in the bud. Help!

My bottom floor living room is opposite a retaining wall that I think is their property line. My upper floor bedroom is across from the children's swingset. There is an unpaved alley between my building and the retaining wall, maybe 4' wide. Here are a few images to show what I'm talking about: Imgur. One end leads to our parking lot, and the other dead-ends at a security gate out front. Their rusty chain-link fence was toppled by a tree and left as-is since I've lived here. The kids climb down the tree, past the fence, onto the short hill above the wall, then jump down into the alley. From whence they run around being yelly/screamy/shrieky and aggressive. They break/snap off the tree branches, throw things at the building and each other, run around in the alley, and occasionally go into our parking lot. They are generally standing outside of my living room at this point, and out of sight of their house. I feel like it is not unreasonable to expect that these children stay out of our alley, keep away from the building, stop bothering & annoying tenants, and stay out of our parking lot. I don't care what they do in their own yard, as long as they *stay* over there.

I asked the kids nicely, at first, to play in their own yard. The smaller kids (~6-8 yo) listen w/o backtalk and go back to their yard, but will sometimes drift back and push the envelope a bit. There is an older kid with them sometimes (~9-12 yo; not sure he is a family member) who encourages them to misbehave further. I've tried the Stern Adult Lecture approach, the Angry Yelling Adult approach, and finally last summer I went to speak with their parent(s). This was after ~2 months of repeated forays on their part and being repeatedly asked to go back to their own yard. I even talked to our borough's code enforcement person about the property line, but they said to check with the county. (Haven't yet bc it seemed pointless...what am I gonna do, call the cops on a bunch of first-graders for trespassing? Ugh.)

I tried to talk to the mother, who seemed annoyed that I was criticizing her innocent little gems, and took an attitude toward me like "you're just one of those obnoxious renters," so we didn't get far. I rather testily explained that the children were bothering me, had been doing so for some time, and asked her to please keep them in the yard. I tried to appeal to her from a safety standpoint, i.e., there's a lot of trash back there and what if one of the kids gets hurt/cut/gets tetanus/whatever? She gave some weak excuses ("well I try to tell them to stay out of the parking lot") and then got shitty (guilty-defensive) with me, saying that since the retaining wall is their property line, they had the right to be back there. Which is true, yes, BUT. I tsked and left. Eventually the dad got involved, and from what I've overheard, they mind him and not the mother. I am guessing this is why they feel free to ignore me and keep testing me. The disruptions stopped for a while, and the kids stayed in their yard. This weekend, however, they are back at it, so I've had to close my windows and draw my blinds two days in a row now for privacy and to drown out their noise and antics.

It's ruining my ability to enjoy my own home in the warm months, get productive work done at home, etc. (Every. effing. weekend!) I can't concentrate or relax while they are out there, because I never know what they are going to do and I'm on edge expecting the disruption. I've been through some traumatic stuff in the past two years and I hate feeling like I can't relax in my own home. I haven't gotten anything done this weekend due to this. It's absurd that small children are so problematic, and I just wish the neighbors would be good citizens and fix their damned fence. These kids have literally stood 2 feet away from my living room window while they knew I was in here, and talked about what they could do and whether or not "the lady" would yell at them for it. This weekend they were throwing those snap-fireworks at the building. *headdesk* I am fed up!

When I spoke with our leasing agent last fall, he said they couldn't do anything unless the kids were damaging tenants' property. The end result is they can run amok and no one is going to discipline them. I'm generally good with kids and I don't enjoy yelling at these ones. The parents seem checked-out and as the kids will be out there for hours, I think they get bored. Since no one (except me!) is paying attention to them, they act up. I feel bad for them, but it's not my job to parent them!

My lease is up in November. I've only been back to work for 6 months, and it would be a stretch for me right now to save enough to move. Borrowing money/using a credit card is not an option. I'll be here four years in November and the place is a good deal for the size and location. It's the longest I've lived in one place as an adult. Conservatively, I'd need to stay here at least six months past my lease to save up, but going month-to-month will cost me an additional $50/month on top of the $660 I already pay. Which sucks. I don't want to have to plan my weekend schedule around when these frustrating kids are out in their yard, or have to hide in my living room with my blinds drawn and lights on when it's a beautiful sunny day outside.


Tl;dr: the neighbor kids are disruptive and invasive, and I'd like for them to keep them away from my building so I can sometimes actually enjoy where I live.

Please, hivemind: what are some possible solutions for tactfully dealing with this situation to the benefit of all involved? What haven't I thought of yet? Please advise!
posted by cardinality to Human Relations (43 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are they actually on any property that doesn't belong to their families and isn't public? Are there community noise ordinances in your neighborhood?
posted by KathrynT at 1:54 PM on May 25, 2015

Response by poster: I'll try not to thread-sit, but to answer the question: yes, once they are off the retaining wall, they are trespassing onto the rental property. I think we have a noise ordinance but I'm not sure how it would apply here. The kids aren't being OMG LOUD, per se, it's a normal-if-shrill volume of playing. The issue is that I think they're doing what they're doing specifically to annoy me and get attention from me, and because they know they can get away with it. It's become a game to them to get me to yell at them, and they will attempt to "get in trouble" for a quite a while. They know no one is paying attention to them and that they can harass me and no other adults will reprimand them.
posted by cardinality at 2:01 PM on May 25, 2015

The Mosquito
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:03 PM on May 25, 2015 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Next time they're messing with your building, especially if they're throwing fire crackers, call the police non-emergency number and inquire about having Officer Friendly drop by and speak to the kids. This will work better if your local PD uses the Community Policing model. Lather, rinse and repeat. Brats gonna brat and if the parents aren't gonna parent, then it takes a village employee to do the job.

Best of luck. I hate this kind of thing too.
posted by carmicha at 2:04 PM on May 25, 2015 [23 favorites]

Yeah, I second the non-emergency number -- if they're out of sight of their parents' house and no longer on their property, I think it's cool to say "hey, there are some disruptive, unattended kids around here." I'm usually not for calling the cops on well-behaved children that seem to be away from their parents but in this case, I think it might be fair. (Especially if they're throwing things at your building.)

However, if they're at the retaining wall and that is your neighbor's property, I don't think there's much you can do there, regardless of how loud they're being.

(My upstairs neighbors have some loud children that often run around and scream outside quite a bit but since I'm moving in about 5 weeks, I've decided that it's the next person's problem.)
posted by darksong at 2:09 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I hate to be discouraging, but have you considered a white noise machine or somehow soundproofing your kid-facing windows/walls?

I say this because I feel like you're not going to win this one. You're of limited means but you seem to be expecting the tranquility that comes in a gated community. When people are packed together in modest rental dwellings, one of the "costs" is enduring neighbors who don't share your concept of neighborly courtesy. I feel like you created a bit of this situation with your own yelling; you escalated it with no real way to "win." In the scheme of things, public authorities will never look too askance at kids-being-kids in the vicinity of their own homes.

posted by jayder at 2:18 PM on May 25, 2015 [18 favorites]

You need a human solution to a human problem. The Mosquito seems like a good idea, but you would really be treating the children as little more than animals. Get help from a neutral third party. It could be the city, it could be your landlord.

At this point the situation has devolved into an "us versus them" situation, one that you can't possibly win.
posted by Nevin at 2:21 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Next time they're messing with your building, especially if they're throwing fire crackers, call the police non-emergency number and inquire about having Officer Friendly drop by and speak to the kids. This will work better if your local PD uses the Community Policing model. Lather, rinse and repeat. Brats gonna brat and if the parents aren't gonna parent, then it takes a village employee to do the job.

I realize that the overwhelming majority of the time, calling cops works out just fine. However, given the number of stories one reads of police called over minor matters shooting or killing people, I wouldn't call the cops.

Anyway, there is a very small chance that some version of this, surely apocryphal, approach could work. The chance is very tiny, of course, but I don't think anything else you're going to do is going work, either.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:22 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

(We have had similar issues with kids in our neighbourhood, and the only thing that has worked is for me to engage them. This means I hung around outside and got to know their names, and developed a rapport. I was also very very careful to avoid helping create an adversarial dynamic, but I also have 10 years of experience as a middle school teacher to rely on.)
posted by Nevin at 2:22 PM on May 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

Actually, it just occurred to me that some version of the above approach could work. Start giving the kids ice cream. While the apocryphal story would have you then stop giving them ice cream, I don't think it would be necessary in this case. When the parents find out that the weirdo who lives around the corner is offering their kids food and candy, they won't be allowed to play there anymore.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:24 PM on May 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: OK, yeah. If they're trespassing, then call the police non-emergency number. DEFINITELY for the firecrackers.

If you're correct that they've made it into a game, then you need to stop playing the game. Reinforcing their behavior by giving them what they want is not going to be effective in getting them to stop. Your yelling at them has zero consequences to them and has no power to make their behavior change, so stop it. What you CAN maybe do without engaging with them directly is video their misbehavior, particularly if you have a smartphone; the children of my acquaintance absolutely recognize a phone being held in video/photograph mode INSTANTLY and it has a profound effect on their behavior. That might be worth doing even if it doesn't make them stop it, because you can then show it to the cops as evidence of what's going on.

As for the problem where they're standing on their property acting crappy -- I don't think you can stop that. It's not unreasonable for 6-8 year olds to be playing without direct supervision, even for hours. When they're in their own yard or on public property, there's not going to be a lot you can do.
posted by KathrynT at 2:26 PM on May 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Why aren't you reaching out to the Dad again? It seems to be what works. Be very positive in your approach. Tell him how much you appreciate him getting involved, how it worked really well for a quite a while but now the kids are testing the boundaries so would he please remind them again because, you know, we all want the kids to be safe.
posted by metahawk at 3:06 PM on May 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

Can you play them music that they do not like? That's what 7-11's do.

If Bartok doesn't do it, CĂ©line Dion will.
posted by musofire at 3:11 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think contacting the police is the right next step, and I don't think it needs to be as traumatic/dramatic as all that. In fact, I would contact the non-emergency number for the local station tomorrow and see if they can get an officer to come talk to the family before the next time it gets to the throwing-firecrackers-at-the-building point.
posted by drlith at 3:12 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you've mixed together a bunch of types of complaints here:
- trespassing (kind of an anal complaint on its own, but maybe marginally illegal),
- noisemaking (a nuisance for you, but part of being a kid; probably not getting into noise ordinance territory from how you've described it),
- inadequate supervision at the time they're playing (I think most American parents would disagree that this is inadequate supervision, but calling the police about it could certainly lead to drastic and devastating measures for the family if you got the "right" person)
- the kids generally acting like jerks and trying to provoke you (not illegal but of course not okay!), and the parents not stopping this behavior, and
- the fact that this has a possibly disproportionate impact on your ability to be happy in your home (not necessarily anyone else's problem)

If you're going to take a legal or generally confrontational stance, you need to focus exclusively on things the kids do while they're trespassing. Otherwise, you need to focus exclusively on the part where the kids are being jerks.

Since it sounds like a big part of the problem is them treating you like some sort of mysterious, only-partly-human Entity that Emerges from the Apartment, maybe your best bet is to invite the entire family over sometime. Or offer to babysit some evening if you can handle it. Or, next time they're making noise, say you "found" some old bang-snaps and thought they might like them, but could they please throw them against a different wall because you're trying to focus/have a headache/etc.?
posted by cogitron at 3:19 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm with Nevin on this. For God's sake, let the damned kids play. Go to the mom and try to make amends first. Go out there with bubbles and chalk and a ball and get to know them. Learn their names. Try making friends. Go play hopscotch.

The Mosquito is a HORRIBLE idea. If you have any kids or infants in the area at all, they're going to be tortured by that. Sleeping infants who are NOT playing in the yard will hear it. Kids in the area trying to read their books will hear it. Studious kids doing their homework will be tortured by it.

DON'T give them treats in the guise of terrifying their mother. That's just twisted.

Sheesh. Calling the police? They're little kids trying to run around and play. They're not juvenile delinquents destroying your property.

Let the kids play and don't be the scary neighbor lady who screams at them.
posted by kinetic at 3:24 PM on May 25, 2015 [41 favorites]

Tell the neighbor mom that you saw a creepy guy in the alley randomly hanging out and watching the kids, and you're too busy with work to make sure he leaves the kids alone. He's fictional, but that might get her to bring them closer to their own house.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:27 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Tell the neighbor mom that you saw a creepy guy in the alley randomly hanging out and watching the kids, and you're too busy with work to make sure he leaves the kids alone.

Please don't do anything that indicates to the parents that there's a predator in the neighborhood and their kids are in danger. Jesus.
posted by kinetic at 3:40 PM on May 25, 2015 [26 favorites]

Or some older kids who smoke. That would also work.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:40 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

The only thing in your post that I see as truly troublesome behavior was the kids directly trying to antagonize you, and that's a situation where you play an active role. Be an adult, refuse to engage, and ignore them for a day. They'll get bored and move on. Next time they get the idea to get a rise out of you, ignore them. They'll stop eventually. In the mean time, you need to learn how to control your reactions and thoughts, because as it is they're actually bringing this situation upon you.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:51 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Does your lease have a right to quiet enjoyment clause? Because then your leasing agent just may be in the wrong. You would have to look up and check. If people are trespassing and looking into your living room window, well, that would bother me too.

I understand your anxiety, been there, done that. We have had noise issues in our current place, now since subsided (I don't know who complained, but suspect the older folks next door).

I might try one more attempt at the leasing agent and say the kids are looking in your windows, throwing firecrackers, etc. But hold no hope there, I have not had a lot of success that way.

It's nice that the mother can put you off so easily, you can either go back to her and say, "listen, rein your kids in or I will start calling the cops," or start calling the cops. Yes, you are mean. You are mean to want to enjoy peace and quiet in a place that you pay for. It is not cool for parents to let their kids wander all over and cause a ruckus. I say this as someone who was a "free range kid," but the minute I started popping our elderly neighbors' hosta buds, I was brought in line.

It really comes down to the parents. I was always watching my kids, or nieces and nephews, and they didn't leave my yard and wander onto other people's property. When I was young, we were allowed out to play out, but we were in the country, and we weren't going onto other people's property and annoying them. It wouldn't have been allowed, once a complaint was made, we would have been in big trouble.

Maybe one more talk with the mother ("I am trying to work and your kids are costing me money, I'd hate to get a lawyer involved, can you please watch your kids?" Be mean, I mean it, she needs to watch her kids if they are running wild and doing the sort of things you are saying they are doing, that is bullshit, "oh they do what they want," no she does what she wants and sends all the kids outside to annoy other people, and I have no respect for those kinds of parents), and if that doesn't work, call the non-emergency line or go into the station and talk to the desk officer and just say, "I don't know what to do, can you help me?"

Squeaky wheel gets the grease. You might have to be mean, but maybe it could also mean you mean business. Don't invade my space. Because then I will become "mean" as well. I pay to live here and that doesn't mean some kids get to stand outside my window and throw firecrackers at my wall. I love kids, and I would be out there nagging them all day long if it were me. "Get off my lawn!" Maybe I would give cookies and lemonade on hot days. But if it bothers you, speak up!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:53 PM on May 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

Is the fence on the property line between the apartment building and the neighbors? If so, it's both the neighbors' and the building owner's responsibility to get it fixed/replaced.
posted by brujita at 4:18 PM on May 25, 2015

Response by poster: Just to reiterate...the area behind my apartment is a brushy hillside with a semi-junky little foot-alley that no one uses. The kids are going back there where their parents can't see them, and the side benefit is they get to bother me when they know I'm at home. I've tried ignoring them, being friendly to them and asking how they are doing, telling them it's not safe to be back there, being firm and asking them to leave, and ultimately talking to the parents. No one is minding the wee beasties and they are going out of their way to be disruptive when I'm at home. If I don't respond, they'll stand on the hill outside of my window and roughhouse to get my attention.

I'm not going to offer them anything or do anything that could be a liability for myself or my landlord. They don't seem to harass any of the other neighbors the way they harass me, and yes...I know I need to stop engaging with them, but it's just so frustrating that sometimes I can't help myself.

There are all sorts of noises in my neighborhood that I have absolutely no problem with...this is an urban suburb and I know it's not going to be like living in the woods in solitude. I don't mind hearing the kids play in their own yard...they're cute kids and I would rather hear kids happily playing and such, but it is crossing a line for them to be disruptive and harass a neighbor because they can get away with it. The main issue is that these kids are doing their thing on the other side of my living room wall, when they have an entire big yard and a whole neighborhood to play in, and their parents don't seem to give a shit. :/ I have Aspergers and I dread confrontation, but maybe I will have to enlist a (male) buddy and go over there to attempt to talk to them again. Failing that, maybe an offer to help them repair their fence would give them the hint!
posted by cardinality at 4:21 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The chain-link fence is in the neighbor's yard at the edge of the little hill. (It's hard to see in the 4th pic, but it's in the brush behind the wooden swingset. It would normally be right where the fallen tree is visible.) The adjacent house-neighbors on either side of these folks have fences along the same line. The stone retaining wall that you see in the pics is at the bottom of the hill, and there's a drop 2.5 feet to our property. The mother said that the wall is their property line. I don't know if that part would be considered a ROW or easement or something. I can look up the parcel number on the county's website, so maybe just to have my facts straight, it'd be worth looking up the survey records.

Thanks for the helpful responses so far, I marked a few as best answer. But I'd appreciate any other useful ideas or strategies, either to deal directly with the kids or for talking to the parents.
posted by cardinality at 4:32 PM on May 25, 2015

From my perspective, as a childless city dweller, these kids probably aren't doing anything actually wrong and there's probably nothing that you can do about it. I understand that moving from this location would be difficult for a number of reasons, but it sounds like in your building, your particular apartment is uniquely positioned for this situation to annoy you. Any chance that another unit in your building might come open and your landlords would consider letting you swap for a unit away from these particular neighbors?
posted by hydropsyche at 4:34 PM on May 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

I have anxiety, and yes, I would go for male buddy. Sometimes it's just easier that way. To be clear, she is not controlling her charges, whether it is her own children or playmates, and they need to stay away from you. Flat out. Just have the friend tell them.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:58 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

If I don't respond, they'll stand on the hill outside of my window and roughhouse to get my attention.

Have you tried just not responding at all? I can't recall - are they throwing rocks or dirt clods at your house? Are they vandalizing your property?

If not, just ignore them.

If they are, film it and... I don't know, show it to the cops or something? Cops typically have no interest in managing the behaviour of small children.

Ignoring them completely seems to be the only option.
posted by Nevin at 5:14 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Things that are mostly okay: climb down the tree, past the fence, then jump down into the alley. being yelly, break/snap off the tree branches[of a dead tree], , run around in the alley,

Not okay: being screamy/shrieky and aggressive. play on the short hill above the wall, throw things at the building and each other and occasionally go into our parking lot., standing outside of my living room.

Ask the landlord to post No Trespassing signs, this is easy, and means that they can be asked to leave by police. The alley may be a common use area? talk to a tenant's rights organization to find out. Police don't want to go mess with annoying kids and may speak to the parents. Do not hesitate to call the non-emergency number.

They're kids, they're bored. Kids with a focus, yelling while being purposeful, are less annoying to me, maybe also to you. See if you can hustle up a net and a soccer ball or 2. is a good resource for such things for free. They can watch a soccer match to learn a rule or 2. Similarly, frisbies, kites. Baseballs can cause too much damage. A basketball hoop draws way more kids in my area. Is there a space nearby that would be appropriate for them, or other resources? No, it's not your job to find out, but Mom can't be bothered.

Run a sprinkler in your yard unless it's hot enough for that to be fun for them. A sprinkler also provides white noise. Play opera or classical music on speakers facing out, or NPR, or even just music you like.

Bribery? Hey guys, I'm working on a really serious project right now. If you could keep the noise down until 7, I'll give you these gift certs Check with the parents 1st on that. You can get books of Mcdonalds or ice cream certificates pretty cheap. Tell them it's a rare thing. It will help them see you as a good guy.

I let my son be fairly free-range, but I also taught him to respect the agoraphobic old lady across the street (she took the soccer ball when it landed in her yard. My ex- got all hissy, but I just had the kids make her a card, go over and apologize in person and she gave the ball right back. There were extenuating circumstances on her part.)
posted by theora55 at 5:27 PM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you're going to try the ignoring route again, just keep in mind the concept of the extinction burst.
posted by trillian at 6:44 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you can't afford to move proper, can you maybe move to the other side of the building?
posted by vignettist at 7:09 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

If I don't respond, they'll stand on the hill outside of my window and roughhouse to get my attention.

And then you're responding, apparently. You need to stop responding. Kids aren't dumb, and a couple days of self-control on your part will send them off to more exciting adventures. The added bonus is that practicing not responding will keep you out of these situations in the future.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 7:18 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

You mentioned you have been drawing the blinds because when the kids can tell you are in your apartment they purposely try to get your goat. It might be worth a try to get some privacy window film--if you get the mirror kind, you can see out and still get lots of sunlight, but anyone looking in won't be able to tell you are there. It looks like you can get 45 square feet of film for about $30 at Home Depot.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:31 PM on May 25, 2015 [11 favorites]

You're going about this all wrong. They're in your space right now because that's where it's the most fun. These kids are bored. So what do you need to do? Make a space somewhere else that's better. Misdirection. You can even make it a project that you work on with them if you like, get them involved.

There's heaps of things you could do. Get some paint, lay down some hopscotch squares way way over there in their own property. Get a basketball hoop or some offcuts of wood and a handy person and build them a cubby, or get a swing set. Also way way over there. That way you'll get to know them, be their buddy and next time when they come over, they might actually listen to you, or better still they'll be playing in their awesome new cubby/playground and not bothering you. This needn't take long, depending on what you do but basically it has to be more appealing than outside your window. Don't do the mosquito, that's just horrible. They're only kids.
posted by Jubey at 11:34 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mod note: A few comments deleted. Please don't comment just to scold or yell at the OP. Productive, helpful answers, please. (Also, if you think there's no solution, it's okay not to answer. If you feel like you wouldn't be annoyed and the OP shouldn't be annoyed, again, perfectly okay not to answer.)
posted by taz (staff) at 4:23 AM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ultrasonic bark deterrents for dogs? They emit high pitched noises when loud sound is detected. The sound doesn't travel that far, and humans' ability to hear that frequency goes away with age. So the kids playing in the immediate vicinity will find it very annoying but you won't hear it at all in your apt.

The units can be ordered online, a bit expensive. You will probably want to wire them securely to a tree in a hidden or hard to access spot so the kids can't simply find and take them. The battery will probably last a month. They only cover a certain range so depending on the size of the area you may need/want two.

Not a guaranteed success but is a passive aggressive, subtle, non-harmful way to deter the kids from hanging out there.
posted by lizbunny at 6:06 AM on May 26, 2015

If one of those children falls and injures themselves on the apartment's property (or someone else, with, for example, a firework), the leasing agent may regret having ignored the problem, especially when there were complaints on the record that the children were behaving in hazardous ways, and requests to take action.

It couldn't hurt to point this fact out to them when you next contact them regarding the issue.
posted by instead of three wishes at 6:36 AM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: First: you are not wrong to be bothered by this, and I disagree with posters telling you not to be.

What you have in that alleyway is what's called an "attractive nuisance." If you were the owner, I'd tell you to fence that and avoid liability; as a renter, you have to determine how hard you want to fight to make your landlord give a toss. If one of the little darlings hurts themselves, the parents could absolutely sue if it was on the owner's property, but again, they have decided it's not worth caring about.

So your options are:

1. Fight your landlord to get the alleyway fenced off/locked
2. Move to another apt. or building
3. Find ways to block the sight/noise of the kids.

It sounds, like, first off, that you feel worried about/responsible for these kids as well as annoyed by them. I think that's why you have had trouble ignoring them. Which is commendable, but also something you need to stop doing. You can't really parent these kids, or make their parents parent them, better. It is sad and upsetting! But the truth. You have to let that go. If they get hurt, they get hurt. They will hopefully be fine.

If you decide to withdraw/ignore, then yes, get the privacy film or something similar on your window, get a white noise machine, and block out the sight and sound of them completely. If they do something so loud you can't ignore/that is destructive, go out and video them with your phone. If that doesn't stop them, call the community police (not 911) and report them.

But unless they are really determined vandals, which they probably aren't, they will get bored by your nonresponse and just be generally loud, instead of specifically trying to get your attention.
posted by emjaybee at 8:12 AM on May 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm not a lawyer and I don't live in your state. but:

regardless of your lease, your state's laws likely have some Tenant's rights that are guaranteed you, for which the landlord is responsible. and which cannot be taken away even through lease or contract. e.g. my state includes things such as:
- absence of (/ freedom from) nuisance
- covenant of quiet enjoyment (and extends to many things beyond noise, e.g. cigarette smoke)
- warranty of habitability (the main intent for this one is actually more about working utilities/heat/water, and safe living conditions; but has also been successfully applied to this kind of problem)

I've been going through a sort of roughly-congruent situation for the past 6 months, except that it's a family in the same house. hardwood floors, and only 1 of the 2 children beyond-stomps around literally 12+ hours a day. only 8 hours on schooldays, which are apparently somehow only 3 days per week. the vibration translates laterally throughout the entire house. stuff falls off my shelves. the pipes in the floors & walls rattle. my windows rattle. freaking gutters and cables and other metal bits outside the entire opposite side of the house rattle. I dread the impending summer vacation.

my landlord is a decent person, but feels frustrated and unable to do anything about such a nebulous situation. "I can't control people's behavior" - yeah, no one's asking for that, only for the person with responsibility and authority over the property they own, to take control of the living environment there.

am I supposed to get a seismograph to prove how truly awful and stressful it is to live/endure this? call the non-emergency police number? on children? (I mean technically it would be on their parents, but still ... ?)

laws such as the above are there to facilitate getting a court mandate to withhold rent until problems are resolved. I like my landlord, great person and I really don't want to mess up that relationship by suing. plus at the same time the situation is pretty hard to pin down or resolve.

the same laws can also be used to e.g. get an injunction against the parties directly responsible for the nuisance (i.e. the parents) - but: annoying, time consuming, and again difficult to prove; for me definitely a last resort.

but. 6 months of diplomacy has not worked. the parents in my situation are some combination of: ignorant (willingly/knowingly? probably.), uncaring, inconsiderate, irresponsible. I lean towards willfully-ignorant: the next day after the family moved in, a Saturday, the stomping began before 6am. ditto that Sunday. complaint to the landlord, and the stomping only started at 10am on weekends - for about a month. then started sliding to 9, 8, currently a little after 7am. until 9pm up to 11pm. they know this is a problem, they knew before they moved in that it is a problem; they don't really care one bit.

I imagine the same case with the parents living near OP's residence. they are so used to it, probably sick of certain behaviors too, but to the point of just tune it out and don't care. and you, cardinality? they do not even give two figs. maybe the father does care about the children's behavior but is not around a lot? be thankful they don't live in the same building as you, small solace I know, but believe me...

my landlord finally managed to kick out (after 6 months) the dirtbag tenants of the only other unit, who had been polluting the entire house with cigarette smoke, pot smoke, bad-kinds-of-drugs fumes, and naturally claiming it wasn't them / must be coming from next door / etc. - but that's a lot less nebulous, less difficult.

my lease ends in 3 months, and I'm strongly considering moving. but, yes, it is a ridiculous pain in the ass - not to mention expensive to do so. and why? the neighborhood is quiet, the apartments are well-insulated and very quiet, the parents and the older child are quiet. hell, even the dirtbags were quiet.

I know the landlord actively cares (in fact did/does not want any children in the building - was very concerned and made a point of meeting the family again before renting to them, and was reassured by their strong ?ignorance?lies? - I was told that they said things such as "oh our kids are so well behaved, look!" etc. to that effect and managed to be convincing. and I also understand/respect the need to fill apartments and receive income.)

I hope others will have better suggestions since I really don't have any good ones. will just keep watching this thread and hoping.
posted by dorian at 12:19 PM on May 26, 2015

"I'd hate to get a lawyer involved"

again, not a lawyer. but:

please don't do this. sue, or don't sue. but don't imply or threaten. 'Legal Threat' can easily be illegal behavior on your part, not to mention most people would shrug it off as a bluff, not taken seriously. (esp. if it is only verbal)

if you feel like you must: a formally-worded cease-and-desist-type written letter, by certified mail, notarized doesn't hurt, and most importantly with careful language provided or gone-over by an actual-lawyer with experience in relevant subjects. and be seriously ready to sue, not just bluffing.

but why do that?

instead, go to the local court and ask for an injunction against xyz behavior/action. in my state, the offending party doesn't even have to be there - in fact, I'm not sure they even get invited that initial time. then, if the judge thinks, "ok, sounds legit." an injunction letter goes directly from the court to the other party, and it's up to them how to respond/deal. it becomes simple legal fact, not threat.
(again, yes, my state is not your state, sorry; I don't know the rules in your state)

even this is unpleasant and stressful and a potential time-sink. although I am feeling like it's the only alternative to moving, in my own situation.
posted by dorian at 1:03 PM on May 26, 2015

Please don't call the police on these kids. I've heard way too many stories about cops getting a little too excited. Best case scenario you're scaring a bunch of young kids into maybe behaving better.

Have you told the mother you have Aspergers? She may just think you are being difficult or don't like children, but it sounds like this behavior is more profoundly disturbing for you. When I read you had Aspergers I found myself far more sympathetic to your plight.

Benjamin Franklin found that, paradoxically, people may like you better when you ask them to do them a favor. If you feel comfortable, don't make this about their bad behavior. Make it about your vulnerability. That way she is not a horrible mother who can't control her kids. She is a considerate neighbor with the power to make someone's day better.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:12 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just want to say that a lot of the answers here are pretty dismissive of the OP explicitly stating she has been through trauma and has Aspergers. It must be great to live in a world where those aren't issues for you, but don't mock others for being unwilling to accept a situation you yourself think is fine.
As a child my parents would never have allowed me to act this way and I'm pretty disgusted by most of the parenting I see. These people need to be parents instead of ignoring the situation because it gives them a few hours peace.
I would call the cops.
posted by shesbenevolent at 1:00 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

As a parent - Kids need time and space to be kids, and that's often difficult. However, kids also need to learn neighborhood boundaries, and not to annoy the neighbors, and especially that it's not okay to deliberately annoy the neighbors.

I second the vote of "give 'em ice cream/gift certificates," and don't care if you check with the parents first. Parents have already stated that they don't consider it their responsibility to manage kids' relations with the neighbors. Even with out the "sneaky" game of gradually reducing the gift, giving them something--especially something their parents might forbid--can make them more sympathetic to you.

The kids are people in the community; if the parents are abdicating supervision, then you can bypass the traditional social pattern of directing contact at the kids through the parents. As kids are often not sympathetic to needs they don't understand (ii.e. "I can't work with all your noise"--it's not noise to them), that leaves you with bargaining with or befriending them, or some of them. (Or sabotaging the playzone, but finding ways to make it unpleasant for them without making it dangerous can be difficult, and also invites escalation.)

Potentially: hire them to sort beads or pick up scraps of litter or do some other minor time-consuming and not-noisy task. It doesn't matter whether you can do this indefinitely; doing it just once may drastically change their relationship with you--you stop being "that ogre who yells at us sometime" and become "that lady that sometimes pays us to do something that was fun anyway"--and they'll be more inclined not to play in ways that make you miserable.

If you've got any tolerance for direct kid-contact, join the games--or at least the location of the games. Ask what they're playing. Learn their names. Ask their birthdays. Do this until they either accept you (and are willing to tone down the activity level on request) or decide you're too weird and don't play near your apartment anymore.

If this gets backlash from the parents ("My child said you spent an hour watching them! And asked them what grade they're in and who their friends are! What kind of creep are you?"), you can say that since you can't get any work done if they're playing, you might as well join the play. For some kinds of parents, you don't need to do anything creepy at all for them to pull the kids away from you. For others, they'll be happy to foist the weekend behavior management off on you... in which case, fine (assuming you can tolerate kids at all); teach 'em to be the kind of kids you'd like to have around. Or at least, the kind that you wouldn't mind having around.

A few weekends of (annoying, exhausting) social labor can potentially lay the groundwork for several years of pleasant interactions, for the price of a few hours a month of maintenance.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:43 PM on September 11, 2015

(Eep just realized how old this thread is. Sorry. Am new to Metafilter and not used to watching for that.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:05 PM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

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