How to deal with a grumpy, hostile neighbor
June 11, 2020 11:23 AM   Subscribe

My SO and I are in escrow on a cute little condo in a highly desirable area. We have wanted a place in this complex for MONTHS, and were ecstatic when our bid was accepted. Inspection went well, and all looked good. Yesterday, we visited the condo and had an interaction with the neighbor that left us concerned. More below the fold.

We had just finished talking with our agent and went for a walk in the park with our toddler, which is just outside the complex. Our agent had already left. When we circled back to the condo, our new neighbor was sitting outside on her front step. No smile, no wave, nothing. She flatly informed us that, "you can hear voices down the street" and once, in the middle of the night, she "heard a toilet paper roll off the holder and onto the floor. Just want to inform you about what you're getting into." We paused, stunned, and I said, "Um, my name is A, this is my husband B, and this is our daughter, C." She flatly said, "I'm D. I've probably been here longer than you've been alive." I said, "Well, it's nice to meet you, D. Take care," and we turned around and walked back to our car. Trying to be friendly, we waved in our car at her as we drove away. She held a flat hand up, with no smile.

We talked to an HOA member later that day, and they disclosed to us that in the almost-decade that they've worked there, she's only made complaints to a couple of tenants. One of them was a board member, and she accuse them of untrue, embarrassing things. She never calls the HOA directly, and she never shows up in person. We assume she's never called the cops. The HOA member made it clear that she is not a dangerous person, just odd. Never leaves her house, ever. We did a little research and discovered that she has, in fact, lived in that complex for almost 40 years, and the Google Maps images show that her car is parked in the EXACT same spot in her space year after year.

We are creating a paper trail so that if she complains, we have documentation of the incidents. We have some concern that she may call child protective services and make something up, but I worked in the industry and am fairly confident that they screen calls well enough to decipher spite calls from actual incidents of abuse. We have some concern that she may call the cops and make something up, though the HOA didn't disclose that to us and as far as the HOA member knew, this person files complaints by writing passive aggressive notes in her HOA payments.

We also know that her claims of poor sound conditioning is unfounded. We know another family living in that complex and most of the HOA board members live there, as well. The HOA confirmed that there have been no complaints of noise from unit-to-unit in the almost-decade that she's been working there.

We have also informed our agent of this incident, and she's informing the sellers so they know (and can possibly file a complaint with the HOA) that she is intentionally trying to deep-six this sale.

My question is - if she harasses us, do we have legal recourse, like a cease-and-desist letter or something, just to scare her off? Or do we have to go through the HOA? I have no idea what our rights are as tenants, though I am operating under the belief that we have the right to live in peace without harassment. We are clear that the HOA is aware of her behavior and does not take it seriously.

Retracting our bid is a last option. We've been in the market for months, and are at the bottom of the market in terms of what we can afford. This place is literally exactly what we wanted, and I'm loathe to give it up because of her misery. This condo is in a town with top-notch school system near a university with loads of educational opportunities and it borders an enormous, beautiful park with a playground, elementary school, library, and arts center. My plan is the "kill 'em with kindness" approach.
posted by onecircleaday to Law & Government (45 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Whoa, slow down. It's just a grumpy old neighbor. If the HOA and everyone you've talked to says she's just weird and there's nothing to worry about, then how on earth did you jump to the fear of her calling CPS or the cops? She hasn't done anything even resembling harassment. If this place is your perfect dream place with the exception of her, then count your blessings and just deal with it. I don't see the cause for concern. Yes, it could be slightly unpleasant but sometimes dealing with other humans can be unpleasant. Feel free to document whatever for peace of mind, but just yes, I think killing her with kindness is the only solution to what is currently a non-existent problem.
posted by greta simone at 11:37 AM on June 11, 2020 [164 favorites]

Yeah, document it but for now treat it as a non-issue. I know it doesn't feel this way, but her comments to you so far sound like the kind of things a very socially awkward person might say to someone. She wants to meet you, she's very curious about you, she doesn't know what to say so she's being helpful in a nearly hostile-seeming fashion. I had a landlord who lived next door to us who would leave me notes criticizing our home decor and how we washed clothes. It drove me absolutely nuts until I realized that in his (addled) brain he thought he was being helpful, and leaving me a note with advice that I couldn't really get my whites white when hanging them on the line in the middle of the day was, for him a form of social engagement.

I handled it by allowing my husband to read the notes for me and collecting them as a bit of an odd art project. Some of them are pretty wild.

Anyway - I'd document if you're concerned, but not let this worry you too much, and see if there is a way to reframe what the neighbor shared as "trying to be helpful in the most awkward fashion"
posted by arnicae at 11:43 AM on June 11, 2020 [14 favorites]

Wow, no, don't withdraw your bid. You really are letting your fears run away with you here. She sounds like she's kind of a weird person with bad social skills, and that's it, full stop. You've had one slightly uncomfortable interaction with her, and the HOA has told you that she doesn't have a propensity to make complaints, or a history of doing so. I don't see a single thing in your account that suggests she might call CPS, unless there's something major you're leaving out. Similarly, I think "intentionally trying to deep-six the sale" is just not supported from this account of events.

You're *never* going to find an apartment building without at least one odd person living there, unless you buy a house, and even then, there's always going to be the mean guy down the street who hates kids or what have you. Don't worry so much about a strange-o neighbor; that way madness lies.
posted by holborne at 11:45 AM on June 11, 2020 [30 favorites]

Geez, you are jumping pretty far from "grumpy person writes notes with her HOA payments" to "she will call CPS on us"!! That strikes me as a bit paranoid on your part.

I would definitely not retract your offer. She won't become your friend and that's fine. Plenty of people have grumpy neighbors who like to grouse. She sounds on the harmless end of that, and neighbors seem aware of her tendency.
posted by Bebo at 11:46 AM on June 11, 2020 [10 favorites]

I feel like I'm missing some major detail from your question as I cannot glean a single thing that would signal a propensity to call CPS (!) or actively trying to sabotage your purchase. I bet it felt super crappy to be "welcomed" to the building in that way, but she sounds a lot like certain people I've known who had nonexistent social skills and unpleasant demeanors and acted territorial about their neighborhood, but were otherwise harmless and generally pretty reclusive. I would trust the the assessment of the HOA member who has been in contact with her behavior for a decade, and not think on it further.
posted by anderjen at 11:57 AM on June 11, 2020 [11 favorites]

Have you lived in a condo before? We downsized about 5 years ago from a free-standing house to a condo. I was not prepared for living in a community and have been surprised. On the other hand, I've just been surprised, not appalled.

Her comments when she first met your family seem no more than...wacky? If you have windows on a street where people walk, you'll hear voices at times. I'm on the fifth floor, looking to a river. I can hear traces of voices through my front door if people talk going to or from the elevator. Can't tell what they're saying; don't care. It's not a problem; it's something that happens. As for the toilet paper roll...well, she has good hearing!

People on average live at an address for nine years. She's passed due for a move.
posted by tmdonahue at 12:08 PM on June 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Is there a reason you're so freaked out?
posted by warriorqueen at 12:10 PM on June 11, 2020 [31 favorites]

I don't understand what led you to believe your neighbour is hostile. It sounds to me that she gave you some helpful info about the condo complex. It sounds like she generally keeps to herself and she took a moment to let her new neighbours know about noise levels. What's the problem here?
posted by mayurasana at 12:11 PM on June 11, 2020 [15 favorites]

As a person with certified Bad Neighbors, I opened this question expecting to find...not what you described. You're definitely overreacting. Purchase your dream condo and move along.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:11 PM on June 11, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Neighbors are like coworkers. You're thrust into their world and you never know what you're going to get. This is as true for her as it is for you. If she's lived there for 40 years she probably prefers her world remain unchanged. You, by moving in, are changing her world. She's suspicious of you. Keep being polite and ignore her if she wants to be ignored.

"Long time resident who never leaves her house" is actually pretty high up there on the Big List of Desirable People To Live Next Door To. It could be much, much worse.
posted by bondcliff at 12:15 PM on June 11, 2020 [32 favorites]

The HOA member made it clear that she is not a dangerous person, just odd. Never leaves her house, ever.

Based on what you've described, I'm going to go with "cranky, curtain-twitching neighbour who, while maybe unpleasant to talk to, is in all likelihood harmless." I've had a couple over the years who were remarkably similar to the person you're describing.

A smile and a cheery "Have a nice day!" is usually a workable level of engagement if/when you encounter them.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:19 PM on June 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

We have also informed our agent of this incident, and she's informing the sellers so they know (and can possibly file a complaint with the HOA) that she is intentionally trying to deep-six this sale.

Aaaaaand the person escalating this completely benign exchange into a confrontation is you.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:20 PM on June 11, 2020 [90 favorites]

We have also informed our agent of this incident, and she's informing the sellers so they know (and can possibly file a complaint with the HOA) that she is intentionally trying to deep-six this sale.

This is a good way to make a non-problem into a problem. If you're responsible for a complaint filed against her before you've even moved in, then you're the one who is creating drama (and you've created a motive for her - deep-sixing the sale - out of pretty much thin air). And somehow in your brain this has turned into concerns about her complaining to authorities about you - when that's pretty much how you're starting this relationship. Is there any way to pull back on this complaint process? Because you're giving her a reason to dislike you.

Agree with everyone else that, unless you are leaving something major out, this is not a big deal (though it might be a bigger deal if your complaint goes to the HOA).
posted by FencingGal at 12:21 PM on June 11, 2020 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: I guess it's hard to describe how hostile she came across to both of us. There was a threat implied to both of us. /we looked at the HOA rules and they clearl states that if there is a complaint about noise, the quickest response is to call the police. So if she's someone who takes these things literally AND she's crazy, she may call CPS with an abuse complaint if, for example, our baby cries for 45 minutes at night, which sometimes happens. I'm not as paranoid as I sound - just trying to avoid a potentially bad situation.

When I was a teenager, we had a neighbor that videotaped us while sunbathing (totally gross) and had my mother arrested for our dog, so yeah, there's a history there. He openly harassed us until we left.
posted by onecircleaday at 12:22 PM on June 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Buy the condo and be exactly as pleasant to her as you would be to any other new neighbor, until and unless she harasses you in some way. Unless you’ve left out some pertinent details, it sounds like emotions are (understandably!) running high around this big purchase, and you’re planning twelve steps past where you should be. By all means, since you’ve already started a conversation with the HOA a about this, go ahead and ask them what their processes are for resolving any neighbor disputes that might arise with *any* neighbor.

Beyond that, you don’t need to do anything now. She isn’t big on smiling and waving, warned a possible new neighbor about noise, and keeps to herself. Nothing you’ve described other than thirdhand rumors via the HOA sounds like an actual problem. Dial it back before you create a problem where none exists.
posted by Stacey at 12:22 PM on June 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

On preview: please also don’t go around describing her as “crazy”; ableist language isn’t going to help your case and can be hurtful to people with mental health diagnoses who are here on Metafilter with you.

Taking your word for it that there was a tone issue there that isn’t easily conveyed, my answer doesn’t change. You’ve been told that she has no significant history of doing the thing you’re worried she might do. You’ve done your due diligence here and in your shoes I’d move ahead with the purchase and hope for the best, while keeping relations with the HOA board good in case I needed their support later.
posted by Stacey at 12:27 PM on June 11, 2020 [15 favorites]

Best answer: One of them was a board member, and she accuse them of untrue, embarrassing things

yea, I'd be worried about her too after hearing this, I think people are glossing over this part when they say you shouldn't be concerned. It does sound like you have gotten ahead of this situation by talking to the HOA, and the suggestion to treat her with extra kindness is a good one. Another idea you could look into is see if there is anything you could do to add additional soundproofing to the wall between your two units. My parents were able to really deaden the sound between two bedrooms of a mobile home they have in florida by adding a second layer of gyprock between the rooms. My Dad added the second layer using liquid nails adhesive so that no sound vibrations would be transmitted through screws holding up the gyprock. I've stayed in that room many times and have never heard any noise through that wall.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:35 PM on June 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

I'm going to disagree with the general consensus on this thread. It's pretty shocking that everyone here is discounting your perception of events and asserting that you are the one who is misreading the situation. I agree with your assessment that her statements indicate either someone who does not understand social norms and may or may not have underlying mental health issues. However, whatever the underlying reason for her odd behavior and statements does not really matter; what matters is your well-being and comfort within your living space and community. Do you really want to live in such close proximity to a person who makes you feel this uncomfortable?
posted by seesom at 12:38 PM on June 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I would proceed with buying the home you want so much.

I had a cranky, agoraphobic neighbor across the street. The car in the driveway was covered in moss. I made it a task to befriend her. It took years, but it happened. She was lonely. Her house looked neglected and was an obvious target; she'd been broken into and was scared. I am happy to have had her as a friend.
posted by theora55 at 12:40 PM on June 11, 2020 [28 favorites]

Best answer: When I was a teenager, we had a neighbor that videotaped us while sunbathing (totally gross) and had my mother arrested for our dog, so yeah, there's a history there. He openly harassed us until we left.

That is a really strong history and I can understand where you're coming from that way. But in your post it sounds fairly benign: "We talked to an HOA member later that day, and they disclosed to us that in the almost-decade that they've worked there, she's only made complaints to a couple of tenants. One of them was a board member, and she accuse them of untrue, embarrassing things. She never calls the HOA directly, and she never shows up in person. We assume she's never called the cops. The HOA member made it clear that she is not a dangerous person, just odd."

When we moved into our current home we had a neighbour call the city because the previous owners left their garbage at the curb, so we had to haul it all into our garage (and then back out on garbage day.) She was pretty cranky. We were really concerned as at our last home, we had a neighbour that kept stealing things out of our yard and barn because "we weren't using them." I sort of list this to say really that everywhere I've lived, there's been one challenging person.

It worked out okay as we got to know her and actually I miss her. I don't think you have to assume that this person is going to go from neighbourhood crank to getting you arrested. I think your plan to kill her with kindness is probably going to work out for you.

Having said that, I realized your question was what's your recourse. It sounds like your HOA refers issues to local authorities. So I think your recourse would be whatever it would be in any neighbourhood situation, which can come up at any time as neighbours move, develop cognitive issues, etc. Documenting as you go is a great idea!
posted by warriorqueen at 12:59 PM on June 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

There was a threat implied to both of us. /we looked at the HOA rules and they clearl states that if there is a complaint about noise, the quickest response is to call the police. So if she's someone who takes these things literally AND she's crazy, she may call CPS with an abuse complaint if, for example, our baby cries for 45 minutes at night, which sometimes happens. I'm not as paranoid as I sound - just trying to avoid a potentially bad situation.

You stated earlier that this person has never called the police in 40 years of living there, despite being perhaps overly sensitive about small noises. It seems extremely unlikely that this woman will suddenly run to the police or CPS over a baby crying when she never has before. I'm quite sure that in the past 40 years she's heard many babies crying, plus far worse things.

Being somewhat eccentric or socially awkward, returning your wave without an obvious smile and accusing someone of embarrassing things once in 40 years (I'm curious whether you know for a fact that they were untrue and if so, whether the woman knew that at the time) are really not the worst traits you can find in a neighbour by a long shot.
posted by randomnity at 1:01 PM on June 11, 2020 [8 favorites]

I do feel like you are escalating this in a way that does not really seem to be borne out by your interaction with her; you're assessing her mental health off of just this and some hearsay and "research" and that is concerning to me. I get that maybe I had to be there, but your reaction makes me feel like you should probably reconsider living in a place where you have to share walls with someone who makes you feel this way.

I'm not suggesting that it's okay that she makes (perhaps) unfounded or nasty complaints about her neighbors (you're taking the statement as true from another neighbor who I presume you do not know). I consider it to be relatively harmless to write nasty notes on your HOA payments that no one does anything about but acknowledge that it's your prerogative if you don't.

I'm actually more curious about whether any of her complaints were valid and nothing was done, because that indicates something about the HOA itself.
posted by sm1tten at 1:01 PM on June 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I definitely wouldn't let this sour you on the house. Go ahead and enjoy your other new neighbors!

You've already talked to the HOA, and you're going to be a kind and responsible neighbor, so you're doing everything right. Be nice and friendly when you see her, and be a good neighbor, and you're doing good.

Also, I have a hunch that trying to be overlyfriendly, like you make it a mission to go knock on her door every other week with cookies or whatever, may backfire; she may just wanna keep to herself, and if you're dropping by without her inviting you it may come across as "oh god the new neighbors are all up in my grill" and it may piss her off. Wave if you see her outside, make a comment about the lovely weather, and if she grumbles leave it at that. If she is the kind of person who wants to keep to herself that also may explain the attitude you got - "oh, jeez they got a kid that's going to want to come over and play with my cat every day or some such I just wanna be left alone and decide when I want company". If you are friendly but not overly so, she may relax.

Also, consider - if she's lived there for 40 years and there have only been TWO people that the HOA says she's complained about, that's good odds for you. Take the house, keep on good terms with the HOA and with her, and good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:02 PM on June 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

Honestly, I think it will be fine. It sounds like this person may have poor social skills and maybe some other problems. Usually, when I encounter people who report odd and untrue things, I get the impression they have abnormal perceptions of some kind. It could be an extreme sensitivity to certain sensations/sounds, a cognitive dysfunction, a tendency to hallucinate or suffer from paranoid thoughts, or any number of things. It's rare, in my experience, that people like that are honestly malicious, even if they are challenging or unpleasant to interact with.

For years I lived next to this kind of person, and it wasn't that bad. A few times she came to the door with some nasty accusations and confusing complaints about us/other neighbors. She also sometimes just wanted to complain about objectively annoying things in the neighborhood, and had no one else who'd listen. If you were assertive about needing to move on and go elsewhere after a few minutes, it wasn't a problem, and I think it made her feel better.

I always suspected she was in cognitive decline, and later this proved true. Actually, the situation exploded in a really terrible way due to her family's denial of this, and we were the ones who had to call for social services. She eventually got into a facility for Alzheimer's.

There were only a few really bad days with her over the course of years, and I hate to think what would have happened if no one were next door to observe what was going on.
posted by desert outpost at 1:11 PM on June 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

We just sold our house, which I loved, and moved because of our neighbours. That was literally the reason. I'm probably just bitter but bad neighbours can completely ruin your experience of home.
posted by thereader at 1:25 PM on June 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I just want to chime in with a similar experience, and give you a best case scenario. We bought a summer home in a small quirky community that's run like a co-op in many ways. Our closest neighbor (about 15 feet from our house to hers) is notoriously unpleasant. She, in fact, had made baseless allegations and called the cops on another neighbor for stealing something out of her purse. She has made weird vague-book rants on our list serve, and alienated pretty much everyone she had ever been friends with there.

However, we treated her with kindness from the get go. We headed off any potential issues (construction noise, guests) telling her in advance how to get it touch with us. I exchange small pleasantries when I see her, and check in with her by email when she's not there for extended periods of time. And ultimately, we've had no issues. When there was a transgression, like someone working for us accidentally ran over a small forsythia on her property with his truck, I immediately let her know and offered to replace it. She waved it off and said not to worry. Fingers crossed that you can have the same non-antagonistic relationship.
posted by kimdog at 1:37 PM on June 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think you're being unreasonably concerned. I have had some bad neighbors who totally wrecked my mental health, and had friends who were so badly harassed for living their normal daily lives that they ended up selling/moving rather than face ongoing harassment that fucked up their mental health.

She's already told you very clearly that she does not want you there, so don't negotiate with terrorists. You don't need to provide your number to her to tell her to contact you if you're too noisy or whatever.

Regulations from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA) make community associations liable for taking prompt action to correct neighbor-to-neighbor harassment that meets certain guidelines. If you think this neighbor is likely to harass you as a member of a protected class, you need to get your realtor involved to ensure that the HOA has insurance that covers this topic, and read the HOA rules very very carefully. You may well be within your rights to sue an HOA for not protecting you from harassment as a member of a protected class, but doing so also hurts you, because lawsuits cost HOAs money and as a member you'd be paying that money. Thus the admonition to check their insurance.

If you are very concerned, I might suggest that you ask the sellers to pony up an amount equal to typical moving expenses into an escrow, and document its' use for the purpose of having to move in the event of documented harassment. Get a lawyer to write up the agreement. It could revert in 18 months or something reasonable.
posted by juniperesque at 2:34 PM on June 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you are getting a bad enough vibe from this lady to give up a place that is otherwise perfect for you, listen to that vibe. Other people weren't there and weren't experiencing it, so it's easy to be all, "It's okay!" I got the chills just hearing that she's complaining about hearing a toilet paper roll fall in the middle of the night. There's no way to appease that level of .... problematic. You're not going to be able to escape her easily if she makes your life difficult.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:37 PM on June 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

Huh, I would interpret her words as trying to warn you about the lack of soundproofing in the building (in an aggressively negative way) rather than warning you that she wouldn’t tolerate noise from you. But I wasn’t there and you were. Nevertheless, I offer it as an alternate explanation - she might be someone who just loves to bitch and moan.
posted by mskyle at 3:14 PM on June 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

She was just living in her house, watching yet another random person -- a giant unknown -- moving in next to her. You affect her quality of life enormously. Please don't paint her as hostile if she was just checking you out, giving you a heads up [in advance of any problems, yay] about the potential noise issues, and not smiling.

She shouldn't have to smile - she's at home. She's not necessarily hostile, just hasn't decided to be friendly yet.

And it would be 100% natural for her to be a little concerned about new people with a baby moving in. There's every chance you could end up on friendly terms with her.

My advice? Give serious thought to how you manage the noise from the baby crying.

And it's _normal_ to pick a parking spot and always park there.
posted by amtho at 3:53 PM on June 11, 2020 [25 favorites]

She maybe wasn't prepared to do the emotional labor to "be welcoming", but she did feel some responsibility to give you some of the information she's accumulated.

Talking about being able to hear a specific thing is a good way to give you non-vague information about the degree of noise transmission. Probably the TP roll is on a wall that is between units, which makes its noise carry through.

Just take the info, thank her, and take on the job of being charming yourself.

As for the past incident - she's been there 40 years. Who knows what went down between those two people.
posted by amtho at 3:58 PM on June 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

Be friendly, and very much keep things on the surface. Don't avoid her or seem hostile. Be friendly and even a bit chipper. "Hello Mrs. Smith!" And just keep moving.

She's been there a long time. I think this will be okay.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:28 PM on June 11, 2020

From your description of your interaction I’d guess that you’re not going to have a good relationship with your neighbor. Sooner or later neighbors have to cooperate and my guess is everything would have to be done through the HOA because of your discomfort with each other. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the place, but be aware of what you may be getting into.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:51 PM on June 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mod note: A few comments deleted. Folks, AskMe's not the place for discussion among commenters; please keep the focus on helping the asker with constructive answers to their question. If you don't want to help, that's totally ok, but please skip the question then. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:15 PM on June 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you to the posters who responded to the question as it was asked and respected not only our concern of the hostility of this individual, but also our perception of the events that unfolded.
posted by onecircleaday at 6:37 PM on June 11, 2020

Have you read The Gift of Fear? Listen to your instincts and trust yourself. Don't let this run you away from a great condo, but set up your lives and your systems and your expectations now with the understanding that she's likely to be a problem at some point in the future.

You certainly don't want to make the problem worse, but do protect yourself from the beginning.
posted by mccxxiii at 7:23 PM on June 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I will say when we moved into our most recent apartment, I got a distinctly unfriendly vibe from our downstairs neighbor, but we moved in anyway because we liked the apartment. Neighbor has gotten no friendlier and in fact we've realized the whole block is kind of cold and snobbish. Luckily it's a rental, so we can move in September. I would have been distraught if we had purchased this place and were stuck here. Liking your neighbors can make a non-negligible difference in general life happiness.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:01 PM on June 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Another factor to consider is that the people on the HOA don't yet know you. You may be quite right, but if your first encounter with the HOA is a complaint about a long-term resident, that may affect their opinion of you adversely.

Unless you're a member of a protected class and have reason to suspect discrimination, I'd seriously consider withdrawing from the contract if possible. Fear and anger, whether or not they're justified, don't make a comfortable home.
posted by SereneStorm at 8:03 PM on June 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's just... you're mostly alarmed/creeped out that there was "no smile". She did wave to you. I hoped we were moving away from requiring women to smile.

I hope that, if you move in, you give her a real chance. Otherwise you could be missing out on possibly the most valuable neighbor in the area.
posted by amtho at 12:56 AM on June 12, 2020 [17 favorites]

It's pretty shocking that everyone here is discounting your perception of events and asserting that you are the one who is misreading the situation.

Because many (most?) of us would literally pass out from joy if our bad neighbors were as "bad" as described in this post. I mean, I guess it's possible onecircleaday could roll the dice and find somewhere else where there are no bad neighbors, but it's probably more likely they would have wished they picked the house where the worst neighbor just didn't smile enough.
posted by sideshow at 10:43 AM on June 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

I really, really, really feel like there is more of an issue here than just a lack of a smile. Literally her first and second things she says are warnings (one of them being an extraordinarily nitpicky nitpick if she complains about a toilet roll falling over...and OP is moving in with a kid) and then implying that the OP is kinda immature or whatever. I am creeped out reading it. Sure, she could have some kind of thing I'm not even gonna try to diagnose or whatever going on, but I just felt like everything she said was designed to make the OP buzz off. Which, well, if she never leaves her house and can't deal with the noise of a toilet paper roll...I'll be fair, having a kid move in may not appeal to her. (Especially these days when we can't leave our homes to get away from anyone annoying.)

I haven't dealt with an HOA so I have no idea on the honesty of those folks, but their assessment of the situation is what I think you might want to base this off of. She may not be pleasant, she may occasionally make crank/noise calls, but if the HOA isn't lying, she may be more of an occasional problem to deal with than a perpetual thorn in your ass. I'd recommend asking the other family you know and others in the area if possible if she's worth NOT moving in about or not. How often does she bother anyone else? Does she have a hate-on for kids? Has she bothered anyone else about theirs?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:34 PM on June 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Warnings are gifts. If there's a noise issue, you _should_ know about it before you move in (whether the issue is you hearing noise, or you causing others to hear noise) so that you can prepare or make accommodations.

The fact that something as small as a TP roll can cause noise is an indicator if the degree or kind of problem, potentially, or a particular item that can be addressed (maybe by mounting the roll differently, or in another location).

People _should_ be able to stay in their homes without having to hear noise from other people.
posted by amtho at 10:13 PM on June 12, 2020

I think you should stick with the condo. You talked to the HOA people and know some of them as well as other residents and they have told you that she's not a big problem, just a standard issue grump.

My grandmom as she mentally declined in old age started to complain about everything, but never escalate or officially complain. That was her conversation style. I guess she thought she was being relatable or trying to be like "we're all in this together" but it just came off...not like that. My family just kind of minimally responds and talks about other stuff. IT was maddening because she was not the grandmom i knew.

IF it were a neighbor and not family, i would just try to avoid conversation. You can maybe win her over and still avoid conversation with small gestures like sending her a holiday card if that's something you do.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:40 AM on June 13, 2020

It's difficult to understand why you feel so threatened by this woman's lack of friendliness. What power does she have over you? Is there some power dynamic at work here that is missing from your post?

For example, if she's white and you're not, then the seemingly-mild hostility from her is indeed a real concern. She might be inclined to harass you more boldly than she has harassed others in the past; her harassment of you would indeed be more 'effective' - i.e. if she really did call CPS, they would be more inclined to believe her and suspect you. If you occupy a marginalized identity, your sense of bad vibes would be quite trustworthy because you've honed it over a lifetime of experience with non-explicit, under-the-radar hostility.

But if you're white, where is the threat, exactly?? Even if she calls CPS, even if she calls the police, even if she complains to the HOA, so what? When was the last time CPS listened to a kooky, socially-inept old lady who has no husband, over you, the assertive, articulate, young, white, straight, cis, married middle-class mom (do you fathom how powerful each of these is?!)? When was the last time the police harassed someone like you on the word of someone like her? The HOA folks already know about her false accusations against the other board member, she already has a reputation in that building, so once again: what is the real threat level here?

If you're white, then she, as an older woman living on her own with debilitating mental health issues (she barely leaves her house!), is extremely vulnerable to you. Your "fear"-based reaction to her has already put her in far more danger than she even hypothetically poses to you, let alone anything she has actually done to you so far. WHITE WOMEN'S "FEAR" IS DEADLY to anyone who isn't a white man. Please stop going after this lady with your Karen power. She has done nothing to deserve it.
posted by MiraK at 8:57 AM on June 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

It's difficult to understand why you feel so threatened by this woman's lack of friendliness. What power does she have over you? Is there some power dynamic at work here that is missing from your post?

Gentle re-direct: Home Owner's Associations can be strict to residents of ANY race, and a new resident who isn't as certain of the power dynamic in an established neighborhood may be worried that a neighbor who is prone to complaining about others for small infractions may start up such a campaign against them. Parents of young children, who are known to be lively and not always that great about remembering to use their indoor voice, may be especially concerned that they may be living next to a neighbor prone to making noise complaints over very small issues.

And thus (to re-direct back to the OP), this is all the more reason to make sure you have an open line of communication with the HOA yourself and a record of responding to any of their communications politely and promptly, and generally being a good neighbor yourself, so that if things come down to a "your word against hers" situation, you have some kind of a history with them for them to draw on when they're assessing the truth of a situation.

But, again, I have a strong sense that while she may be grumpy, I think the fact that she's only made two complaints to the HOA about other people suggests that her grumpiness is more of an "oh, that's just her mood" kind of thing rather than a "she's going to be complaining about us to the HOA all the time" kind of thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:53 PM on June 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

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