It was nearing five o’clock in the morning and I hadn’t been to sleep. Screeching, indistinguishable death metal poured out across our normally peaceful inner-city suburb. Fed up, I marched up the street and knocked on the door of the offending house, only to be met by a mad man brandishing a knife.
The night I confronted my neighbour, who’d been slowly sending me batty for close to three weeks, was one of the scariest of my adult life. It also served as an important lesson to leave late night visits to party houses to the boys and girls in blue.
I’d been living in my apartment, mid-renovation, for a few months, in a lovely neighbourhood that’s mostly full of old colonial homes and terraces, just a stone’s throw from the city. It offered the best of both worlds – relatively quiet yet a short trip from the action. Then, one night, the action came to me… set to a 90s metal soundtrack.
It was Metallica, combined with the sound of people talking loudly and laughing hysterically. Without exaggeration, I could hear every word of their conversations. They weren’t that amusing. The host sounded like a prize pig too, cracking nothing but misogynist, homophobic or racist jokes. His piercing, cockney accent was almost as infuriating as his selection of music.
The house itself was about 20 metres away and elevated at the top of a hill, directly overlooking my bedroom window. The guy’s parties usually kicked off around midnight and took place almost every night. Not weekends, either – random Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, typically.
For a few nights, I put up with it. I’m not sure why – perhaps I’m just a pacifist at heart, seeking to avoid confrontation. Or a wimp. Anyway, towards the end of a very long and sleep-deprived week, one of the shindigs turned nasty. As he and his girlfriend broke into a loud and descriptive verbal argument, their mates began filing off the balcony and onto the street.
Then I heard the slap, followed by a shriek and a high-pitched “I can’t believe you hit me! I hate you!” I called the police and they responded quickly. That night, I was able to get to sleep by three o’clock. It was bliss.
The horror kicked off again a few nights later with The Prodigy. This time, and in nights to follow, I called the police. They’d come, tell my nightmare neighbour to keep it down, and leave. Sometimes the guests would leave and he’d hit the hay, but other times the volume would escalate again within minutes.
One morning, I’d had enough. I marched up the street in my pyjamas and pounded on the door with a witty but barbed spiel scripted in my head. Instead, I was left totally speechless when the guy greeted me with a knife. Why was he angry at me? Bizarre.
I backed away at lightning speed, returned home, hid in the cupboard (I don’t know why) and called the police. The next day, shaken up and thoroughly hysterical from the torture of extended sleep deprivation, I recounted my story to a lawyer friend. He took over the situation, tracking down the owner of the property and threatening to sue if the tenant wasn’t evicted.
It seems a bit extreme but in the end it was the only thing that worked. The tenants were gone a week later and I never heard so much as a peep from their replacements. This is after weeks of begging my local council to take action and near-nightly calls to the police. Equally annoyed neighbours up and down the street were also too frightened by the guy’s apparent aggression to do anything about the noise. We were all stuck between a rock and an idiot.
Noise is a problem that affects a lot of communities and a new website aims to help, as well as cash in. The service offers discounted legal action over inconsiderate neighbours by hitting offenders where it hurts – the hip pocket.
For a fee, those copping an eardrum bashing can have legal letters sent from a lawyer to the owner of the offending property. A failure to act gives cause for further action, the operators say. Not a bad idea.
In some ways, I’m glad that I was living in the property and not a tenant, who’d naturally be unlikely to stick around too long. A friend is going through that situation at the moment, where her renters are fed up with a noisy neighbour and want to cut their lease early.
Have you experienced a nightmare neighbour? What did you do to rectify the situation?
Shannon Molloy is the deputy editor of Australian Property Investor magazine www.apimagazine.com.au