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Dealing with noisy neighbours 10 January 2010 93

Hello all.

For more than two years I have lived in a rather nice and quiet block of units. There are not too many of us. Some are owners, some like me are renters. I get on well with my neighbours. I make a point of never doing anything to my neighbours that I would not want done to me. I regularly ask them if any noise I am making is disturbing them, and they do likewise. In short, it is a great place to live where most of the time all is in harmony. Or at least it was until a couple of months ago.

On the opposite side of my courtyard a woman moved in. Older, with some grey hair. Almost immediately she started playing her television up late at night at a volume that was not excessively loud, but loud enough to be heard very clearly in my unit at night, even with my door to the courtyard closed. So I went around and politely asked her to turn it down. Which she said she would. But she didn’t. A couple of nights later, after having endured some more sleeplessness I go around and politely ask again. And I do mean politely.

This woman immediately gets irate and insists I come in saying that her television is not making any noise. Only it is not only making some noise, it is making quite some considerable noise. I try to point that out to her, but she stands there and yells at me that it is not, and is clearly getting quite irate. I explained that from my courtyard I could hear her television over my own television and invited her to come listen to it but she won’t have a bar of it. She insisted she was not making any noise and is clearly now very angry at me. So I decide to leave and say that the next time she has the television up I’ll call the police.

I have to admit I was pretty unhappy at her aggressive behaviour, and her total inflexibility in admitting she was making noise. Well, so begins two months of living hell.

This woman started to play her television up loud from the moment she got home to the moment she went to work the next day. That is ALL night, EVERY night. 🙁

Now I need my sleep, so I did the only thing I could do, which was to call the police. One night I had to call them three times because after they left (I could hear them talking to her at least once) she just turned the television up again. I didn’t want to annoy the police over what would seem to be a trivial thing. but when you get only 3 hours sleep a night, then some one keeping you awake is no trivial thing. To make it worse, she was clearly repeatedly playing a dvd or video as I soon came to recognise repeated sound tracks and words. This woman was playing some show over and over again!

I’m not the only one affected. My other neighbour who is an insomniac also heard this and we’ve spoken about it. Initially She was kept up by the incessant coughing of the noisy neighbour.

Anyway, before Christmas I contacted my real estate agent and the Queanbeyan Council about the issue. Thankfully the real estate is looking in to it. They can sympasise with the issue, and as I’ve always paid my rent on time and never done anything wrong, as well as looking after the place, they value me as a tenant. So I thought things were on the up and up.

Then this morning I get a knock on the door and there’s a couple of police officers wanting to know if I turned off her fuses this morning. Of course I have not. Though the thought had crossed my mind several times. Why the heck would I climb out of bed when I am sleeping, to turn off the woman’s power though? Early morning is the only time I ever get any sleep. Besides which, as a public slave I know full well that I could loose my job if I do something, anything illegal, and subsequently am extremely law abiding. I mean here’s this rather nice and polite police officer explaining how we all have to make allowances when we live in close proximity and I’m standing there thinking I know that, I live by that, I hope he told her that as well. I was also thinking that I’ve called them enough, they should know by now that if I have an issue with this woman the first thing I’m going to do is call them, not play with her fuses. It also occurs to me that some of my neighbours simply don’t have my patience and have probably flicked the fuses to shut her up. This silly woman has probably put 2 and 2 together and come up with 16.

Then again, as I said, the thought had crossed my mind, but if I was going to resort to sleep deprived insanity I’d make a proper job of it and take to the fuse box with a nice insulated hammer and reduce it to small unworkable parts and then I’d yank out the cable from it to the meter box ensuring that she could not have power for weeks. But in reality, I’ve always been a pacifist, and it is far simpler and easier to just move if she insists on continuing to make noise.

So, I’m in the situation where I barely get any sleep, the noise is enough to keep me awake, but not loud enough to be heard from the street. Ear plugs are not effective, and give me instant headaches. If I leave the courtyard door open I get a full blast of the TV. If I leave it closed I boil in the heat and can still hear the television. I’ve called the council, I’ve called the police (lots), I’ve spoken to my real estate agent who is progressing. Now I’m being falsely accused of flicking switches which may or may not have even happened (anyone crazy enough to play their television all night and isn’t a shift worker, is probably crazy enough to make stuff like this up to cause me trouble). On top of that I’ve become so fatigued I’ve had to take time off work, my doctor has prescribed sleeping tablets and I have noticed I am not as focussed driving as I normally am. I’m basically a walking zombie.

The frustrating thing about this though is that this woman has not bothered to do anything reasonable to come to a compromise. Right from the start she said she’s made no noise. Instead she could have spoken to me calmly instead of being intimidating and we could have worked out any number of compromises. She could have used teletext on the television, headphones, wireless headphones. If she needed the television on to get to sleep why not use a timer to turn it off when she was asleep? Why not close her courtyard door at night?

If anyone knows of any approaches I have not yet taken to remedy this situation please let me know. They have to be legal though. While I may have evil thoughts of jumping up and down on her television that will not solve anything. In the mien time I will probably have to spend yet another night sleeping in the heat in my van in the back yard.

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93 Responses to Dealing with noisy neighbours
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loosebrown 4:44 pm 15 Jan 10

Urban – anyone who enjoys driving around documenting perceived traffic infringements has some issues. You also sound depressed – I suggest you seek some counselling. Google SANE Australia – you won’t find much quality advice here.

Katietonia 7:00 pm 15 Jan 10

I am a bit ashamed to say I did this but I once lived beside a guy in a duplex who used to blast techno with a loud sub until 4am. So I got my guitar amp, plugged in a microphone and created a loop of the chick screaming in the texas chainsaw massacre to play through the tv with the mic on it. Put the amp against the wall, blasted it at his bedroom, then went away for the weekend.

Now that was MANY years ago but it actually worked. He got the point. I had politely asked him numerous times to turn atleast the bass down on his music after midnight but he didn’t. I could feel the wall thumping even with ear plugs in.

WonderfulWorld 6:09 pm 16 Jan 10

A couple of years ago I received bongo drums for Christmas. We also used to play the radio in our garage, not what we thought we loud, but was on a lot as we came in and out of the house gardening and playing with the kids. We received a letter in the mail from an ACT Government place, unfortunately I don’t have their name at hand, but I would be surprised if the police didn’t advise you to contact them.
They came to our house and measured the decibals of our radio and the bongos to the back corner of our fence. We then knew what the acceptable and allowable limit of our radio and bongo playing was, and it was a different level depending on what time of the day/night it was. Basically we were advised that during the night, say after 10pm our talking level from our back deck to the boundry line fences was the acceptable level for the radio and bongos.
It was a good learning curve as prior to our neighbours complaint we did have the noise higher than that. We are long term owners in the area, and I guess other neighbours were OK with it, but we were considerate and changed our ways with the new neighbours present.
Long I know but bascially I’m suggesting that there are other legal agencies that do deal with this and for ACT/Queanbeyan I’m sure it would be in the yellow pages.

Sorry can’t help with the name of the agency itself but was local government.

jellyroh 10:27 pm 16 Jan 10

@urban – I’ve been there. I can understand 100% how you’re feeling.

@Katitonia – you are a legend, frankly you’re an even bigger legend for using TCM for the screams (screams don’t come better than those from TCM).

I went 6 months in a newly leased one bedroom unit with a nightmare student neighbour beneath me who would nightly (yes, I said nightly) use his residence as a meeting place for as many people he could cram in. Sometimes the yelling and shouting would only go until 10-11pm sometimes (if they were high) the noise would go on until the wee hours of the morn. I’d equate the noise to being like living above a nightclub or bar. For the record I’m based in Canberra, don’t know if there are differences in tenancy laws out your way but the Canberra laws were written simple, clear and easy to understand (and they tend to cover all manner of problem situations).

I started by talking to the resident, noting the impact of the noise on myself personally and politely asking if he could ensure his friends would tone down the noise later at night. I repeated that process three more times, by the fourth time it was clear that he wasn’t particularly happy that I hadn’t already given up. I ‘endured’. I ‘endured’ until I started to walk into walls at work (yes, I really really did that’s what actual physical fatigue does to your system) and began slurring my words when I was speaking to people on the phone. Still, I ‘endured’ until it literally got to the point where I would have to find a quiet place at work and try to sleep because I couldn’t focus on anything. At that point I contacted my agent and thus began the process of dealing with the noise maker more directly. This went on for about two months (I tolerated the lack of sleep for four miserable months believe it or not).

Given that I was already up at 3am on a Monday night (Tuesday morn) I would simply note the type, volume etc of noise then collect the fortnights worth of disturbance records and put them all in an email to the agent and point out to them that in order for myself to pay my rent I needed to be able to actually work to earn a living and, in order to do that I needed to obtain some level of sleep after hours. The times were a record to indicate that that was totally impossible (I was also trying to ‘case build’ to go to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal to see if I could have my tenancy contract ceased). The agent (we shared an agent – this action would normally be done via the body corporate) delivered three breach notices to the tenant across I believe a month and a half period (six to seven weeks – the tenant had two weeks to correct the behaviour and never would).

The ‘motives’ of the tenant in breach are irrelevant, all that matters is that they are in breach of a legal contract – the notices are ‘notifications to comply’ with the tenancy contract. Lack of compliance results in eviction. In my case the tenant actually acknowledged that they were making the noise but said that they viewed it as a ‘right’ – that as they were paying rent they could do whatever they wanted at whatever volume they wished whenever they wanted. Even the agent became flummoxed by this behaviour. The behaviour did stop upon delivery of the final final final notice. That behaviour did cost me dearly though.

For the record I also began calling the police quite regularly and (in Canberra) they were eventually quite supportive (and responsive) there was little they could do but by including them I was able to further my case that the behaviour was out of control. No, using the police is not a waste of their resources it is (and was) a highly effective way to advance the problem to its eventual solution and they were happy to do it (got to know the coppers who would man the phones locally quite well). Locally, I also used the canberra govvie ‘Yer TV’s too loud’ mob (mentioned previously I think) who sent a notice to the tenant and (I believe, upon my request) to my agent. All helped to support my case.

I couldn’t just walk out because I’d be in breach of a newly signed tenancy agreement and (frankly) moving does cost money and after having moved in I couldn’t just ‘move out’ over night. I like staying within the law myself, aint nothin’ wrong with being someone who honors contracts, agreements etc (whether your a public or private employee). I did play music very loudly once or twice whilst I knew the tenant beneath me would be sleeping to ruin their day (as they’d ruined my night) but I never much liked meeting fire with fire (where no fire should have existed in the first place) and besides it never stopped the behaviour for more than a day.

People consistently told me to ‘toughen up’ or ‘tell the agent to evict them’ (wow, brilliant ideas!). Deprive the toughest person of sleep for an extended period of time and I’ll show you a quivering pathetic bawling baby who’d do anything for just one period of unbroken sleep. As one of my fellow staff said after asking me why I looked like death warmed up one day, ‘sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture’ – yes, it sure as hell is. Your feelings are not abnormal, not irrational and most importantly – not your fault (doesn’t take more effort than turning a knob or pressing a TV button to rid you of this problem does it and yet that seems unlikely or just ‘too difficult’ for the other party to do).

I think it’s pathetic that you have to go so far as to request to mediate with this tele-bully, I don’t agree with the negatives posts against you thus far and (after my own experience) I’m not interested in considering anyones ‘other side of the story’ (remember, there are ‘laws’ there for a reason, ‘laws’ are not options they are ‘laws’). (In my best Clint Eastwood voice) Law says you should have the right to enjoy your residence in peace, she aint playin’ the laws game so feel free to use the law to remind her that while she may be queen in her own lounge room she’s as beholden to the law as are you or I in regard to what she does in that loungeroom (and as to how that behaviour affects the people around her). I say this as a person who did just that myself, in my own way (and with the help of a variety of people – all the peoples I could muster to assist me) over the course of several months. If you leave then all that happens is that the next poor tenant who moves into your vacated residence unknowingly cops it when they move in (and that my friend is how I ended up in just the situation that you’re experiencing now – and that’s the ‘third’ side to this story, the one where the next tenant in line has their life ruined too).

Happy trails to you my friend and to her, Yippee ki-yay M*********!!!! 6:46 am 18 Jan 10

Well I am moving soon.
Last week two scratches appeared down the side of my car one morning, and some of tthe plants in the courtyard seem to have died with the look of having been sprayed by something. 🙁

spinact 11:31 am 21 Jan 10

Grrrr said :

Two thoughts:

White noise. Get a cheap pedestal fan for your bedroom and turn it on high. It’ll provide plenty of pleasant sounding noise which will cover up outside noises .. and cooling on hot nights.

Go over there and complain each and every time it’s too loud. Take your digicam and put it on movie mode if you want evidence of the old lady beating you up.

Even better, brown noise……….or was that a myth?

Been following this thread with some interest. Having experienced a week of sleep deprivation, I know that it can stuff with your head big time. Fortunately I’ve never been in the same situation as you Urban, so unfortunately I don’t have any sagely advice for you.

It shouldn’t, but it never ceases to amaze me how some people are completely ignorant of how they may be affecting other people around them.

cmdwedge 11:52 am 19 Mar 10 said :

Well I am moving soon.
Last week two scratches appeared down the side of my car one morning, and some of tthe plants in the courtyard seem to have died with the look of having been sprayed by something. 🙁

I lived for one month in a block of units in Queanbeyan – never again. Really sad to hear that you’ve decided to move out, and that your car has been damaged too.

So as a parting gift, squirt some into the air vents of her car. It will last for ages.


Thumper 12:39 pm 19 Mar 10

am a bit ashamed to say I did this but I once lived beside a guy in a duplex who used to blast techno with a loud sub until 4am. So I got my guitar amp, plugged in a microphone and created a loop of the chick screaming in the texas chainsaw massacre to play through the tv with the mic on it. Put the amp against the wall, blasted it at his bedroom, then went away for the weekend.

Did the same many years ago with a neighbours dogs (chiwawas), who barked incessantly all day and night at imagined boogiemen.

I taped them, put them on a loop using a four track, plugged in the PA, put a bin next to a window and blasted them with their own dogs.

They kept the dogs inside after that.

Observing 3:52 pm 19 Mar 10

Thumper said :

Did the same many years ago with a neighbours dogs (chiwawas), who barked incessantly all day and night at imagined boogiemen.

By Chiwawas do you mean Chihuahuas, or is that a different breed of dog? I’m honestly not trying to take the p*ss out of you either. I just want to know if is the same breed or not as I saw a few Chiwawas advertised for sale and I didn’t want to buy something that is smaller than a rodent.

seon 9:08 pm 27 Aug 10

I have a suggestion. Write a polite letter and get all the tenants to sign it and put it in her mailbox. If that doesn’t work, get everyone to knock on her door. If that doesn’t work get everyone to call the police so at least they know it’s not just you.

Jeanpierre 9:12 pm 21 Jan 11

Hi there!
I have read your post, I know exactly how you feel. This women is a bitch (to be polite).
I have exactly the same problem, so far, nothing has worked, I have tried every thing. Internet and bad publicity could be the answer…
I created a blog out of this, have a look, you are welcome to leave a comment at the bottom of the page.

Jeanpierre 9:15 pm 21 Jan 11

Sorry, here is the link to my page:

auspk 2:33 pm 04 Feb 11

Hey Panic!

Besides which, as a public slave I know full well that I could loose my job if I do something, anything illegal, and subsequently am extremely law abiding.

Whatever happened to your wonderful website
You took it down and told everyone they were silly children?
You forgot to mention the fact that tresspassing was almost a professional hobby for ya mate.
Your site helped people and you just taking it down means someone else has to put a spidered copy back up.

catchya n00b

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