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View Full Version : Neighbour problem; L unsure what to do



kittymoo
01-02-2010, 10:28 AM
Hi this is my first post so hoping someone can assist.

I've been in my flat since August, I signed a 12 month agreement. I live in an Edwardian conversion raised 1st floor flat and there is a basement flat below me. I have two house cats which I asked permission to keep in the property and had this added to my lease agreement. My next door neighbour also had cats.

Firstly there are some problems with my property that haven't been dealt with since I moved in, there is a serious damp problem especially in the bedroom where plaster is coming away from the wall.(it's a flat roof property), the curtain rail in the lounge has come away from the wall, the lighting in the kitchen is faulty and there's a leaking tap in the bathroom. I was also promised the property would be painted and even had the landlords' son ask me to choose paint.

Around October time my downstairs neighbour started to bang agressively on the ceiling (my floor). I noticed it was when my cats were awake and playing I live alone and pride myself on being a quiet tenant. I spoke to the landlord's son (who I was informed was the contact for any issues)who also lives downstairs. He said not to worry as there is soundproofing in the building and although noises could be heard (he cited my next door neighbour and her cat who lived above his basement flat) he said he didn't deem it a disturbance due to the nature of the building and suggested I just make sure the cats weren't allowed in the bedroom at night. I started to curfew my cats at 10pm every night banning them from the bedroom.

In December I got an email from my letting agent to say that the neighbour had made a complaint. Not once had she discussed with me the issue. Both the letting agent and landlord didn't think it was a problem and asked me to talk to the the neighbour about it. I invited her round for a cup of tea and we had a civilised conversation, she mentioned she knew when I had visitors, could hear what room I was in and that my boyfriend had a cough! I said I'd look at buying a rug or putting some sort of padding on my lounge floor and she agreed that there would be a couple of times a day when my cats were likely to be active, if this didn't work we would both approach the landlord with a view to improving the carpetting or underlay.

I assumed this was fine and had rectified the issue. Shortly after new year I received an abusive text from the nieghbour saying I hadn't done anything and how did I expect her to live this way, this was late at night (I'd given her my number in good faith to discuss the issue further should we need to). I had put a king size duvet on the floor as I couldn't find (nor afford) a large enough rug straight away and had told both landlord and letting agent this. When I spoke to the landlord he mentioned he had been in the neighbours flat fitting a kitchen for about a 6 - 7 hour period just before the christmas period and hadn't heard any noises he would deem disturbing and seemed happy with what I had put in place.

I'd advised the neighbour something had been put in place and asked her if there was any improvement, she ignored my messages and continued to bang (even when there was no noise) and shout obscenities at me, making the issue very personal.

I spoke to the letting agent who advised me that I was doing all I could and he'd speak to the landlord and neighbour again particularly as the neighbour was seemingly un-cooperative. He said he couldn't imagine that my pets were making that much of a disturbance and was happy with what I was doing to alleviate the situation.

I have since received a call from the landlord who asked me a number of questions, such as whether I would get rid of my cats. I said no (obviously) and I asked him whether he'd improve the sound proofing, he replied that there was already sound proofing. He asked if I thought my cats were noisy and I gave as honest a description of their behaviour as possible. He said he was reluctant to ask neighbour to move as he was concerned if he got a new tenant they might complain too. I told him I was financially unable to move (as I'd have to save a new deposit). He also said pets weren't allowed, but I pointed out that he'd allowed mine and my previous neighbours. (I think he was looking for an easy solution). I asked him if he had he been into neighbours flat to fully investigate the noise and sound proofing - he said he hadn't other than the day he fitted the kitchen but was still adament that the sound proofing was sufficient and that he didn't think the cats were making that much noise and found it difficult to think it would be so bad.

I'm not sure what else I can do, I make sure they don't disturb her sleep and they play twice a day for about 10 minutes each time. The banging from the neighbour is scaring them and it's also making for a stressful atmosphere because I honestly don't know what more I can do. It seems the landlord is leaving it to me to try and sort it out but it's at a stalemate situation. He seems reluctant to improve the carpeting or underlay and I can't improve the soundproofing myself.

I wanted some advice about what I should do next. I've lived in flats for the past 10 years and always had my cats, I've had really good relationships with my neighbours too.

Because the landlord seems reluctant to do anything I was considering discussing with the letting agent making an offer to move, asking for my deposit back and a month's rent for inconvenience. I'd help with locating a new tenant but the property is in an area where it would re-let very quickly (greater london). But I didn't want to do this if it made me vulnerable legally. I just want to resolve the situation.

westminster
01-02-2010, 14:33 PM
Please clarify:

1. Do you have an assured shorthold tenancy in England/Wales?
2. Is the downstairs complaining neighbour a short term tenant or a leaseholder?
3. If she's a short term tenant, do you both rent from the same landlord?
4. Who owns the freehold of the building? Your landlord or someone else?
5. Does your landlord live in a flat in the building?
6. Is your flat carpeted in the bedroom/living room/hall?

kittymoo
01-02-2010, 14:49 PM
Please clarify:

1. Do you have an assured shorthold tenancy in England/Wales?
2. Is the downstairs complaining neighbour a short term tenant or a leaseholder?
3. If she's a short term tenant, do you both rent from the same landlord?
4. Who owns the freehold of the building? Your landlord or someone else?
5. Does your landlord live in a flat in the building?
6. Is your flat carpeted in the bedroom/living room/hall?

Thanks for your reply, in answer

1. Yes I do.
2. Yes she's also an ast tenant
3. Yes we do.
4 . In as far as I know the landlord owns the building and freehold outright
5. The landlord doesn't live in the building but his son does.
6. My flat is fully carpeted albeit low pile and hessian backed and the underlay is circa 1/4 inch thick with black boarding on top of it (which i'm told is acoustic soundboarding) the kitchen and bathroom also has cushion flooring. When my neighbour bangs on my floor/her ceiling - i can feel it, as in the floor literally moves.

intelligence69
01-02-2010, 16:20 PM
If she is banging on your ceiling and swearing etc etc you should call the police and let them know your downstairs neighbour is threatening you ......and let them propose a solution

westminster
01-02-2010, 18:25 PM
@kittymoo, You are doing nothing wrong. You are not in breach of your tenancy agreement, which allows you to keep cats. You are not responsible for improving the sound insulation or putting down extra rugs, or restricting the cats' movements; even if the everyday noise you make by walking/talking etc is keeping the neighbour awake, that is not your problem.

I also do not believe it's possible that the cats are causing a noise nuisance. Cats have very soft feet and weigh little, and the floors are carpeted.

The downstairs tenant is, however, causing a nuisance by harassing you; thumping on the dividing ceiling/floor, shouting obscenities, sending abusive texts, etc.

You need to stop feeling like you may be responsible for the problem, and realize that you're in fact the victim of a nuisance caused by the tenant downstairs.

I would start by complaining, in writing, to the landlord. Give a detailed account of the harassment from downstairs including terms of abuse used. State that it is not acceptable, and ask him to advise the other tenant that she is in breach of her contract due to harassing you; there will usually be a provision in a tenancy agreement for T not to cause annoyance/nuisance to neighbours etc. (Post first class, get a free certificate of posting to prove delivery, and keep copy of the letter - do this with allletters to LL from now on ).

I would also keep a detailed diary of events, if you haven't already, with a view to compiling evidence before contacting the council regarding the harassment, if LL fails to shut her up. You might even consider contacting the police, see
http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/faq-answer?type=quest&id=Q153

As regards the disrepair, again, report damp and faulty electrics in writing to the LL. You may be responsible for fixing the curtain pole and leaky tap (if the latter is a simple repair like replacing the washer). See
http://www.letlink.co.uk/letting-factsheets/factsheets/factsheet-11-landlords-repairing-obligations.html

If LL fails to remedy the problems, report to the environmental health officer at the council. See
http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/repairs_and_bad_conditions/repairs_in_private_lets

kittymoo
02-02-2010, 14:11 PM
Thank you for your advice Westminster, I have been keeping a log of events so I will draft a letter to my landlord.

As an aside, if he refuses to do anything about it (which presently he seems reluctant to do hence the stalemate situation) is it reasonable for me to offer to leave but in return for my deposit back early and moving costs to find somewhere else? I get the impression he'd rather the problem just goes away. I'd rather not move as it's a massive upheaval and I'm settled but for a less stressful environment for myself and my pets i'd consider it right now. Last night after a particularly long work day I was home less than 10 minutes, my cat ran from lounge to kitchen as I was pouring their supper and she was off again banging and shouting. It's very tiring.

Kittaycat
02-02-2010, 14:43 PM
It does sound as if you have a good claim against your neighbour regarding harassment. Do you have any witnesses to the harassment from your neighbour?
You could also make a complaint to the police if it is continuous (or happens more than twice). If you are going to keep nuisance diary sheets you will need to be able to evidence this - to show time, dates, how long she bangs on the ceiling for etc., and the ASB unit at your local council could write a sternly worded letter if they feel you have sufficient evidence. Alternatively you could pursue legal action yourself - again you would have to evidence this.
Unless the noise you/your cats make is excessive and deliberate (eg principally between 11pm -7am and can be heard outside) I doubt if any action could be taken against you by your neighbour. It would be classed as 'normal household noise' and not your responsibility if you happen to live in a block of flats which has poor acoustics.

kittymoo
02-02-2010, 14:52 PM
I have lots of witnesses although they are friends and family. I suppose I could record the banging via video.

My cats aren't audible outside the flat at all and as aforementioned I confine them to certain areas of the flat between 10pm and 8.30am so as not to disturb her sleeping areas. It's certainly not deliberate as I hide away any toys etc at this time too. I'm actually scared to play with the cats at the moment during "normal" hours because of the banging. One evening just after new year after the neighbour sent an abusive text message I slept on the floor in the hallway with the cats just to stop her from complaining. I find it all very stressful.

In all honesty any noises the cats make is generally them running across the floor or the thud of them as they land on the floor after jumping down from the windowsill. Anytime they play is roughly about 5 - 10 minute duration but again that's broken because of the banging so they tend to stop and hide.

westminster
02-02-2010, 15:45 PM
As an aside, if he refuses to do anything about it (which presently he seems reluctant to do hence the stalemate situation) is it reasonable for me to offer to leave but in return for my deposit back early and moving costs to find somewhere else?
It's not unreasonable to suggest an early surrender to the landlord, and if I were you I would also ask for a payment for the inconvenience of having to move out early, not just your moving costs. (But if LL has any sense he should realize that the problem won't go away if you move out as the woman downstairs will complain about the next tenant).

If LL refuses to agree an early surrender on terms which are acceptable to you, and refuses to address the downstairs tenant's harassment, then you still have the option of contacting the council or police etc.

As kittaycat rightly says, good detailed evidence is crucial; if you have that then with luck you can get help to put a stop to this woman's unacceptable behaviour.

kittymoo
23-02-2010, 18:48 PM
Following some excellent advice received here, I wrote to both my letting agent and landlord with details of the incidents involving my neighbour and also regarding the repairs/decoration/damp proofing I was promised would be undertaken once I had moved in.

Letting agent was very nice and although supportive, fairly useless. They said all they have done is advise my landlord to 'grow a pair' and take control of the situation. They'd advised him not to renew neighbours tenancy once it is up.

However as it is for the landlord to reply to me and address my concerns, he hasn't even acknowledged receipt of my letter. I haven't had a call, letter or any form of communication from him. I don't know what the situation is and the neighbour has stepped up her campaign against me. I returned home last week to an RSPCA officer on my doorstep saying he'd had complaints of abandoned cats. Obviously he went away satisfied yet angry at the neighbour and the fact the call had been malicious. I'm beginning to get very concerned at what potentially her next stage of assault would be.

I've got to the point now where I do not feel my landlord is keeping to his contract with me as he has not provided any form of support or communication. Nor has he undertaken any repairs. I'm constantly persecuted by my neighbour and it's making me ill. I want out now and that's where my second request for advice lies. I've already been advised that an early surrender is possible, however I do not just want to walk away. I want to claim my moving costs, have my notice period rent free and have my deposit returned early to enable me to expedite my moving as I do not have the funds necessary to finance a new property. Also as means of compensation, as per Westminster's suggestion.

How would I go about negotiating this? Another letter? It's been suggested what I'm asking is fair so I want to ensure that I go about it correctly so I can get away from this horrendous woman.

kittymoo
01-03-2010, 16:26 PM
:confused:

Hi can anyone further advise on this issue given the update i've posted.

any help much appreciated.
thanks

westminster
01-03-2010, 17:10 PM
Seriously, I think the time has come to report her to the police - although it's an assumption that it was her who reported you to the RSPCA, it's a fair one, taken together with the other evidence. Take your diary of events with you to show that the harassment is continuous, severe, and ongoing.

I would consider writing to the LL saying you will withhold rent unless he takes immediate action and stress the extreme seriousness of the situation. (keep copy letter and proof of postage, send copy to agent). Not getting rent will almost certainly provoke a reaction. Note: I am not advising you to persistently withhold rent, just once to get a reaction - then pay it as and when he responds appropriately.