Saturday, April 24, 2010


Sarah from South Africa writes:

I seem to have had the worst neighbours over the past few years. I live in one of those townhouse complexes, you know, one up one down, so a little neighbourly irritation is inevitable. We are all on top of one another and the walls are thin. Trouble is, the flat downstairs is owned by someone who always seems to let it out to the worst people. "I've got a lovely couple moving in!" she says, and they turn out to be neighbours from hell.

I have had all sorts over the past few years, it's like she has some sort of bad energy vibe that attaches itself to her tenants. One lot had to be teargassed by the security guards as they formed a sort of circle around the poor guys. I heard lots of coughing and then they all ran inside. That lot left a trail of mess and filth behind them wherever they went, there were little puddles of nastiness leading into their flat. And the night they moved in they threw a party that involved all their friends and lasted all night. When I went down at 4am they told me "We're not ready to go to sleep yet". The body corporate finally managed to get them out, but two years later they were back, fortunately in Phase 2 of the complex this time so across the river from me.

Another lot held wild parties and had roommates who were wanted by the police. Everyone at work always wants to where I live when I tell them the stories. The area is actually very upmarket with lots of big properties worth millions all around, very mink and manure, only all the manure lives in the complex. The landlady's name is Ingrid and she used to work in at a well known advertising agency in Johannesburg. Her latest tenant, Peter, is a quadriplegic. Now, you are going to say, how could you pick on the poor guy, he's in a wheelchair and can't move. Well, it's not him that is the problem. It's his friends and family who are trailer park trash of the deepest quality.

And the pipes. Pipes? Yes, the water pipes. More of that later. Peter's family are from Alberton or somewhere incredibly rough in the South of Joburg. They look it and they behave it too. The mom wears curlers in her hair and has a cigarette perched on her bottom lip at all times. When she arrives at the flat she shouts and hammers loudly on the front door. "HALLOO! HALLLOO! HALLOOO!!!" It is as though everyone is deaf. The father likes to do DIY home repair, especially early on a Saturday morning. His friend Sean also likes to hammer, shout and do everything at top volume, especially slam doors. Sean can't seem to hold down a job and likes to hang around Peter's place, so he can bum smokes, beers and anything that is going free. Peter has a brother in law who is about as rough as a bear's bum. He arrives hammers on the door, shouts "BRU! MUST I BASH THE DOOR DOWN HEY!!!" in his best Alberton accent. Brother in law's chick is equally as rough. You get the picture.

Peter''s family has now taken to having barbeques outside on their little patio every Sat night. Fair enough but they don't keep it respectful to those around them or stop at a reasonable hour. They just don't know the meaning of self restraint. They hammer away, saying they are chopping wood but it sounds like they are breaking down walls, then they pile it all up, light a huge fire, crack open the beers and sit around yelling at the top of their lungs. Then they invite the lot from #16 over. Now this couple need to be seen to be believed. She looks like a packet of flour which has been dropped, (she looked like she has fallen through her own arse). He is a walking contraceptive because you never would want to have sex again after looking at him. He is bald, slow and a weird dirty colour that I can't describe. She is fat and blowsy with badly dyed blonde hair. Their 11 year old daughter also wanders around painted to the eyeballs like a child prostitute.

When this group starts drinking they don't end it at a reasonable time. They don't know the meaning of the word STOP. They get louder and louder and more and more slurry. And then they start to badmouth me, in their dull and sottish way. They were singing "AI AI AI SENORA" when I called the caretaker,who then called security. They just laughed at the poor security guard as they have no respect for any rules or other people. He wanted to know exactly who had complained (which he had no right to do, by the way), but by now lights were snapping on all over the place. It was a Saturday night but by now it was edging on to 12 and they were only just getting into their stride.

I asked them from the balcony to please take it inside but they shouted at me: "It's just you we are disturbing!" At this point she was surgically attached to her wineglass and made a charming picture, I realized it was pointless trying to reason with them, as they were horribly drunk, vituperative and very stupid. They were finally sent home to their flat across the way from me but carried on the party until after 2am when they saw their guests off with maximum noise and revving of car engines.

It's all very entertaining in the telling but try not sleeping weekend after weekend and see just how you feel. Then there is Jim downstairs on the other side, who commutes between Germany and South Africa. He has a wife in Germany but likes to have girlfriends in South Africa. The girls are prostitutes who bring men back to the flat, usually at around 3am. Again maximum banging of doors, stomping around in their hooker boots, crashing of pots and loud music. Jim is no better, when he is around. He also loves loud parties out in the garden with the smell of nasty burnt chops hovering in the air and he and his friend (one of whom rejoices in the name of Wolfgang and is usually completely motherless drunk) love to whoop it up. He looks like he is dying of AIDS as he is getting thinner and thinner every day.

Now to the pipes. The complex seems to be having a trouble with its water pipes. When the water is run downstairs it creates a terrible heart wrenching DA-DA-DA-DUH which goes straight up to the upstairs units. This sometimes happens at 5am in the morning and I wake up covered in a cold sweat as I think someone is breaking in. Peter and his family have no sympathy with this and after two years of enduring it when I bashed on the walls they just ran the water harder so it was really symphonic. What are the trustees doing about all this you ask? Don't be daft ... that's not their job. All they want are the levies paid on the 1st of every month and as long as Peter and his friends at no 16 pay up the trustees turn a blind eye. They are never on site at weekends and don't want to know about complaints.

I have got to the desperate stage where I want to buy the flat downstairs, which Ingrid (who has a gambling problem) has put on the market and kick them all out.

What is all this doing to the value of my property, I ask with tears in my eyes? The only respite I have is putting it all to paper, or email in this case. Even if nothing ever gets done I feel slightly better now

- Sarah

It sounds like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place here. Complaints about noise or illegal activity are hard enough to get taken seriously or get concrete actions in place when you have a landlord that is engaged and wants to help. If you are stuck with landlords who don't care you are up against two hurdles instead of one.

If you have not done so already I would recommend you get complaints written down. Not the minor stuff, but at least the major concerns. It is one thing to phone a complaint but something else entirely to put pen to paper. Also make sure that you cc the local municipal government not just the landlord. Bylaw (noise) enforcement is their turf and if and when things ever get to an actual court a series of letters (unanswered or unresolved) to the property managers and local government will strengthen your case.

It is a tough call if you should move or not. Nobody likes a complaint with a neighbour to end that way. The sense of defeat will follow you and it will be tough to not end up having bitter memories, especially if your new apartment doesn't measure up. Unless you end up in a nicer place for less money and free parking (you get the idea) there is bound to be resentment.

Good luck, and let us know how it ends up. - Ca1v1n

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The problem is not the neighbours - the problem is South Africa! I've been there, survived, got that t-shirt. Come live in Australia, I promise you'll love it!