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Dealing with overly complaining neighbors

Rosa Villanueva
8 years ago
This isn't really a design dilemma in the real sense of the word, but I'd like to get your thoughts on how to deal with neighbors during a renovation.

The houses where I live are relatively close to one another, so the homeowners association has certain rules about repairs, including that they should be done only between the hours of 7 am and 5pm from Monday to Saturday only. My first contractor left the project uncompleted so I was forced to hire a second contractor to complete the job, and this means that sometimes, work is done beyond the allowed hours. However, I had sought clearance from the association president with a commitment that all noisy jobs (i.e. tile cutting) will be done during regular working hours.

My neighbor on the left side has been a sweetheart and I haven't heard a peep from her. The neighbor on the back previously complained about the dust caused by the jackhammer (from demoing the concrete base) but was appeased when it turned out that she merely wanted to informed beforehand to ensure that her laundry (which was on the clothesline) won't get dirty in the process.

My biggest problem is my neighbor to the right, who has done nothing but complain every step of the way. Just today, they complained that the grinder/tile cutter was making a LOT of noise. My contractor called me at work saying that they're having a difficult time completing any work because my neighbors have been complaining every step of the way. I did discuss this with the association president and he promised to talk to the complaining neighbor. And, oh, I was at home Sunday and my complaining neighbor never bothered to discuss with me any of these complaints. Apparently, he just wants to complain when I'm not there and only the workers/foreman are present.

I'd appreciate any advise on how to best deal with this neighbor. Apparently, this is the same neighbor who complains about barking dogs, squeaky gates, and all forms of noise, but I want the project completed as soon as possible and his repeated complaints is preventing stuff from getting done!

thanks in advance!

Comments (37)

  • Rosa Villanueva
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    Thanks. Actually my issue actually has to do with the fact that the noise complained of today was done during the times allowed for working, so I was surprised that the contractor received a complaint from the neighbor today. Sorry if that part wasn't clear.
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  • Darzy
    8 years ago
    I would say to the neighbors you are sorry about the noise and hope to complete the project asap and that you personally are frustrated with the mess and delay yourself! (The shared sympathy factor). If that doesn't work, do nothing more yourself and avoid any conversation/confrontation with your neighbor. If the neighbors complain to your contractors just have them "apologize" for the noise but say they are trying to complete the job as soon as possible. If they bother your contractor further, tell him/her to tell the neighbor to take it up with the association.

    Having bad feelings with neighbors is unpleasant and can last as long as you live there. It's best to try to nip it in the bud if you can.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked Darzy
  • Rosa Villanueva
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    Thanks, Darzy! Really appreciate it. Been trying to avoid any confrontation with this particular neighbor (have heard stories in the past but chose to ignore it). I've been a very quiet and passive neighbor all these years (no pets or kids, no construction for the past 24 years, no late night parties or parking in front of his driveway, or anything that would irritate him). Apparently, that's not enought goodwill :). I have spoken with the association president and hopefully he'll be able to help.
  • PRO
    Solar Texas
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago
    Tell your contractor to grow some. It happens to all contractors at times that a neighbor finds it easier to complain to them and avoid confrontation with the homeowner. Contractor works for you. Tell your contractor to work to the noise hours and ignore your neighbor. Neighbor will soon get the message. He/She might ramp it up by contacting the police, but everything is on your side. The job will never get done if the contractor listens to the neighbor. May help to put up "Caution" tape to keep the neighbor out of the work zone, but the contractor needs to just ignore your neighbor and do the job.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked Solar Texas
  • jansmithwood
    8 years ago
    It is usually much harder to be angry with someone in particular. in the abstract, we can get ourselves really cranked up, cranky, and isolated. I concur with all of this good advice and urge you to do it all (yellow tape, referral, reaching out, knowing you are within the regs...) AND try to build a bridge. Not necessarily to change your neighbor but to lighten your (emotional) load and make the rest of this project less troublesome to you. (I am prompted to add these two cents by your comment that you have lived there 24 years and avoided your neighbor because of reputation/rumors about his complaining personality. 24 years is a long time...)
    Rosa Villanueva thanked jansmithwood
  • PRO
    GN Builders L.L.C
    8 years ago
    If work is being done during normal hours and your contractor is following association guidelines, tell your contractor to send your complaining neighbor the bill for interference with work which he is permitted to do during normal work hours and causing delays, you will see how fast he will stop complaining.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked GN Builders L.L.C
  • Angel 18432
    8 years ago
    You and your neighbor should start talking to each other instead of thru other people.
    Go over there and get to know them. Apologize and be nice - can't believe you have lived side by side for 24 years and can't communicate in a civilized manner. They may be very nice people. Did you go over to all surrounding neighbors and let them know that you were going to be doing reno work and there would be some distruption - I bet not. Plus, only do the work between hours permitted. Why do some people think condo rules are for everyone else but them.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked Angel 18432
  • hayleydaniels
    8 years ago
    Man up and go over and tell your neighbor that you're very sorry for the inconvenience, and you realize how annoying that level of noise is. Ask if there's anything you can do to help the situation. You might offer to buy him some tickets to the movie so he'll have somewhere to go part of the day.

    Don't just assume the guy's a jerk for not wanting to put up with the noise. He could call code enforcement or the police as most jurisdictions have noise ordiances that are enforced for the peace of the community.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked hayleydaniels
  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting
    8 years ago
    I agree that a try at speaking to them would help with a cake or plate of cookies but I had a neighbour in one house we lived in that was just a nasty person and there was no appeasing them so not everyone has a nice side.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked Patricia Colwell Consulting
  • margocorp
    8 years ago
    I agree with Haleydaniels. I would go size up the neighbor in person. Ask what the neighbor, what he/she would do if in your shoes? How would he/she handle the construction?
    Rosa Villanueva thanked margocorp
  • Natalie
    8 years ago
    Hi Rosa---go over to your neighbor, introduce yourself, APOLOGIZE, and explain the situation. I NEVER judge someone based on the opinions of others. Never! Who knows, he may end up being the BEST neighbor you have. Good Luck!
    Rosa Villanueva thanked Natalie
  • Rosa Villanueva
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    Thanks for giving me an alternative perspective! I have in the past interacted with this neighbor and he was quite nasty (even if this was right after his wife borrowed my ladder) so I will admit I didn't hesitate in believing everything that was said about him. But you're all correct in that I should have spoken to him prior. I spoke with the other neighbors - the noce ones - but pointedly avoided him cause I didn't want a confrontation.
  • Rosa Villanueva
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    I do hope that I didn't give the impression though that I was trying to break the rules. I had discussed the dilemma with the association president and agreed that none of the noisy work will be done outside of the allowed hours. The noise complained of today was usual construction noise done during normal working hours so I was surprised I received another complaint. As suggested, I will discuss the matter with him to minimize future issues. I honestly would much rather not (
  • shars55
    8 years ago
    Because of his constant complaining, and your past dealings with the neighbor, I would venture to say he's not a nice man. However, I would still go over there, apologize for any noise, but explain that your contractor is not breaking any HOA rules, and his constant interruptions are prolonging the project. Tell him you are trying to finish the work as soon as possible, apologize again, and leave. If you aren't working past the allowed times, he can complain till he's blue in the face, but too bad! We had construction going on next door for several months, and I wasn't thrilled with the noise either, but sometimes we must endure what we don't want and there's nothing we can do about it! It's life! He needs to get over it.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked shars55
  • Rosa Villanueva
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    - cause I'm still pretty frustrated and wouldn't like to incite him any further - but I do see the wisdom in what the others have said in trying to build bridges and mending relationships. Thank you again!
  • Natalie
    8 years ago
    He's been nasty in the past? You've heard of the saying--- Kill them with kindness? Need I say more? CheerS!
    Rosa Villanueva thanked Natalie
  • PRO
    Design Distinctions
    8 years ago
    I agree with shars55. I like the wine idea, but then again, he may judge you on that!! I would bring some cookies, tell him sorry for the noise and say it is troublesome for you too, no one wants it finished more than you do etc.. but be FIRM. You are working within the guidelines and him interrupting your contractor isn't helping. He should let them do their work. Don't roll over on this. If your neighbor really is a bully and you are too conciliatory, you risk establishing a pattern for the future of him demanding his way.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked Design Distinctions
  • prospera
    8 years ago
    I am so sorry this is happening to you. Some people in the world are complainers, for whatever reason. It is ironic that his complaining delays and drags the process out. I chuckle when I see shows where people want new houses but complain about the construction. This guy wouldn't make it in my neighborhood. It is in the process of grading the lots directly behind my house and I have had constant noise and rumblings of earth moving trucks, 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. What are they doing? Improving the flood plain from a creek and being conscientious developers, leaving the beauty, but making it safe.

    All homes need repair sooner or later. It would be ironic if your neighbor needed it from a natural occurrence and had to eat crow. Just get it done and appreciate the neighbors you do have. At least they outnumber the negative.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked prospera
  • losthorizonlisa
    8 years ago
    Noise abatement laws don't apply to construction in my area. And you have the association rules backing you up. Talk to him with a smile on your face and some food in hand. Construction guys are used to neighbors complaining...give them some cards with the association presidents number on it to give the guy the next time he complains so they can have him deal with the association president directly, not you.

    I lived in a county park in an RV for a few months before embarking on a year of travel. I was still working every day...late. The neighbor very close to me got up every morning at 4:30 and started his diesel truck and let it run for 30 minutes before driving off. I thought he was the most inconsiderate ass!

    Hating confrontation myself, I finally mustered up the courage to ask if he could please not start hie truck (parked right by my sleeping head so I got the diesel fumes too) so early in the morning. He was very polite and with sad eyes informed me that he was warming up his truck so it, and he, could get to the Mayo clinic at the earliest time allowed to visit his dying wife being treated for cancer. Perspective. I felt like a heel.

    There are many reasons people are jerks. Sometimes because they're jerks. My experience has taught me that physical pain, autism, illness, dementia, social phobia, brain injuries, even ADHD can can cause sensitivity to noise. If he's old, the loss of control over the aging body often leads to controlling outside oneself. If you were afraid to talk to him, you could have put out a flyer giving your name and saying to come talk to you if issues arose.

    Best to you! :)
    Rosa Villanueva thanked losthorizonlisa
  • Angel 18432
    8 years ago
    I got thinking about the Mrs in this situation. If he is a miserable old man, I feel sorry for her that she has to put up with him 24/7. Maybe she could use a friend and/or support.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked Angel 18432
  • Rene Terese
    7 years ago

    I smoke on my patio..i even bought a smokeless ashtray because of my neighbor..she still complained..i said do u want me to smoke in my apartment so it can go right up in your apt..this woman is miserable..some people u cant please..EVER..now I know why shes been divorced a few times..lol..mind u she can be VERY loud especially at night

    Rosa Villanueva thanked Rene Terese
  • PRO
    Archi/Build Group, Inc.
    7 years ago
    Wave, smile, say hello. Go and speak to the neighbor and tell them what you are doing, why, and when it is planned to be done. Let them know that they can contact you if there is something to be done. Give them an ear to bend. Good luck.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked Archi/Build Group, Inc.
  • Lanitra Bynum
    7 years ago
    You can actually go down to the city and found out how late contractors are suppose to be working on houses because it is creating noise pollution. A lot of states has ruled on that.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked Lanitra Bynum
  • D DN
    7 years ago
    I would remind Neighbor that improving your home increases the value of it; and therefore increases the value of the neighborhood overall--including his home.
    Rosa Villanueva thanked D DN
  • Angel 18432
    7 years ago

    This project/posting was 8 months ago, so I am sure it's probably finished by now.

    Perhaps Rosa could tell us all how she made out.


    Rosa, we await to hear from you.



    Rosa Villanueva thanked Angel 18432
  • Rosa Villanueva
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Sorry for the lack of updates about this project.

    Eventually, my contractor was able to comply with the normal working hours. In spite of this, the neighbors kept complaining. Ironically, they never complained when I was around but would only (for lack of a better word) bully the workers when the contractor wasn't around.

    For my next-door neighbor, what worked was me talking to the association president. I mentioned that I was already complying with the work schedule and that the noise generated was the kind normally generated by construction work. I even pointed out that the work was being done in a location that was farthest from that particular neighbor so unless he was being overly sensitive, there was nothing else I could do about it. I believe the association president called that particular neighbor and he stopped complaining after that.

    The neighbor who lived behind me (who was also complaining) pretty much did the same thing: would complain when I wasn't around, but didn't mention anything when I was in the vicinity. I called that particular neighbor and, surprisingly, it was the housekeeper who was complaining. When I discussed with the housekeeper what her issues were, it turned out she just felt offended I didn't inform her previously of the work to be done. They never complained after that.

    There was another neighbor who complained about the paint fumes (when they were spray painting cabinet doors) and the smell. The contractor had put up tarps in the area where they were painting and other neighbors who were closer didn't complain about it. I couldn't even smell the alleged fumes myself when I was in another part of the house. I told him that there was nothing I can do about the smell if it carried onto his property (the wind was beyond my control!) and that what was needed to minimize the smell had already been done.

    Yes, the project has been finally completed. I don't think I want to do any repairs in the future - this one was too traumatizing. BTW - I don't know if I had disclosed this previously, but I live in a third world country where the rules regarding these things aren't as strict as they are in the United States. Most of the time, there aren't even any rules!

    Lastly - my next door neighbor (the one who incessantly complained about the noise) had his roof replaced over the long weekend (over here). Now, there's a rule that no work can be done on holidays and sundays so technically, he shouldn't have had work done. Since he's the association treasurer, apparently he felt he can bend the rules when they work in his favor. I chose not to complain but made a mental note that next time I get more work done at home, his own violation can be easily raised as an issue against him.

  • shars55
    7 years ago

    Wow...glad you're finished!!! It's no fun dealing with jerks...and your neighbor is a giant one.

  • Angel 18432
    7 years ago

    Thanks for up-dating us. We always wonder what happened. Enjoy your reno.

  • ebre53
    7 years ago

    I realize I'm late to this discussion. As a homeowner who is suffering through a noisy house remodel next door, I'd say that trying to maintain a good relationship with the neighbor is in both his and your interests. Ignore the "pros" who told you to blow off the neighbor and even punish him by working right up to the last minute of the ordinance time. Contractors have no investment in getting along with the neighbors who are impacted by their work. You, on the other hand, have to live next door to them once the work is done. And try to place yourself in the neighbor's place (which could well happen to you anytime). Home is where one hopes to be able to be able to relax. Construction noise that goes on 12+ hours a day for months on end makes that impossible. You benefit from improving your house and thus are willing to put up with the noise. The neighbors, however, gain nothing tangible from your house improvement and lose much quality of life during this time. Noise ordinances in public areas are always written to benefit contractors and developers, and there is an assumption that residents have to just bite it. When a neighbor has the temerity to complain, contractors and owners like you think they're being completely unreasonable. Contractors do have an obligation under most ordinances to take steps to limit the impact of their noise with barrierss or restricting noisiest activities to a limited time of day, but rarely do so unless pushed by neighbors or police. You can help yourself by advising the neighbors of times when particularly noisy activities will occur, asking the contractors to restrict their noisiest activities to "business" hours (8:00-6:00), and acknowledging their concerns. I hope your remodel turned out well.


  • Angel 18432
    7 years ago

    eb if you read the comments, work is done.

  • pmuhratlib
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Most important thing to remember: home improvements benefit everyone, including your neighbors. Never hesitate to remind them of this. Also remind them that when they had their own renovations done, which were a tremendous inconvenience to yourself, you did not say a thing and were completely patient, even though the neighbors never bothered to consult or warn you about what was going on. You might also throw in the fact that there was a town hearing on the matter, which was very transparently announced, including an official memo mailed to each neighbor, which described the intended work and that the day of the very well publicized hearing would have been the time to voice any concerns. Provided the work is being done only on weekdays between 8am & 5pm, and excess garbage is cleaned up, that should do it.

  • theamazingbrandon
    4 years ago

    Hey guys. I am a student living in my first apartment. I spend a lot of time studying (sometimes at odd hours.) I took a break Friday to talk to my gf for a few hours to the early morning. Then after hanging up with her, I start receiving loud knocks (banging) at my door. I never threw a party in my apartment ever. And usually hardly make any noise. I was excited after studying for a week to finally talk to my girlfriend. I was skeptial who could be banging on my door but I assumed it was my "downstairs" neighbor. I didn’t answer the door. Question, if there is a crazy neighbor that is banging on your door because talking to your girlfriend inside your apartment on the phone (with the windows shut) then comes to your door complaining should you just tell them what they are doing is harassment, and if they don’t go away you will call the police? Thank you.


  • Angel 18432
    4 years ago

    So you didn't say what he/she was complaining about - I assume he couldn't hear your conversation, but maybe there was something else he wasn't happy about.

    Might be a good idea to talk with them - along with the landlord, to see what the problem is. And if you did do something that bothered the enjoyment of his/her apartment, apologize and move on. Seems that there is a lot of unknowns here. You assumed in was the downstairs neighbor.

  • hummingalong2
    4 years ago
    Some people don't realize how loud their voice is, especially on the phone.
  • weazzye
    4 years ago

    I have run into the same dilemma. I have been redoing my bathroom on my own for months as the only time I have on the weekend and evenings. The association rule is no noise after 10. I used to try until 8 and got complaints. Now I limit it to Sundays until 3 and today I got a complaint about the noise. I even asked what time are they not around so as not to bother them and I got the respond "Well hurry up and wrap it up, already

  • ewilliamson
    4 months ago

    We're dealing with a similar narcisstic architect neighbour who is building a horrific monolith - construction is from 6:45 am to 7:30 pm. This is the third summer of whining saws, contractors yelling and swearing at 6:45 am, dust and massive disruption. Horrendous neighbour who won't listen to any of the 60 families in close proximity.