Are we neighbours from hell?

(85 Posts)
takethatno1fan Sun 09-Jun-13 23:08:20

Have posted this elsewhere but thought I would get some other views, and wonder if others have had similar experiences.

We are a family of four - mum, dad, two kids aged 5 and 7. We moved from the country to a 'middle-class' residential housing estate in a small town, in order that our children could see more of their friends outside of school. We are respectable, working people and our children are well mannered and polite. We keep our home and garden in good order. Our house is, along with all others in the estate, detached, and there are five neighbouring properties (three to the sides, and two directly behind). We are on reasonably good terms with the neighbours either side (our actual next door neighbours), the other three are actually on another street and we have little or nothing to do with us.

We very much enjoy living here, although there aren't too many other families with children (there are a few), and many of the houses are owned by older or retired people. In fact, all of those around our house are older or retired.

The weather here has been great this weekend. The kids asked to get the paddling pool out. So on Saturday we were out all morning, and arrived back early afternoon and got the pool filled and the kids played in it for a couple of hours having a great time. They also played on the trampoline.

Today, from just before lunchtime, the kids and two of their friends were having a ball in the paddling pool, laughing and shrieking.

Our neighbours from directly behind us came round to complain about the noise our kids were making. I guess they are in early-mid 60s. Their opening gambit was to tell me that most of the people in the estate are older/retired and want to live in peace and quiet. They told me that they feel they can no longer use their garden or conservatory because of the noise of the children. They had even observed that the kids had had some friends back last Friday afternoon and it was noisy. I should say at this point that last Friday we had four school friends back and they all played on the trampoline in the back garden between 3.30 and 6.00. The neighbours say that it always starts at around 3.30 in the afternoon (coincidentally the time the kids return from school!).

Staggered by this visit, I remained completely composed and polite. I told them that I appreciated their issue but that they may have to accept that when young children play on a summer day in a paddling pool or trampoline that they'll tend to laugh, shout and shriek with happiness and delight. I said to them that while I understood that they had become used to having older, childless neighbours over the past few years, there could be no guarantee this would always be the case. I also made the point that their being retired doesn't entitle them to any peace and quiet. They questioned how many children we had in the house, almost sneering at the bikes on the front lawn.

We have had no other complaints or comments, but they claim around five other people (or households) agree with them. During this surreal conversation my wife arrived back home, and deducing what was being discussed became quite upset that we had a) caused distress and b) that we were the topic of discussion in the adjoining street. However, I told them that while I would raise this issue with the children, I thought it would be impossible for them to play in a Dickenzian silence, and completely impractical to police.

The neighbours claim that it's happening all the time, but it really isn't. The kids are at school from 9am until around 3.20pm each weekday, and we're frequently away at weekends visiting friends, which they told us was 'a joy' for them. Every few weeks the kids get to invite some friends round on a Friday afternoon for a play and dinner. Usually until around 6.30pm. Regardless of all of this, the weather has only been good enough for outdoor play for the past few weeks! The neighbours said they'd prefer it if the kids could play out the front of the house and on the road instead of playing in the back garden!

Dutifully, after lunch, when the kids went back out to play, I tried to get them to play a bit more 'quietly', but it was just completely pointless. They jokingly whispered for a few seconds then splashed back into the cold paddling pool with shrieking and laughter! I ended up making more noise telling them to shoosh! It was absurd.

Our kids are as equally entitled to have fun and play in our own garden as the neighbours are to do whatever they like in theirs. They're not excessively noisy to my mind, they aren't shouting, fighting or swearing. They're not kicking balls around or playing loud music, but even if they were, I can't see why that would be inappropriate. The kids are in bed by 8pm on weeknights, and have rarely been out after 7pm since the clocks went forward, so neighbours would never be disturbed by noise late at night (we're not irresponsible parents). I don't want to fall out with these people, but if they're annoyed by the kids playing for a couple of hours in the late afternoon, they're going to really hate it during the summer holidays, and I fear that the situation will degenerate into complete acrimony very quickly.

One of the neighbours actually used the phrase 'live and let live' during our discussion, which was more than ironic given the nature of the discussion. I am assuming that the root of the problem is that they're so used to having literally no noise from this house, that to move to having a young family over the fence is total shock to them. None of us though, has the right to choose who buys neighbouring properties. I feel that in a way, they are victimising us because we are a family. While I don't want to charactarise them, or make assumptions, I have little doubt that if we had been an older couple who had been having friends round for a garden party until late at night that there would be no problem.

We're not behaving anti-socially, or breaking any laws. All we're doing is making reasonable use of our property, which for comparatively short periods involves the kids articulating themselves when having fun. We don't want our kids to be sitting inside watching TV and playing computer games, we want them outside, on bikes and trampolines, getting fresh air and exercise. While it no doubt sounds a little harsh, my inclination is that if the situation becomes that big a problem for them, they should move to a retirement community where they can be guaranteed no families would move in. I totally understand and appreciate how noise can cause great stress to some people, but equally, we can't tell our kids that they can no longer have friends round to play, or that they can't use the back garden any more. We feel totally gutted that we have such intolerant neighbours, but I accept the sad fact of the matter is that we now feel as harassed as I imagine they do!

Any thoughts would be useful if you are in a similar position (on whichever side of the fence).

Ledkr Mon 10-Jun-13 07:48:10

There's nothing they can do so just carry on being reasonable about noise as it sounds as if you are.
We have an old lady like this who thinks she can boss us around about what we grow in our garden.
She has been known to shush the children when they are playing.
This from someone who mows her lawn about twice a week at around 7am.
Some people don't know they are born tbh. Let's hope they never get any really bad neighbours!

superbagpuss Mon 10-Jun-13 08:01:59

we live in a quiet estate and have the youngest DC in the row, not yet school age so outplaying all day in good weather. also more noise in the house due to shouting and tantrums - sometimes even the DC blush

I have spoken to older neighbours around and they have said its nice to have DC in the street and haven't noticed the extra noise. we are trying to keep the noise to sociable times and not to much shouting etc

Lavenderloves Mon 10-Jun-13 08:04:50

We have a neighbour who hates noise. She doesn't complain directly just moans. She has issue with her adjoining piano playing neighbour. ( plays very well) she's one of those people who should live in a detached house.

You can not expect to have peace and quiet outside if you have neighbours. I can hear the children playing in our village across two fields, i think it nice.

Mine are out from 7-7 on a sunny day. They are noisy of course they are. I do tell them to keep in down early (before 9 )and late (after 6 ) the couple who border us use their garden in the evening so that works ok.

I would also make the comment about not living on a retirement village. It's worth them bearing in mind all if these big houses will change hands and children numbers and noise will increase.

samuelwhiskers Mon 10-Jun-13 08:14:03

OP - I think you sound quite nice neighbours in that you don't want to fall out with your neighbours and have posted here to see if you are being unreasonable. But you mentioned five households feel the same as the neighbour that complained to you. Also, you admit your DCs squeal and shriek so maybe, as loads of other posters have said, you need to tell your DCs shrieking is not tolerated and they have to come inside if they do that. I agree that there is nothing worse than a summer meal outside and loud squealing and shrieking from next door.

TheRealFellatio Mon 10-Jun-13 08:18:27

Do we know for sure that the other 5 households agree with Mr and Mrs Moany though, or is it possible that they have been having a whinge to anyone who will listen and the others have just made polite nodding and 'hmmm' ing gestures, which they have taken as complete agreement?

Wishiwasanheiress Mon 10-Jun-13 08:31:33

I agree with thereal. There's no proof of 5 others agreeing.

Read up on local gov processes just for your own knowledge but after that just ignore. Be civil, but no more.

And as for the "nothing worse on a summers eve than squealing/shrieking" yes there is. Drum n base. Silly remark.

BranchingOut Mon 10-Jun-13 09:42:23

I suggested the apology, not because they should particularly mean it, but because it may help the neighbours to have a bit of feeling towards the children. Also, because sometimes it is easier and simpler in the long run to appear to be highly accommodating, than to set against someone.

I had a very awkward colleague a few years ago, who caused me huge amounts of trouble and upset when i disagreed with her. In retrospect, it would have been simpler to get her on side and be much nicer than I actually felt towards her.

MadeOfStarDust Mon 10-Jun-13 10:03:25

I have kids - I know they are just having fun outside in the sunshine...
but I understand the neighbours side too - it is the repetitive nature - when school ends, you wait for it to start and know there's going to be another 3 hours of shrieking..

I work nights...

Mintyy Mon 10-Jun-13 10:11:40

Well, I've skim read that as its so excessively long, but you have elderly neighbours complaining about your children making too much noise in the garden? What compromise did you offer them? You really must explain to the children that other people are outside enjoying their gardens and too much noise is just as rude as going in to other people's front rooms and yelling their heads off. Please try and find some kind of middle ground.

Chubfuddler Mon 10-Jun-13 10:12:47

Apart from the shrieking you are in no way unreasonable. I would bet the farm they bought that house when their children were young, and they behaved exactly as your do now. Ignore.

(I also think they do not have five neighbours in total agreement either, but have interpreted non committal hmms as complete agreement)

C4ro Mon 10-Jun-13 10:19:20

We had some miserable old neighbours and some really gorgeous old neighbours that I still think of as extra grandparents.The miserable ones didn't want us to ride our bikes over a piece of land that they didn't actually own, po-faced, sancimonious etc... The really lovely ones used to let us take sugar in our tea (forbidden at home) and watch their TV (tightly rationed at home) and once came to collect me from school when I couldn't get through to my parents (pre-mobile phones).

Don't assume for one second that all your neighbours agree with the miseries at all. I expect many of them are delighted to have some kids around. Encourage your kids to know the lovely ones.

MrsMeg Mon 10-Jun-13 10:19:53

Can you get your kids to make them a card to say sorry? I would encourage the use of lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of badly glued on glitter and sequins grin

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MaryPoppinsBag Mon 10-Jun-13 10:27:00

OP
You don't sound like a bad neighbour, just a neighbour with children.
I'm a childminder and have extra children playing out after school. They make noise but are asked to be quiet if they are screaming/ playing you loudly or banging. They have a habit of opening and closing the playhouse door which I hate.

Unfortunately for me last week my neighbour decided to take umbrage with my profession. Complaining about the noise - it had been an inset day monday and then Tuesday they played out after school.

I heard her chuntering about me being a CM and how if she wanted that noise she'd live next door to the local school, and how I should have permission etc. all this was said loudly for my benefit, peppered with expletives and whilst loud dance music was thudding away and she had at least 2 of her own grandchildren there. Who we've listened to playing in her garden almost every day in the summer since we moved here 10 years ago (we don't mind the noise).

The hypocrisy of it was unreal.

I challenged her she let rip with a tirade of bad language, and told me when I asked her not to swear in front of children, that I should not 'take children in'. As though it was ok for her to swear in front of my children.
It ended with her threatening to come round and leather me!

Obviously she felt the sound of children playing was worse than her behaviour. We've put up with loud music, swearing and 'smoking' but she finds me childminding offensive!
I left them in no doubt that if they started anything that I would report them for their behaviour. It has been strangely quiet since.

I guess what I am saying is people can be very unreasonable and think that they own the whole street rather than their garden.

I would just ensure your children don't scream and a get to loud then you will have the upper hand.

landofsoapandglory Mon 10-Jun-13 10:37:39

I doubt it's the general laughing and playing, it's the shrieking. There's no need for it. I can totally understand why they don't like it, it goes right through me and makes my ears ring. You should be telling your DC not to do it.

ThingummyBob Mon 10-Jun-13 10:39:59

I can't believe that people think its ok to restrict children playing out to 3.30 - 6.30 or thereabouts shock

There are precious few days of light and sunshine as it is, I wouldn't dream of then putting time limits in place in order to placate knobby neighbours.

The kids have all been out around here til gone 8 or 9pm most nights recently as we all know the nice weather won't last long

dogrosie Mon 10-Jun-13 10:53:06

I live on an estate where the kids free range a bit in the street and in gardens, but mine are always in by 6pm Sunday-Thursday and 7pm Friday and Saturday. Otherwise it's just not fair on families with babies, people who work shifts and people who want to enjoy a glass of wine in their gardens after work. They are noisy but the rule is no screaming or roaring. I think this is a compromise. Having kids running about the street shouting at 9pm would do my head in - even if they were mine, let alone anyone else's!

ThingummyBob Mon 10-Jun-13 11:01:29

Well, quite.
The kids round here are not roaring or screaming though to my knowledge, simply playing and making usual sounds as they do so grin

Chubfuddler Mon 10-Jun-13 11:26:56

I live in a terraced house but it's old and well built. Normal conversation, TV etc cannot be heard. Shouting etc can.

My next door neighbours have three children of between about 10 and 15. I say nothing about them playing in the garden until about 8.30pm even though I'm trying to settle my little ones, they say nothing about my toddler crying during the night (I've no idea if they can hear her or not but if be surprised if they never heard anything at all). That is live and let live.

oinkment Mon 10-Jun-13 12:02:31

My favourite bit is when the neighbour "almost sneered" at the bicycles on the front lawn.

grin

takethatno1fan Mon 10-Jun-13 17:13:01

Thanks for your views.

I think the one area from all of them which lacks consensus is the matter of what I have described as 'shrieking'.

To put this into some context, these are 4 kids, aged 5-7 playing on a trampoline, and in a paddling pool on a hot sunny afternoon. There is bound to be a mix of different noises from a child when they're having fun, moreso when it is in the open air.

Funnily, I've always found that I have a really very low tolerance of the kids raising their voices - in fact, I'm always ticking them off for it. I did not however think it was inappropriate given the context in which it was happening (and still don't).

Maybe different people have different ideas of what constitutes shrieking. My own personal view is that from time to time, in your own house, at work, during leisure time, we may all be exposed to sounds which we don't have any control over. The noises made by children as a natural by-product of outdoor play in cold water seems to me to be perfectly reasonable to expect in a residential area on a hot day, therefore it should be one of those things in life that one simply has to accept and get on with.

I can't be expected to prioritise my neighbours feelings on this matter over my own parental views/standards. I didn't deem the noises they made to be inappropriate given the context. On occasions when they make what I consider to noise which is too loud, or too shrill then I have done, and will continue to tell them that it's not acceptable. I cannot however in good conscience let my neighbours view be the determining factor of that threshold.

During the paddling pool fun for instance, my daughter stubbed her toe and started screaming. While this might have 'gone right through' my neighbours and compounded their bad feeling, the noise could hardly be helped, and it was contextually acceptable.

The situation today, is that right now, my two and two others are playing out the front having a water fight with water pistols. Again, a good wholesome after-school activity and far preferable to watching TV or stuck indoors for some other reason. My son and another boy have fallen out over who gets to use the 'the big one'. He was crying loudly because he was upset (we were all kids once I suppose and it's probably a big deal if you're seven). It's so frustrating for me now that I'm more concerned about my neighbours getting annoyed at the noise that dealing properly with the situation is secondary to me keepng the noise down!

I have actually recorded the noise from the paddling pool yesterday, and am currently recording the water-fight sound just now - I may post edited highlights later on as an example if anyone would be interested?

This morning I called the Local Authority Environmental Health/Community Safety people to explain the situation. The lady there was very understanding and explained to me that there is no chance that young children making noise when playing would ever be considered unreasonable or a nuisance noise. This was reasonably reassuring. The officer said it actually sounded like it was the neighbours themselves that were being unreasonable for expecting the children to be quiet! If the neighbours complain again, I can direct them to call the Council, and they will be told what I've been told.

Further, I have also spoken to my next door neighbour. She is a lady of about the same age as the complainant. Ironically she says she likes the sound of the children playing! Apparently it makes her feel safe because she knows there's activity around, and she also thought it was too quiet in the street before families started moving in.

The one really funny part about this whole sorry situation is that apparently the same neighbours complained to the previous owners of our house because she was playing Susan Boyle CDs too loudly for them!

I think (considering all replies so far) I'm going to conclude that like it or not, the noise of children having fun is something that people either have to enjoy, be ambivalent to, or tolerate if they choose to live in a mixed residential housing estate. As far as these particular neighbours go, I have a feeling that if we went around our home whispering it still wouldn't be ideal for them. On that basis I can't see what else can be done.

takethatno1fan Mon 10-Jun-13 17:26:53

I would also add that I've been finding this afternoon that I feel like I'm being 'listened too' by my neighbours over the fence. I've just been out the back while my daughter goes on the trampoline (in silence obviously) and I can hear one of them pottering around in their garden. The feeling of knowing that they're actively listening to me is an altogether unpleasant one, which I wouldn't wish on anyone! Even though my daughter was actually just bouncing quietly, it feels like I don't even have private use of my garden because I'm under surveillance!

schobe Mon 10-Jun-13 17:32:22

Stop recording your children. Calm down.

Forget that they may be 'listening' to you. They probably are as they sound like they have very little to occupy them to get wound up about children and/or SuBo CDs. Throw in a few references to made up sexual antics just to keep them on their toes.

Do the smiling and nodding thing. 'I'm so sorry you feel that way' is such a powerful and yet completely passive phrase.

Sounds like you will do as much as you can to stop your DC being excessively whiney or shrieky. You can do no more. Learn to live with the fact that some people are arseholes.

mercibucket Mon 10-Jun-13 17:36:05

its good to have got feedback from the council too, now relax and forget about those neighbours. funnily enough, our annoying neighbours also felt their previous neighbours were too noisy. in other words, they are over sensitive to noise

wrt shrieking, there is a particular noise some young children make, high pitched and done for maximum annoying impact, like a group of young girls egging each other on to louder and louder screaming. its not a standard shout, scream, cry, but really really annoying. it can definitely be stopped if the children are simply brought inside every time they do it, or reminded about not doing it. it doesnt sound like any of the noises you describe

EuroShaggleton Mon 10-Jun-13 17:47:16

I think I agree with the consensus - the noise of children playing is absolutely fine. High pitched shrieking is not so good.

My parents are in a similar position to your neighbours - early 60s, live in a very quiet street, etc. They have neighbours over the back with a young family. The noise does impede their enjoyment of the garden, no question about it. The biggest bugbear is the trampoline. The neighbours have put it at the far end of their long garden, meaning that it is closer to my parents' house than their own! Also, because there is a mound (I think spare earth from where something was dug out at some point) and the tranpoline is on that, the children bounce higher than the fence and look right into my parents' garden. So whilst I think the noise of children playing is not a problem (and can be lovely), you can be considerate towards your neighbours. Is the padding pool and trampoline at the far end of your garden? Could you move them away a bit?

My parents haven't complained (except to me!) but I can see it is not nice for them to have bouncing shouting children a few feet away while they are trying to enjoy a quiet cup of tea on the patio in their own garden. Their neighbours definitely could have been more considerate. Could you?

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