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West London living - are we hellish neighbours?

(62 Posts)
user1486017891 Thu 02-Feb-17 08:17:06

Mums - please help!! My partner, 3 year old daughter and I live in West London. Until recently we lived in a top floor one bedroom flat in a converted Victorian building which we had lived in as a couple. This was hard... no bedroom for my daughter, too many stairs, limited space.
After making our peace with the fact that we can NO WAY afford to buy what we want, in December we rented out our flat and rented a new one close by (also closer to the school we want her to go to). This is a ground floor flat in a similar converted house with much more space, a bedroom for my daughter and a garden -actually the back half of a garden that is split with our neighbours in the basement flat.
We love it and thought moving would be a real life changer - able to enjoy time at home instead of constantly going to parks... daughter could have playdates, etc.
But within weeks of moving here, the neighbours downstairs complained about noise and have done so twice since. The first time, a Saturday morning, they came up and knocked on the door. Second time it was a conversation by the bins. Each time they said they had contacted the landlord.
Last night, the landlord forwarded me a further complaint that they had written to him and asked me if I would contact them to sort things out. He is lovely and would clearly rather not be involved.
Basically, they say they can hear us moving around from early morning to the early hours and it is unbearable. They say my daughter is up late running the length of the flat squealing and my partner and I talk loudly and move around till the early hours.
In both my conversations with them I've been really apologetic and said we would try to keep noise down. They've also been civil, acknowledging that everyone has to live and it's difficult because there is little insulation in these old houses. They say how sweet my daughter is and how they want to get on with us. But the continuous contacting of the landlord - three times in just over a month - tells a different story . It seems so aggressive and I feel they want us out.
The flat is carpeted and, since the first complaint, I've made everyone take off their shoes. My partner and I both go to work and daughter is at nursery school from 9 to 3 - one of us picks her up and she is back at home by 4 earliest. Normally we try and get her to sleep at 8 but I admit her sleeping is a bit erratic and sometimes she just won't settle till later (normally because she has napped earlier in the afternoon after getting back from school exhausted). She is a normal lively 3 year old who jumps and skips and bounces and fidgets.
I have been trying to keep everyone quiet but am at my wit's end. I don't know what more I can do - I can't chop my daughters legs off. It feels like the neighbours are trying to deny our right to a normal existence.
My partner is furious about the whole situation... says they are trying to bully us and I am being a people pleaser instead of standing up for my family. It is causing stress in our relationship and last night we were up arguing about how to deal with it - no doubt intensifying the problem....
We are paying a fortune in rent but feel we can't have people or round or enjoy the flat in the way we had hoped because we are so paranoid. My daughter has had only one playdate - I was so stressed about having two of them jumping around that it's never been repeated. I don't even feel comfortable in the garden because it puts us in close contact with the downstairs neighbours who have the other half.
They are a couple in their 60s I guess - seem to be retired - living with an adult daughter. Our flat has been rented out for years but last tenant was a single female working full time and probably out in the evenings - so of course they are going to notice the difference.
I can't ignore them as the landlord has asked me to deal with the problem. So what do I say? I don't want to apologise any more for my daughter being herself. But I do love the flat and have to work this out if we are going to stay.
Other info - we can sometimes hear them talking loudly and also hear the single man living above walking around. This does not upset us. My partner has a son who lives with his mum and sometimes comes at weekends but is not noisy. I am not sure the neighbours have even cottoned on to that yet (thank god!)

hopsalong Thu 02-Feb-17 08:37:07

They are a couple in their 60s I guess - seem to be retired - living with an adult daughter. Our flat has been rented out for years but last tenant was a single female working full time and probably out in the evenings - so of course they are going to notice the difference.

Think this says it all. You sound as if you're bending over backwards (shoes off, no playdates) to keep noise down, but they've got used to a kind of silent bliss that just isn't possible for those who live in London unless we can afford a huge mansion somewhere like Holland Park. (Actually, even then the relentless construction noise on neighbouring mansions must be a problem.)

We had new neighbours move into the flat next door (their kitchen is adjacent to our bedroom) and I also struggled a bit after it had been empty for six months. But have only complained once, and that was when they were having a party after midnight with about fifty people which they hadn't warned us about. Even then I thought I might be being a tiny bit precious, but they are early 20s and was worried it might be a repeated thing.

I would carry on being very polite, but definitely don't feel too cowed to have playdates. If they really can't bear it, they'll have to move themselves. I'm sure if they think about this for even five seconds it will be obvious that you are ordinary/ nice neighbours with only one child, and they could easily end up with something far worse. Landlord will know this too and so doubt his patience for them is infinite.

19lottie82 Thu 02-Feb-17 08:40:28

Print or write out contact details for the noise team at your local council. Pass then to your neighbour and tell her as far as you're concerned the noise from your flat is normal / not excessive, but if she has any further concerns then to call them and invite them out.

Also put a response to your Landlord in writing.

RedHelenB Thu 02-Feb-17 08:41:19

If your landlord doesnt rent to them then I dont think your landlord will give a stuff! Live life normally. YANBU.

tectonicplates Thu 02-Feb-17 08:48:18

we can sometimes hear them talking loudly and also hear the single man living above walking around.

Make a counter-complaint against them.

GrumpyOldBlonde Thu 02-Feb-17 08:57:25

It's very difficult, I have been in your shoes and theirs in the past. I think once people have heard annoying noise once or twice it can get to them so much that from then on every slight sound can drive them crazy.

If they are civil as you say I would point out that you can also hear them too sometimes in a very polite way.
Can you put down some rugs at all, might help a little and possibly furniture pad things (I used to hear my neighbours chairs being scraped back from the dining table which sounds so trivial but would make me grit my teeth every time)

It's really part and parcel of living in a shared building isn't it? Not easy for either side. But you must live your life and have those playdates and use the garden, that's not unreasonable.

stopfuckingshoutingatme Thu 02-Feb-17 08:58:49

they are BU

they have got used to having it quiet , and you seem to be fairly normal

I would fight fire with fire

- we are finding your complaints increasingly hostile and bordering on harassment
- we are doing everything we can to minimise the noise, including removing shoes, volume down
- further to this all 3 of us are out of the house for the most part of 5 days a week

you persistent complaints re ruining our right to enjoy our home and have a quiet life. We assert that there is no noise we are making that's over and above what's considered to be normal

If we cant come to a mutual agreement, we will be moving house and we will make it clear to the Landlords and future tenants that your harassment is the reason why

Trust me - that if we move you could end up with Tenants that do actually breach what's reasonable


Crumbs1 Thu 02-Feb-17 09:07:11

Sixty is hardly old! They are miserable codgers who probably drive everyone out. Three choices, I guess. A) Move to somewhere with better sound insulation and nicer neighbours B) Do battle and face them whilst saying as posted immediately above. C) ignore completely and carry on. If they stop you to speak just smile and sorry we aren't going to agree on this whilst walking away.

Secretsandlies12 Thu 02-Feb-17 09:09:04

I once lived in a flat like that. The problem is that conversions were done without sufficient sound insulation. It is a London problem.My downstairs neighbours complained about the noise I made - but shut up when I said (honestly) that I could her them having sex, using the toilet etc.

From your description, the noise you make falls into the reasonable category - though if the child is running around in the early hours that must be very difficult for your neighbours.

In the end there is nothing they can do other than move themselves.

onemorecupofcoffeefortheroad Thu 02-Feb-17 09:10:11

That's crazy - you can't live like that - they are being ludicrously unfair.
I would invite them over for a cup of tea and tell them what you have told us. That you are being really considerate and are going to great lengths not to make any noise, however in doing so you are unable to enjoy your home in the way that you want to and the situation is now getting ridiculous. They are living in a shared property and must expect a reasonable amount of noise. Tell them that you also hear noise coming from them but that you understand that is only to be expected and so wouldn't dream of making a fuss.
To a certain extent your DH is right - don't keep giving into them - you are doing nothing wrong - the noise isn't excessive it's reasonable and they are just going to have to get used to it.

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Thu 02-Feb-17 09:12:34

Re-posted from elsewhere (why do MN not have a delete own post function?!)

Their complaints are not reasonable and wouldn't stand a hope in hell if they went to the council. You are out most of the day, and the noise they are experiencing is everyday noise, during reasonable hours (and even if a baby cried after 11pm, you can't actually help that!)

Three complaints is two too many and suggests that they are completely unrealistic about the level of noise a family will make.

I agree with your husband, now is the time to say 'you know what, we are doing our best, not wearing shoes, out most of the day anyway, but the rest of the time we need to enjoy our house and that will include our dd playing and having playdates and using the garden'. The more you retreat, the more that they will complain, they've already shown that.

Their quiet life can't exist in their type of property, and you have a right to enjoy your own home, even do DIY if you feel like it! You don't have to live like mice. The people I know who complain a lot tend to be people with anxiety/mental health issues who are very noise sensitive (I have a relative like this who has found fault with every single neighbour he's ever had in terms of noise), and people who are older who imagine they are living in a retirement village but actually live in a block of flats with all the noise that brings. I wouldn't be mean to them but I would not pander to it in any way.

averythinline Thu 02-Feb-17 09:15:54

They are being completely unrealistic- you have a right to a normal life and that includes play dates..

I would reply with stop fuckings response - it is polite answers their points but is assertive.....this is your home..maybe put the councils number on as they will just (--laugh histerically--) tell them to fill out a diary and a diary of child laughing people walking etc will not get them anywhere..

maybe go back to your Landlord and ask if he's going to put down new carpet and thicker underlay....if he wants to get in a tizz as well..

7SunshineSeven7 Thu 02-Feb-17 09:16:54

I think if you're making normal noise its fine but trying to look at it from their side:

-How early is ''early hours''?
- You said your daughter bounces, jumps, fidgets and skips with I agree, is totally normal. But how much/often and for what length of time does she do this?
- You say your daughter doesn't get to bed until late, what time is this? If she's unsettled is she crying or making a lot of noise?

There are other things you can do (if not wearing shoes all of the time didn't occur to you at first):

-I wouldn't worry about the garden, just go out there, its probably because its above them more than anything.
-When you pull out chairs from a table do you drag them across the floor or lift and place gently?
-Are you washing dishes/pots and pan late? This can be really loud.
-Where is your bedroom in comparison to theirs? It it under the livingroom or under your bedroom?

I think they have to realise they live in a flat and noise is part of it. They've probably had trouble before you and before the previous woman and advice has been to complain each and everytime so that's what they're doing with you. Just keep a log of their noise so if the complain again (unreasonably) you can hand it to the landlord.

ohlittlepea Thu 02-Feb-17 09:17:05

I would explain the steps you've taken and restart play dates! I would also say you are able to hear them and the neighbors above but chose not to complain as you acknowledge this is part of living in a flat.

Imamouseduh Thu 02-Feb-17 09:21:57

Does your landlord own both flats? If so, and if the couple down stairs have been good tenants for a long while, he might be inclined to not renew your lease in case of losing them. It doesn't sound like you are making excessive noise, but having been on the receiving end of this in a converted house with no noise insulation, it was hellish. In their situation, if the noise was continuous - even if unintentional - I would complain too. It not their fault the sound carries easily. But if the flats are owned by two different people your landlord probably won't be inclined to do anything about it. At the end of the day they chose to live in the basement, which means having people live above you.

SquitMcJit Thu 02-Feb-17 09:25:21

I would agree with pps who say it us just part of living in converted houses, unfortunately for them. What you are describing is totally normal noise from a family living their lives.

We had this once, my partner and I living in a first floor flat in a converted Edwardian house were asked by the downstairs neighbours not to walk around after 10pm at night because they could hear our footsteps [hmmm] We ended up having to tell them to contact the council if they really thought they had a case re noise because there was nothing we could reasonably do.

SquitMcJit Thu 02-Feb-17 09:26:59

They never did

Bobochic Thu 02-Feb-17 09:28:13

I have lived in a city centre apartment with small DC and neighbours and it is, IMO, necessary to take your children to a park every day to run around, squeal etc so that they burn off energy. You do not have the luxury of choosing whether or not to go out for runnng around.

mummymeister Thu 02-Feb-17 09:28:34

being brutally honest - move. you aren't being unreasonable but they are and they have the capacity to make your life really miserable.

take them on by all means. Speak to env health. get them to come out and do airborne and impact sound testing between the two units to make sure that the sound insulation complies with the british standard/building regs. if it doesn't then your landlord and the basement flat owner will have to foot the bill for the upgrade and it will be damn expensive. if they own the basement flat make them aware of this.

if your sound insulation does comply then it comes down to lifestyle.

you have been 100% reasonable. unfortunately they have got used to the quiet life and don't want you there.

they are not going to stop complaining. no matter what steps you take or how quiet you try to be it isn't going to be enough.

so you have to decide, do you take them on head on in this, putting up with their constant complaining, feeling nervous about being in the flat or doing anything in there, not wanting to meet them on the stairs etc or do you just move.

I have 20+ years in noise complaints and only those with really strong constitutions can take on this sort of complainer. they grind you down and stop your enjoyment of your property. If you are up for a fight over it then go for it. but really, personally, I would just move on at the end of the lease and move. its not being defeatist. its taking 6/12 months potential grief away.

unlucky83 Thu 02-Feb-17 09:28:38

If they own their flat talk to them about sound proofing their celling - depending on your financial circumstances/rental contract it might be worth offering to contribute...(obviously if you are on a six month contract by the time the work is done you might have moved on)
or look at sound proofing for under your floors/underlay - but that would the landlords problem really -so it is tricky. I guess if he and you get enough complaints that means tenants won't stay for long...but it is a bit of a LL market in most areas - I would assume in yours too. And by the time something is done you'll have probably moved on to somewhere where you can be more comfortable.
I think I would have a frank conversation with them about it - explain you are trying your best, doing what you can etc but have to live. There isn't really anything else you feel you can do - what do they suggest?
Say you can hear them and your neighbour above (in a 'it is obviously a problem' way - not complaining about such.)
And also your position being renters - not really being able to do any soundproofing work yourself - maybe they could or could come to an agreement with your landlord?

amusedbush Thu 02-Feb-17 09:34:09

They ABVVVU. I was driven to distraction by upstairs' toddler thundering up and down the flat above in what sounded like concrete shoes until almost midnight every night but I accepted that it's part of living in a flat, and the kid would get older and stop doing it.

I would never have complained about it.

GoesDownLikeACupOfColdSick Thu 02-Feb-17 09:36:32

Problem is, these houses weren't built for multiple occupation. And when they were split, most of the developers didn't think about adequate soundproofing.

I would suggest going downstairs to listen to it from their perspective when your husband is at home with your DD - this shows willing if nothing else. If you agree with them that it's a nightmare, then the landlord (of the building, rather than your landlord - this could be an individual or a company, or the flat owners together) should be told to do something. Of course in practice, getting this to happen won't be easy, nobody likes putting their hand in their pockets.

If you think they are being over sensitive, which is probably the case, then maybe ask the environmental health team at the council if someone can come out to inspect?

DavetheCat2001 Thu 02-Feb-17 09:37:39

It does sound as if they are being totally unrealistic about living in shared spaces.

We live in a top floor Victorian maisonette and have 2 DC's, 3 and 6, and I am so so so conscious of the noise they can make, and very much try and install on my kids that tear arising up and down the hallway/jumping off sofa's/beds etc is not acceptable as I can only imagine how it sounds to my poor neighbour downstairs.

VERY luckily the guy downstairs is utterly lovely and very easy going. I have apologised countless times for the noise he must be subjected to from us, but his take is that kids are kids and do make noise. He also acknowledges that my two are quiet/in bed by 7ish, so around the time he is getting home from work so it isn't too bad and he gets a quiet evening on the whole.

He like to whack his tunes up on a Friday/Saturday night if he is going out/having friends over and that is fine by us. Is can be loud but again it's never for a prolonged period of time, and I accept it as a compromise for the noise my kids make.

Your neighbours need to live in the real world, and if they want to live in silence, need to buy themselves a detached house somewhere, preferably out of London as it just isn't possible to live like that in an urban environment.

I'd just tell them politely that you are doing everything you can to minimise the noise, but actually short of not breathing/moving etc, you are unable to do any more, and actually being continually being complained about to the LL feel a bit like harassment. You have as much right to enjoy your flat/garden as they do.

GoesDownLikeACupOfColdSick Thu 02-Feb-17 09:38:06

this PP is right, by the way:

so you have to decide, do you take them on head on in this, putting up with their constant complaining, feeling nervous about being in the flat or doing anything in there, not wanting to meet them on the stairs etc or do you just move

Friends of mine ended up behaving like "mists" in their own flat because their neighbours complained about every single footstep. And they had no kids and were out most of the day. However, if you love the place and want to stay, you might want to try and resolve it.

margaritaville7 Thu 02-Feb-17 09:42:03

I have lived in many flats over the years; one with an opera singer upstairs, another with university students (who we eventually had thrown out, only to have them replaced with their friends who would party all night and vomit down the communal stairs!). The one thing I've learned is noise in avoidable living in close proximity to other people. I don't think you're being unreasonable in the slightest, in fact I'd say you're being overly reasonable!

We have just moved into an old building that has been renovated into flats. Our neighbour's living room is directly above our bedroom and sometimes it drives my dh and I crackers hearing our neighbours stomp around and move furniture at midnight. But we appreciate they are really friendly and nice neighbours, and they work late hours so it's unavoidable. Also, their bedroom is above our 10mo dd's, so I don't imagine they appreciate her bellowing at 4am either!

Obviously you've both spoken to the landlord, but do you also have a freeholder you can contact? They often have a procedure in place to addressing noise. If the landlord is being unhelpful, I would suggest calling the council for some advice. You're probably doing this already, but get EVERYTHING on email to back you up - Islington Council was really hot on this when we complained, and in turn specified what level of noise/timing they would respond to.

I know it's easy to say as an outsider but don't make this compromise how you enjoy YOUR home. I think as long as you're not being noisy between 11ish-6/7am then it's perfectly acceptable for you to put your foot down with your neighbours. You have a (naturally) spirited daughter, you work most of the day and it's not like you're having wild parties.

Good luck, I know from experience that it's really horrible having a falling out with your neighbours, as you start to dread bumping into them. But put your foot down, you can't be pushed around.

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