Advice about Neighbor Troubles
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Advice about Neighbor Troubles
Our immediate neighbors do not have trash service and do not have cans in their
yard. Instead, they just burn all their trash in their fireplace. To make it
worse, we also suspect they are manufacturing meth (they have been reported), so
some of the burns are especially toxic. The smells are awful and affecting several
neighbors on our block, a few who have asthma. I know backyard burning is
illegal, so I imagine this must be prohibited too (aside from the meth issue,
which is clearly illegal). Does anyone know a resource to call or have any
advice? For various reasons, we can't really talk to them. We are in Contra
Below is a link to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's (BAAQMD's) Wood Smoke
Complaint Form. Per the instructions, this form should also be used to complain about the
burning of trash:
I hope they can help you.
Call the Fire Marshal immediately - and let him or her know you think hazardous waste is
being burned at that address. Their job is looking into exactly these kinds of dangerous
situations. Call *every single time* you see smoke or smell it, and don't be afraid to be
a pest. You are right - if they are manufacturing meth it is very dangerous and an
environmental hazard. If they are, in fact, burning the waste in the fireplace, they could
very likely wind up having the Fire Marshal red-tag the house as uninhabitable.
I checked with someone who works with these kinds of issues at the Contra Costa Health
Department and he said call the air district complaint line at 1 800-334-6367.
Call Bay Area air quality management once per day, every time it happens, and have the
neighbors call too.
If you had a cordial relationship with these neighbors, it might be possible
to just ask them about it. But it seems that this is not a good option.
The regional air quality agency cares deeply about wood being burned in
fireplaces on ''spare the air'' days, and I believe they have a complaint
hotline. This might be a way to bring pressure to bear.
I need help figuring out neighbors' behavior. We have a good relationship with our
neighbors on either side. All the families have kids about the same age. The adults meet
up fairly regularly for scheduled events. But we don't get included on simple daily
activities, for eg going to the park, going for a walk etc. When I have tried to contact
them with possible plans, my calls and texts go unanswered. If we are both in our
backyards (we share fences) they don't bother greeting me but will sort of answer if I
reach out. On a number of occasions I have invited their kids over but they usually make
excuses why the kids cannot come over.
What I have trouble understanding is that when we run into each other and have a
conversation,its cordial and even friendly. Its stops there though. I get the feeling
they are keeping me (us) at an arms length. I'm trying my best to figure out if anything
I said or did offended them. Needless to say I am quite bothered by this.
As background I work full time and they all don't. Our kids don't go to the same school
I grew up in a community where families were close and i still remain close friends with
kids from the neighborhood though we are scattered all over the country. I am looking
for help understanding this dichotomy.
You must be living next to my neighbors!! We have the same situation, but worse they
even asked us to stop our kids from coming over to try to play with theirs. We have
now just given up. They have their own social group which includes the kids that are
allowed to play with their kids. They don't play with any neighborhood kids!!
This is a problem in some neighborhoods. Some so bad that you might never socialize
with your nieghbors (I have friends on the Peninsula where most of the nieghbors
only say hi or bye).
I agree when we were growing up our parents were friends with the neighbors, we
played with the kids on our street. But I've lived in a couple of cities around the
Bay Area and have run into neighbors like this. They live in the neighborhood
becuase they like their house but have no intention of considering the neighbors as
part of their or their kids social group.
We have just learned to deal with the neighbors that do include us in their social
group and our kids play with the other neighborhood kids.
Not a solution, but just modern reality.
Living with unfriendly neighbors
I'd ask each neighbor separately if you have in some way offended them.
Tell them you notice you're not included and you wondered why.
I did this once years ago and though it was hard, I found out that the people I
questioned thought I wanted to be left alone because I was kind of quiet and kept to
You never know. If it bugs you, speak up.
It sounds like their kids are not enjoying being around your kids. Kids are like
that. You might ask them if that is the case. Be truly curious about what they
think the issues are, and see if there is, perhaps, some modifications of behavior
that might help your children be nicer to be around. It may be something simple
like ''your kids only want to play games that my kids don't want to play''.
Remember that, just because they are the same age and near each other, they may not
You should not assume that you have offended them somehow. I suspect the main issue
is that you work fulltime and they don't. That's huge. They are home during the
day, so they have a lot more opportunities to build a relationship with each other.
Plus, for people who are home all day, their main adult relationships are with other
parents who are also at home during the day. So those friendships have high value.
I'm a working mom now, but I spent a few years as a stay at home mom, and during
those years the other moms I saw during the day were the only thing that kept me
sane! I still had my after-work friends and neighbors but I was much closer to my
day-time friends. Now as a working mom, I have my work friends and my kids' school
friends, and my neighbors, and my log-time pals - a much bigger variety, though less
time to spend with them.
Scheduling is completely different too, when you stay at home vs. when you work.
When I was at home with little kids, I thought nothing of showing up at a park at
random times to see who was there. I had time to hang out waiting for that friend
who always ran late, or just strike up a conversation with someone new. It's
different now that I work. Playdates and social events happen only on the weekends,
and occasionally after school, and they are planned in advance. My leisure time is
precious, so I am picky about how I spend it.
Keep having social get-togethers with the grownups, and keep saying hi when you see
them. Your kids go to a different school, so that's another reason why you're not
going to have the close ties that the other families have. But you can still be a
good friend and a good neighbor.
You grew up in a neighborhood where neighbors were close and like family. Perhaps
your current neighbors do not want to be like family. Perhaps they (to use a
california phrase) need some space. They are likely glad to be friends and chat
with you, but not every time they are in their yard and not every time they go for a
a neighborhood walk. Expiriment with not talking to them everytime you are in your
yards at the same time. Try pretending that they are not there unless they initiate
the conversation. And if they initiate a yard to yard conversation, try to keep your
side of it cordial and brief. Also their relationship with each other may be closer
than their relationship with you. Try to accept that, if so. If you are someone
who carries out long conversations and has challenges with brief hellos, or with
ending conversations, perhaps this makes them not want to begin a conversation all
the time. when you talk with them do you try to rope them into a time commitment?
If so, try laying off scheduling anything with them for a month unless they initiate
it. In general, consider backing off for a bit, yet still being cordial but brief.
Let them initiate. Leave room for them to express their level of comfort with
communication and joint activities. If you pay attention, leave room for them to
initiate and are very patient, you may learn a lot about their preferences for
communication and activities. This may be the best way to nurture your long-term
Another neighborly neighbor
You *have* figured out your neighbors: ''I get the feeling they are keeping me (us)
at an arms length.'' That's just them, and it probably has nothing to do with you.
Be yourself, and let them be themselves.
Hi there. Not knowing the neighbors or you, it sounds simply like you guys don't
really click as friends. From what you have said I doubt you've done anything
''wrong.'' We have some casual acquaintances who have made overtures to be better
friends, but my hubby and I are not that interested in getting to know them better.
We both find it hard to really connect with the husband, though he is a very nice
guy and has a lot of admirable qualities. We enjoy chatting with him casually now
and then, but don't really want to take it that step further to hanging out a park,
sharing a meal, etc. In short, we really don't want to be friends in that way. That
spark of friendship is just not there, similar in some ways to a romantic spark --
someone may be attractive and nice but you just aren't that interested. So my advice
is to enjoy the easy chit chat you have, don't worry that you've done something
wrong, and let it go. As long as they are cordial neighbors that is the best you can
It's not you, it's them
The fact that you work and they don't, and that your kids go to a different school
could easily be the issue here. Less contact, less of a shared world means you're
not really as close. Also, if they all go to public school and yours goes to a
private, there could be perceived or assumed snobbishness on your part. Unfair but
it could be there, possibly they may have assumptions they're not aware of. Your
continuing hospitality and friendliness may be the thing that changes that in them.
I wonder if you could just ask one or both of the moms, I know I don't get a chance
to see you all as much as I'd like. I just wanted to check in and make sure
everything's ok with [your kid's name]... are there any issues or difficulties with
him I should know about? If they say, Oh no, no... Then just say, ''Oh, OK, I was
just wondering,'' and drop it.
You could add, ''Is there something I've done or said to upset or offend you?'' See
how it feels. It could make them defensive as it seems to point to their avoidance
behavior, or maybe it could be part of the question about your kid. You could
quickly add, ''I know Johnny going to ABC School takes us a little out of the loop
(make it situational and not personal) and that's a little at odds with wanting to
be part of the neighborhood like when I was a kid... I just don't know quite how to
deal with that.''
I guess I feel the different school and your full-time work issue is probably it. So
maybe acknowledging that right up front, at least the school part along with your
desire to be part of the neighborhood, and your willingness to hear if there is some
specific problem, at least gets it out there.
- open the dialogue, stay friendly, no rush
Do your neighbors socialize with each other? It may just be that they keep to
themselves or socialize with their families or people they know from church, kids
sports, etc. It's a time issue. We live in a neighborhood with about 6 other
families with kids on our street. My kids used to play with them but don't anymore.
Most of them joined the local country club and are also families transferred here
for work. They are their own community. Our community is our local families and
people with kids that we have known from work, childhood, etc. My husband has always
lived in this area.
Also, we hang out with the sports team families a lot. It's easy to grab a pizza
with them after a lacrosse game or for the kids to have impromptu playdates.
Also, I know that one of my children is very headstrong and so that may have
contributed to her not wanting to play with the neighborhood kids -- she can't
always have her way.
Don't necessarily take it personally.
They don't want to be friends with you, but they are willing to be friendly. It may
be that they feel like they have enough friends and obligations already. Or maybe
they don't like your personality. Or maybe you are a lousy neighbor. Does you dog
bark too much? Do you let your kids pick their flowers? Does you cat poop in their
yard? Do you burn wood and have bbq's all the time, creating air pollution? Do you
start up your power lawn mower at 8 am on Saturday morning? Is your front yard an
eyesore? Try being a better neighbor and see if that helps. You could just ask them,
but most people don't like being put on the spot like that.
My neighbor just built out a deck and added a hot tub. The tub ends up sitting a
few feet away from my bedroom.
We live in the city of Berkeley, and it looks like he was supposed to get a
special permit that would make sure the tub was installed correctly and did not
cause noise disturbances. I don't think he went through this process since there
was no opportunity for input. The deck was built with permits.
We are on good terms otherwise, but I can hear the motor running now (11 pm) as I
head to bed, and even quiet conversations come through our double pane windows.
Any advice? How to mitigate the noise, or any safety concerns we should worry
Missing my quiet nights.
Quiet hill mama
Everybody is SO obsessed with rules and laws nowadays, many that seem so trivial. Maybe you can
hear the noise of the hot tub motor or the gurgling of water or hushed conversations. But if you
are a mother, and it seems like you addressed yourself as one, then did you ever wonder if your
kids made tons of noise outdoors or indoors that your neighbors had/have to be privy to? They just
can't complain because it is legal for your kids to make noise. By the way, I have three kids. My
point is that can't people just seem to get past what is legal or not in order to justify their
actual intolerance of things? One of these days, you might have a situation that might require
your neighbors to be sympathetic or accepting and you will have lost that opportunity by
complaining abut something that seems so trivial as a hot tub in someone's back yard.
Is it necessary to spend time worrying about this?
Not all permits require input from the neighbors so I wouldnt assume your
neighbor didn't get a permit.
What safety concerns might a hot tub have to you, the neighbor? It sounds as if there are two real
issues: the sound of the motor and the sound of voices late at night. I would suggest that you
knock on their door and let them know that you go to bed at 10PM (or whenever) and could they
please keep that in mind when they are 1)running the hot tub and 2) using the hot tub.
If they are normal, caring and decent people they will happily oblige.
If you don't want to approach them face to face, a nice letter would suffice.
I was in a similar situation a few years back but issue was with an a/c unit not a hot tub.
Here's my advice to you:
1. For now, I would buy earplugs and a white noise machine. You need your sleep in the
short-term (and I'm assuming here the noise is not just annoying you but preventing you from
2. Assuming that the work was done without permits, you need to find out if the tub in its
current location would have been allowed under the permit process (in my case, the a/c unit was a
property line encroachment - my neighbors chose the location, a few feet from a bedroom window,
because it was the cheapest place to locate the unit - in short, it was all about the money).
3. Regardless of whether allowed or not, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Nolo
Press's Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise. If you have a problem with noise now,
you will need help finding the best way to approach the problem.
Hopefully, though, your neighbors did the right thing, and the hot tub was installed with permits
and to code. A brief, friendly note (in writing) giving them a heads up that you can hear the tub
and conversations at bedtime would probably be a good faith starting point. I would leave noise
ordinances, concerns about permits, property rights etc out of it for now, but in the meantime I'd
find out if that hot tub should even be there.
Of course, you can and SHOULD require your neighbours and their hot tub are quiet
between 10PM and 7AM.
Quiet between 10PM and 7AM is your right, by law.
How you get back to quiet between 10PM and 7AM is an issue you'll have to address,
step-by-step, depending on your neighbours' choices. Clearly, your neighbours
knew, before they built their deck and before they installed their hot tub, where
bedrooms in your home are, so, for the git-go, you have some idea what attitudes
your neighbours have about ''social contracts'' (an ever-evolving political and
philosophical concept of how humans live together in a ''civil society'' that
includes your right to ''quiet enjoyment'' in your home!)
It's easy to find-out if this hot tub was built without a permit in Berkeley.
Call Berkeley's permit center:
Permit Service Center
2120 Milvia St., Berkeley, CA 94704
TEL: (510) 981-7500
FAX: (510) 981-7505
Office Hours: 8:30am - 4:00pm
You do not have to give your name to ask a question.
If this hot tub was not installed with a permit (and, based on the fact that you
were not asked by Berkeley before a permit was issued, I'm betting this hot tub was
not built with a permit), you get to choose how you deal with your neighbours'
But, in addition to noise and intrusions into your bedroom, there may be issues
that should concern your family (and other homeowners nearby) about possible
damages from weight of that much water, over time, doing damage to the hillside or
other structures. If their hot tub was not built with a permit, it is likely the
deck was not designed to hold that much weight, especially if there were an
earthquake (Is your home anywhere near the Hayward Fault ?)
Is your home anywhere near the Hayward Fault ?
I am a homeowner in Berkeley and have lived in my current house for
over 25 years. About 6 months ago, a new family rented the flat next
door. They installed a fan in their kitchen window which faces my
living room windows. The fan moves the kitchen odors out of their
home and into mine. They are meat eaters and the odors emanating are
very strong. I have a very strong sense of smell and often the odor
makes me nauseaous. Today I was out in the garden, in front of my
house and I could smell the odor from the kitchen at the back of the
house. A women walked by and asked me what the terrible odor was!My
husband advised not saying anything to the neighbors, whose first
language is not English. I would like to figure out a way to talk to
them in a positive way.
please weigh in.
A distressed woman
Oh my do I commiserate with you. I, too, have a very acute sense of smell and I smell
EVERYTHING. I surprise people by my extraordinary (and cursed) sense of smell.
There may not be a whole lot you can do about it, but you could certainly tell them
something about where the fan is placed -- tell them as carefully as you can that the
smells from their house are coming into yours and you'd appreciate it if they moved
the fan away. You can do absolutely nothing about the smells that naturally emanate --
nor should you. Heck, they may think your food stinks, too, but you certainly have a
right to ask them to move the fan.
Alternately, you could put a strong fan in YOUR window and blow it back out.
I completely understand your angst, but this is a hard one. Just hope they are
friendly and understand what you are asking and that they comply as much as they can.
My suggestion would be to treat the problem as a technical issue.
Does anyone in the neighboring family speak English? Try to get across the idea
that there is a problem with ''strong kitchen odors'' coming into your house.
Maybe you could get a Grainger's catalog and show them a ventilation pipe
and fan listing, while you point to the offending fan in their kitchen.
In many immigrant families, there are one or more members who are savvy
about technical fixes. Offer to pay half the cost of them repairing the
If that fails, try a neighborhood mediation service.
It is best to stay away from any discussion of vegetarianism or any
implied judgement of what the neighbors cook, unless they are from a
culture where vegetarianism is not uncommon.
I think my neighbor is having an affair. During the week when
our husbands go off to work, and while I am working in my home
office, recently, I've seen a man walking by the side of my
house to this woman's back door of her apartment unit. She'll
greet him by stating, ''Hurry. Get in before someone sees
you.'' Then, I'll HEAR them (as they're pretty loud when they
moan and groan and not something I really want to hear but
don't have much choice here and they're louder than my
radio)...and, a couple of hours later as they say and kiss
their good-byes, I can hear him say, ''I have to go now. I
really have to go now.'' Then, he'll walk by with cigarette in
hand! Her husband will be home about an hour or two later. I
don't know this woman as she seems sort of snooty and not very
well mannered or receptive when she walks by me even though I
try to smile. Her husband, though, always greets me, my
husband, and/or my kids when we're watering our front lawn.
Though, I know it's absolutely none of my business, and, I
won't say a word to the man, I can't help feeling extremely
awkward when her husband says hello. And because my first
marriage ended in divorce because of my ex's extramarital
affair, I think that's what contributes to my feelings of
akwardness. I just really wish I didn't know about what I
think I'm perceiving because my heart feels terrible for her
husband...any words of wisdom?
Yes I have some wisdom...Stay out of it! It's absolutely NONE
OF YOUR BUSINESS. What your neighbors do with their time in
their own home is completely their business. If they want to
swing naked from the chandeliers they can do that. If you can't
help spying on them I suggest you get a hobby, listen to the
radio, go for a walk, volunteer your time. Do whatever it takes
to stop yourself from eavesdropping on other people's lives. I
don't know why Americans feel the need to be sex police. Maybe
these people have an 'understanding'. Maybe they don't. Either
way drop it and move on.
Maybe just tell her privately you're sorry but the walls are thin
and could she and her friend keep it down, the way you would with
loud music (or work in another room?).
That's all you can do, it isn't your business, the husband may
beat her for all you know or may have had an affair or something
that would morally justify it for you. But the morality of it is
not your business.
I'd just take the signal of how it's upsetting you because of
your past situation to look into that and get whatever help you
need to heal from that.
- my 2 cents
At first, I thought, ''Don't go there -- let it alone.'' But I
remember a similar question and responses a while ago, and
someone brought up the question of STDs. And that seemed like a
pretty good point to me -- if this guy thinks he's in a
monogamous relationship, but this woman is cheating on him, who
knows what she's picking up and passing on? I would think about
an anonymous letter to the husband -- ''Dude, your wife is having
an affair. She does it while you're at work. If this bothers
you, hire a P.I. or something. P.S. Wear a condom.''
If your neighbor thinks that no one is noticing the visitor, she
is really in denial. I agree it is a tricky situation, but
truthfully wouldn't you want to know if your spouse was having
an affair? I am interested to hear what others say. I know it is
not your business, however you see and hear it and it bothers
you. You could 1) write her a note and let her know that her
afternoon visits are loud and upsetting to you or 2) tell her
husband that his wife has an afternoon visitor.
He can decide from there what he wants to do.
This really isn't any of your business. So, just be polite and
I've had a series of bouts with a neighbor who has no control of
her children, who lives at an apartment complex behind my
house. This woman would also throw regular loud parties to 4
a.m. Her children, who played in the back area of the apartment
complex, would throw things into my yard, e.g., chards of glass,
oranges, gravel, rocks, toys, and garbage. They've verbally
harassed my kids and have thrown wine bottles at them. I
stupidly did not call the police on the leader of the pack, an
11 year-old girl, and her gang, unsupervised children of the
other tenants, but I did notify the landlord and then the City
of Oakland officials to deal with the ongoing situation that has
gone on for a long time. Had we known about these problems
beforehand, we would have never bought our house but that's a
To make a very long story short, the landlord,
who has a $250,000 fine over her head now if we have one more
problem with her tenants, finally erected a fence and the
unsupervised kids now have no access to our back yard area
anymore. The mother and the landlord refused to meet us at a
mediation we had requested and left us hanging but the city
officials took matters into their own hands. Anyway, we now
have a new neighbor who is friends with the mother of the 11-
year-old, who lives at the apartment complex, that is adjacent
to us. Whenever this woman sees me, she makes it very obvious
that she dislikes me and has made it loud and clear that I can
hear her, that she thinks it's very unfair that the ''children''
(her children included) can't play in the backyard area of the
apartment complex that is parallel to my backyard. Since she's
never heard my side of the story, it's obvious I have been
described as the villian. She gives me harsh looks. If she
sees me gardening in the front or back of my house while she's
walking one of her children in her stroller, she'll stop and
make it very obvious that she's trying to escape my presence by
running or walking away to the opposite direction, which oddly
enough at times looks sort of funny. Anyway, I don't know this
woman, and I try to smile and be friendly though I have never
said a word to her. She doesn't know me or my family or the
situation from our perspective. I know I can't control how
others feel but I do feel sort of odd that this woman is so
against me without even knowing me.
I used to live in Oakland and had almost the identical
situation. My partner and I brought our first home in
a 'changing but questionable' part of Oakland. We wanted a good
size yard so we could have dogs. Unbeknown to us there was a mom
and her 2 kids directly behind us renting who were terrors.
Other neighborhood kids would come over also but it was her kids
that were the ringleaders. They would yell, throw things at our
dogs in the yard, climb up on their garage to get a better shot
at throwing things at the dogs. It reached the point where we
could not leave the dogs out while we were gone. So much for a
nice backyard setting. Confronting the kids did no good, when
I confronted the Mom the results were the same, suprise. My fear
was that the kids would fall into our yard, the dogs, who were
now very agitated with these kids would attack them ( they were
2 labs, not 'normally' agressive at all)
and then the city would charge the dogs. We stayed 2 1/2 years
and moved. I WISH I HAD CALLED THE POLICE, THE CITY AND
EVERYONE ELSE! Do not worry about this new neighbor, everyone
knows there is 2 sides to every storey and if she really knows
that other woman's kids, then she should know that story.
Would do it different now
Wow. I can't even imagine the stress of not getting along with a neighbor. My
advice is to do whatever you can to make amends and repair the relationship to the
best of your ability. Obviously a lot of damage has been done thus far. Now that a
fence has been erected wouldn't it be okay for the children in the apartment
complex to play in their own backyard? Perhaps you could start by writing a letter to
the mother of those children, expressing your concerns and apologizing for the
effect that its had on her family too. Perhaps you could try befriending them, taking
them a gift as an offer of peace. In the future, I hope you can recognize that these
children were probably looking for attention. The best way to deal with children is
to befriend them, invite them over to play, or for ice-cream. Then I guarantee they
will be the protectors and not the offenders of your property. This is a sad
for everyone involved. I wish there was a way for you to make amends. There is an
apartment complex behind my backyard as well. I invited the children over to play
and I've never had a problem. People are bound to be mad at you as long as you
are the reason that children are not allowed to play in their own backyard. Write
them a letter. Then think about getting a friend to go over there and make peace
with the family. I guarantee everyone's life will improve. You have the luxury of
living in a home with a yard. These children don't. And all children need exercise
and loving attention. Even 11 year olds.
Just treat this person as a new neighbor. Don't bring all the
other history into it. Say hi if you catch her eye, if not just
hold your head high and act no differently around her. You solved
the real issue before, now time will let things play out. If you
are a normal, decent person, this neighbor will have no
ammunition against you and may even question the other neighbor's
stories. Or at least, she may temper your benign actions against
what the other neighbor says about you.
Overall, I think this falls squarely in the corner of ''her
problem.'' You did the right thing before. Let it go, feel no
guilt, and do not let any of them intimidate you.
Take the High Road
Would it be presumptuous of me to provide my elderly neighbor that lives alone
with information about some of the various assisted living options in the area? My
first resource of information is the BPN. There are some great suggestions around
Lake Merritt, El Sobrante, El Cerrito, etc. But she has over the years expressed how
she does not want to live in those convelescent home type places where there is no
privacy, etc. I believe that she is not aware of the nice assisted living options that
are now the modern way for seniors to maintain independence and privacy yet have
the benefits of companionship, comradry, and services like in-house beauty shop
and trips to the doctor's office and grocery stores. This neighbor is a woman
approaching 90. I think she is 87. She gets around her house OK. She uses a
walker to get around. But she cannot leave the house without assistance because
there are stairs to get down to the driveway/sidewalk, about 7 stairs. For the 2nd
time in about 4 months she requested I help her get to a hair appointment but I
could not due to prior engagements that I could not cancel. She relies on our other
neighbor to take her, usually, but the last time he was out of town, and this time
more recently he had something come up. In both cases, she called me the night
before the appointment. She has a daughter-by-marriage in the area and
daughters by birth in TX and one in AZ. (She has an assistant come to her home to
help about 4 hours per day, M-F but this person does not assist her on getting to
appointments, only to help around the house.) I believe she could afford a nice
assisted living situation due to the equity in her home that was purchased in 1950.
I know that her income tax was about $26,000 last year because she needed help
from me to read something from her accountant. If anyone has suggestions and
opions about this it would be great to hear about your experiences. I would also
like to ask about what questions to ask the assisted living places, like: what is a
good ratio of residents to staff, etc. ? Is this an appropriate question to ask? Any
interview questions would be great. I will of course ask her step daughter and her
daugher in TX about what they think. But I worry that they have a conflict of
interest. Any funds that the woman spends will eat into any inheiritance that the
relatives will get. I also wonder if our other neighbor is getting tired of being the
person for the beauty appointments but just doesn't want to tell her ''no, why can't
your step daughter take you?''. I feel that I am an objective observer in all this.
You say you are an objective observer, yet you sound pretty
subjective and involved. I don't think your interest in this
matter would be met well. We have several widowed men and women
in their 80's and 90's living on our street, and while their
mobility has decreased over the years, they are happy and
functional and cherish their independence. Neighbors do help when
needed and they don't feel put out at all. I hope my neighbors
are the same in my old age. I am really grateful that we have so
many older neighbors for our small children to get to know.
Actually, the woman who lived in our own home lived here well
into her 90's and passed away peacefully in her sleep. She had no
children at all, but a ''family'' of neigbors who loved and
supported her. I'm sure this was preferable to an anonymous
assisted living facility. I wouldn't understimate this woman who
sounds perfectly capable of living on her own. Why do you care so
much if she's happy and not bothering you, except the 2 occasions
when she asked for a ride to her salon and you weren't able to
anyway? If I were her, I would question YOUR motives.
If the only problems facing your neighbor are missing an occasional hair
appointment and too many stairs, butt out. You aren't a family member and she has
family. Her financial situation and her family's inheritance issues are none of your
business. Your neighbor who provides rides is fully capable of saying ''no'' when
necessary--after all you've been asked to help out when this neighbor can't. If you
are concerned about the woman's physical/mental health or her safety, then talk to
a family member. If you think her family members are abusing or neglecting her or
stealing her money, call Social Services. Unless her health, safety, or family neglect
& abuse are issues, mind your own business and let her live her life as she chooses.
Lots of people feel very strongly about remaining at home.
Unless money is no object, Assisted Living is VERY expensive.
You can easily run through your savings and be stuck. If your
neighbor needs help, there are resources to help her remain at
home. Each county has a ''linkages'' program and an ''IHSS''
program. Both provide help with chores, shopping, and IHSS
offers medical care as well. The info number for Contra Costa
Co is (800)510-2020, but every county has these programs. They
can offer more help if she's low-income, but are great
resources and can help even if she doesn't qualify financially.
I encourage you to call them and get more information about
what's available in your community, and then give your neighbor
that information. Good luck!
How kind of you to be so concerned. There are geriatric case
workers of different sorts who could help your neighbor. But I
think that the initial contacts and all of the decisions need to
come from your neighbor and her family. Perhaps you could find
out from one of the Berkeley senior centers if there is a listing
of the different retirement communities in the area, and then
send a copy to each of the daughters. Alternately, there are
people who could come in to help your neighbor who do things like
take her to appointments and check on her general health and well
being. You might be able to find a list of these resources as
well. But if it were me, I'd not go any further than that. You
mean well, that is very clear. But the issue of what a family
will do with their aging parents is very difficult and the family
needs to make the decisions.
Also a neighbor
I suspect my neighbor is sabotaging our efforts to sell our
I am sure all of you know that it is taking a little longer to
sell your home nowadays. In our condo complex, there are 3
other units that are for sale. One is for sale by the owner,
and those people are playing dirty to try to get their condo
sold and prevent us from even having buyers come and see ours.
I just found out today from my realtor, after an open house
attendee told her, that the for-sale-by-owner lady is telling
people who visit her condo that our condo is 400 sq ft smaller
than hers and not upgraded. Since we are listed at similar
prices, she tells them that her unit is a better deal.
In actuality, my condo is on the 2nd floor, has high-end
upgrades, fairly new paint, and a better view, and is only 15
(FIFTEEN) sq ft smaller that her condo. All the units in our
complex have approximately the same square footage - and
everyone who lives here knows it. I CANNOT BELIEVE that my
neighbor is blatently lying to people. I've seen pictures of
her unit and I am not impressed. I am pretty sure that some
people look at her place and think, ''Well, this place kind of
sucks and is 1950 sq ft, and if the other place (mine) is 400
sq ft smaller (which it is not) and worse, then there's no
point to see it because it is the same price. Why walk to the
next building?'' Unfortunately, she is on the first floor in an
adjacent building so everyone goes to her place first. She
conveniently has open houses the same day and time that we do.
Is there anything I can do about this? Since I didn't hear her
directly, this is all hearsay. Why not just let people see for
themselves and make their own opinion? Maybe I am paranoid, but
I think she may also be telling buyers that we are desparate to
sell, or making up some other situation, because one buyer came
up today and offered to assume our loan payments and close
within 24 hrs to relieve us of our burden! Hello??? This is not
the case at all, and I know that anyone who steps foot into my
condo will see in a second that my unit is 10 times better than
Are these the games that realtors play? I wonder what the other
realtors who have listings in this complex are saying about us
when potential buyers come and visit. Isn't there a code of
ethics? I know my realtor provides potential buyers with a
list of other units in the area and encourages them to check
them out. She never says anything negative about other
people's listings and always verifies her information.
Homeowner who distrusts neighbor
I wouldn't worry that much about a neighbor. What, if any,
impact such a person can have would be really insignificant.
Buyers are a lot more sophisticated and will more likely check
out your place to see if they are really getting a ''Deal''.
Buyers basically go off of an MLS to find homes and maybe the
neighbor can add a little poison during open house but not for
the several other avenues to people finding out about your
place. Actually, your neighbor is helping you. That person is
actually generating more interest in your place. All this
sounds like a desperate attempt of a FSBO (For Sale By Owner)
to get his or her place off the market. If it is any
consolation, I see over 300 hundred real estate transactions
each year, I rarely see a FSBO transaction go well for the
seller. What will happen is that a buyer will come in with
their agent (a good one likely as this area tends to have a
higher standard of care in regards to real estate agents in
this area), they will make a great offer, then they will get a
home inspector and find problems, then they will bring up other
transaction problems, and ultimately whittle down the offer to
a ridiculous amount and that seller will not have an agent to
negotiate on her behalf. Also, be careful about hearsay. Often
things are said to psych out a seller. If the same information
about the neighbor came from the ultraistic individual who
offered taking over payments, then your neighbor problem likely
does not exist. Even if the neighbor said something, it may
have been grossly exaggerated by the time it got to you.
Correspondence in real estate is like a game of ''telephone'' on
steroids. With out revealing my identity too much, my
profession puts me at a viewpoint where I watch agents and
clients interact on both sides of the transaction. Especially
buyers at an open house often retell things, in extremely
exaggerated terms. Selling a place is very emotional. That's
why we have agents. If that neighbor gets a little power by
culling the open house herd, then don't give that neighbor free
rent in your head by worrying about it. I assure you; the
impact is just not there.
It sounds like your neighbor is freaking out about not selling
her condo - keep in mind that her's hasn't sold yet either, so
it is not like her tactic is working. It likely isn't hurting
you, it just feels crappy & triggers your fears. Stay positive,
keep your place looking great, and respond to even the
predatory buyers in a calm and measured fashion. There are a
lot of buyers who want to believe they can pick off property at
a firesale, but wanting it doesn't make it so - they will
however play to your fears, so don't let yourself go to fear,
just brush those comments aside. If you can, treat this
neighbor with kindness whenever you see her, and say good
things about her and her unit. If she has any feelings at all,
she'll ultimately feel terrible. If not, you'll still feel
better about yourself, and people will notice the difference.
Trust your realtor's advice about how to stay competitive.
You could ask your realtor to position someone at the curb on
Open house day to POSITively direct people to all three units.
Buyers want to move into a Positive community!
Oh come now come now. If someone is serious about moving into
your complex, they will visit both places. You will both sell
your places one day. Get one of those flyer boxes and put the
square footage prominently. Also make sure all those nice things
about your place are in all advertising/listings about your
place. Your realtor is a professional, they should be able to
I can't imagine any realtor doing this. It seems to be an issue
with the neighbor, acting out of fear (which I detect a bit of
in you?). I say, confront her - not about the facts of how your
condos compare, but with the badmouthing. Tell her that you
have friends who pop by these open houses, tell her what you've
heard, and ask her please don't do it any more. Look her in the
eye quietly and wait for a response. Do try to wander into her
open houses and just wave and say hi, and if you hear anything
else, confront her again. I'll bet she she'll stop after the
first confrontation though.
Take some color photos of the nicest rooms of the condo.
Make a flier to advertise your condo, put 2 or 3 photos on the
flier, put the square footage in large type, also any other info
you'd like prospective buyers to have. Ask a friend (or your
realtor) to stand out at the street at the entrance to the
walkway of the two buildings and hand out the flyer (don't do
it yourself, better to appear to remain neutral, less
inflamanatory). Have them hand one to every person that
comes by. Have them point to your building and say ''It's over
there''. Important: don't just leave a stack out there, have a
warm body handing them out to make sure they get handed
out and not stolen by you-know-who. I'm surprised your
realtor hasn't made this flier for you already and handed it
out this way. Are you sure you have a good realtor?
sick and tired of bad behavior
There are issues around recording conversations (so check what
the law allows, e.g., if a hidden video or tape recorder is
permissible), but it would be ideal to get solid evidence of the
neighbor disparaging your condo; with that in hand you can demand
good behavior or you'll sue them out of house and home, so to speak.
Our neighbor across the street lights a fire in his fireplace
every evening, without fail -- even on the hottest days of the
year. Since it's summer, we want to keep our windows open, but
then our house fills with the smell of smoke. It's annoying, and
I'm kind of worried that breathing all this smoke every day can't
be good for our lungs.
We don't feel we can discuss this fruitfully with our neighbor.
He's kind of weird, and we're not on friendly terms (though we're
not enemies either -- we just don't interact at all). He tends to
hold himself aloof, and in 15 years of him living across the
street from my husband, the one and only interaction they've ever
had was a negative one.
It doesn't seem appropriate for him to be polluting the
neighborhood like this on a regular basis. Are there health
concerns in breathing so much smoke? Is this just one of those
little neighborhood annoyances that we'll have to put up with, or
do we have some recourse? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Smoke getting in my eyes
You say ''It doesn't seem appropriate for him to be polluting the
neighborhood like this on a regular basis. Are there health
concerns in breathing so much smoke?''
In a word, YES. An alarmist but scientific site is:
My spouse is a combustion chemist working with particulates and
free radicals, and when we remodeled our house, he insisted we
remove all three fireplaces. It's dangerous for people AND the
environment to create smoke by burning wood. It should be outlawed.
-- Put That in Your Prius and Smoke It
I have very kind, loving conservative neighbors. I am usualy very vocal about my
opinions but I feel like I am being judged and so will my sons. I have not put them
any organizations that I feel are discrimanatory, religious, or sexist. My neighbors
have remarked how this is too bad and sad for my sons. The boys do not seem to miss
out to me. I feel like moving to a more liberal area or trying to find more like minded
liberals in my own neighborhood, but how ? I fear that the majority of people around
me will judge my family for being anti war, pro gay marriage, agnostic and non-
conformists in general. How do I teach my sons my values when they seem like
I think the best way to truly teach the value of open-mindedness
(which is what non-discrimination is all about- right?) is to
accept all people, whether their opinions are the same as yours
or not. Your kids will learn a much higher value than any
specific political point of view by seeing that you respect your
neighbors as equals, whether they are liberal or conservative.
It may be a challenge, but that's what peace is- co-existence
with our neighbors. You may not feel that your present neighbors
give you the respect you'd like when it comes to politics, but
try to let that be their problem. Kind and loving neighbors of
any political persuasion are not a dime a dozen!
First off, when it comes to neighbors, my goal is to be on good
terms with them. And that sometimes means keeping my opinions
to myself. I don't want to create a situation where differences
of opinion puts a wall between them and me. I have to live with
these folks 24X7. I talk politics only to close friends that I
know won't be offended by my opinions, or where I know we can
have a spirited debate, but we know the differences won't get
in the way of our friendship. With people I don't know well,
that's always a risk. Secondly, regarding my children and
values, I want to teach my children how to think, not what to
think, and sometimes the teaching of values tends to be what to
Dear fellow Liberal-Progressive,
I grew up in a very conservative part of the country, and I was
one of about three liberals I knew living within a hundred-mile
radius. My first academic job was in a city where Bible-belt
and conservative sentiments also reigned. It was challenging
to be in those situations, but I think that it is a good thing
for some liberals to live among conservatives and vice versa.
The Balkanization of our country into ''red'' and ''blue'' states
(or even counties, when it comes to California) is not
healthy. People begin to demonize the ''other side'' and lose
sight of the fact that most people are decent, like your
conservative neighbors. It would be much more valuable for
your boys, in my opinion, to learn how to disagree politely and
to argue a point convincingly than it is for them to have their
views stand unchallenged. I cringe when my young son comes
home from school parroting the slams against George W. that
he's heard on the playground. I didn't vote for W, can't stand
him, but I would like for there to be more dialogue and less
diatribe. We won't achieve it through isolation. If you don't
want for them to belong to the local Scout troop because of the
BSA's position on homosexuality, for instance, don't shrink
from saying so. Say that you're sorry that the Scouts are
missing out on great potential members like your boys, but that
you don't think your boys are missing anything essential by
protesting against that policy. I had discussions like this
throughout my youth and I still have them when I go home. Yes,
I am ridiculed and considered fuzzy and misguided by some, and
I let them laugh. They'll laugh at you, too. But if you hold
your views and ALSO act as a good neighbor, an active member of
the community, a loyal friend, a good mom etc., you will have
given them an example of a liberal who is also a good person.
As they have shown you that conservatives can be good
neighbors. hang in...
dialogue is better than flight
My two cents? You have to ignore your neighbors and trust in
the validity of your own values. Just because they don't fit
into traditional labels, YOU know they're true for you, right?
You will never be defined from outside anyway. And if they
can't agree to disagree or not talk about politics, religion,
whatever it is, then maybe they're not people you'd be really
close with. They are only neighbors, so it should be easy to
find many other things to talk about.
Well, maybe it will be easier to teach your values *with*
Here's what I mean. Let's say neighbor says to you & kids, ''why
aren't you a boy scout?'' When you get home, you can explain to
your kids why you have made the decision you did, why you feel
it's important to not support that organization. It might even
foster a discussion of what your family might do to change the
boy scouts or find a similar organization you can support. Would
you have this discussion if you didn't have these neighbors?
Essentially, if these are good, kind neighbors who care about you
and your children, then this is an opportunity to expose them to
the kind of diversity of viewpoints that we liberals should
I think that surrounding yourself with people just like you will
only teach your children to be conservative.
Diversity of all kinds is important.
actually your neighbors are right. It is sad for your boys. kids
need to be a part of their surroundings and peer groups, no
matter what those peer groups are about. it sucks to feel
different from the other kids because of your parents politics.
It makes you want to become super-conservatives later in life
just so that you can define yourself in opposition to your
parents. It's the natural way for kids. Let them join the Boy
Scouts, or the golf team or whatever. At least let them know they
can if they want to. They'll learn almost everything they know
from you, and a lot, too, from the rest of the world. and they'll
pick and choose what makes sense to them as they become adults.
That's what makes a well-rounded well-informed person. Or else,
move to a place where your kids won't have to deal with competing
viewpoints. But either way, let them be involved in their
community. Don't be conservative with your liberalism.
Let them talk. Be open to what the have to say. Then when you
have to respond you can say something like, ''Wow, there are so
many activities for kids these days, we just have to put a limit
otherwise Sam just gets burnt out.'' If pushed, you can also
say ''Morals and ethics are very important to us. We work with
our daughter in everyday situations to help her think about the
moral implications of each situation.'' Then talk about
unfairness at the park or an injustice such as a child being hit
or left out of a group.
Liberal people also need to understand that other people who are
conservative, even narrow-minded, want their kids and yours to
turn out to be good people. The definition of good is just
Liberal Mom too
Hmm, how do you teach your children values when they seem like
unpopular values? Well, I assume you hold your values because
they seem right to you, not just because they are ''popular''. So
explain to your children your reasons. At the same time, of
course other people will judge your values. You are judging your
neighbor's values and there is nothing wrong with that. Not
everyone agrees! You will never move somewhere where everyone
agrees! You need to learn and then you need to teach your
children how to get along with people you don't completely agree
with, especially when they are ''kind and loving''. Is it really
necessary to be outspoken on every issue with your neighbors who
you know don't agree? I can't recall anytime I've discussed gay
marriage with my neighbors. If they say it's too bad your sons
don't do boy scouts (I assume that is what you are referring to),
just say they have lots of other activities and let it drop! Many
people of all philosophies find it easiest to never discuss
religion or politics in casual conversation.
Having read so many posts on BPN in which people describe horrendous
problems with their neighbors - noise, crime, vicious dogs - I think
it would be a huge mistake to move over something like this. You
could easily end up living next door to a like-minded person who
has an unfortunately predilection for playing the trombone at 2 am.
I'm as left as they come, but I'd rather live next to a quiet
GWB supporter than a loud liberal any day.
Hi, where on earth do you live? It can't be in Berkeley. I
can't even imagine what you describe in the Bay Area at large,
unless you are very far east.
Anit-war, pro-gay marriage, agnostic? Not unusual at all.
I'm a liberal by almost everyone's definition, but I sometimes
feel too conservative for Berkeley because I don't think every
business in the city should be a non-profit.
Anyway, finding like-minded neighbors in Berkeley or
surrounding cities shouldn't be a problem for you.
How do you know that the ''conservative'' organizations in your area
haven't changed with the times and have like-minded parents and kids
involved in them these days? Your neighbors should keep their nose
out of your parenting business, but still, most organizations, like Boy
Scouts, and others, are comprised of parents like yourself----there are
plenty of gay parents of Boy Scouts, etc. These organizations serve as
social contact for your children, too----being around and doing things
with other kids is important. Even if your son has a mohawk, he'd be
welcome in most organizations today----maybe with a mohawk he'd be
of even more interest than the other kids. It sounds like you are
judgments without first checking these organizations out. You and your
boys should only join organizations you feel comfortable with, but you
should attend a meeting to check it out first before making judgments.
Then, when your neighbors inquire again, you can tell them you
attended one of the meetings with your sons and it just wasn't a good
Good luck----theres's so much for kids in this area, it's hard to
not finding something that fits your categories.
Do you choose your values on the basis of what's popular or not?
Of course not. Teach them to stand up for what they believe in.
Stay the course. It sounds like you are already doing a great
job of teaching your values to your children. Who cares what
people think of your beliefs.
That said, I fear that you being 'very vocal' about your opinions
may be coming across as strident. What you may be perceiving as
'judgment,' may actually be dislike. (Though from your posting,
my impression is that you are a thinking, kind person)
Personally, I hate being lectured by people -- unasked -- on
their opinions, even if I agree. If you volunteered that 'the
war is stupid' or even that you are 'anti-war' simply because I
mentioned in passing that my husband was out of town for his Navy
Reserve weekend, then I would probably be a bit put off.
However, if we were having an interesting conversation, the topic
of Iraq came up and we sensed that we were simpatico in some of
our beliefs, I would hope that you would mention that you took
the kids to an anti-war rally and I may mention in return that I
think that every person in America who drives a vehicle getting
less than 25 MPG freeway needs to look in the mirror every
morning and say, ''today a GI is gong to die so that I can fill my
gas tank.'' Would I say that to anyone who I didn't sense already
agreed with me (and, yes, my husband of ten years active duty
and thus far, five years navy reserve service does agree with my
statement, though he phrases it a bit more diplomatically)? Heck
no! That would be rude. Additionally, he or she would think
that I am a freak and probably dangerous.
Also, no matter where you live, you are going to find that you
hold some unpopular beliefs and that you will have battles to
fight. Right now I live in a town where everyone eagerly
recycles, composts, commutes on bicycles, derives wardrobes from
REI's offerings, buys hormone free milk (delivered by a milkman,
no less) and eats organic. We are a liberal stronghold in one of
the red-est/politically scariest of states. Sounds like nirvana,
UNTIL YOU HEAR that the median home price is way over a million
dollars. All of the kids go to public school, but the parking
lot is filled with Range Rovers and Hummers. How do you explain
that Daddy's $200,000/year isn't 'poor?' How am I going to teach
my children about reasonable expectations? The value of a dollar?
You stated that, ''I am usualy very vocal about my opinions but I feel
like I am being
judged...'' It does go with the territory. If you are vocal about your
opinions you will
be judged. No matter what, we all make judgements and are judged each
day, it's unavoidable. You do have control over when to express your
when to stick with non-controversial chitchat.
You didn't mention how you feel about the issue of diversity, and this,
uncomfortable as it may feel for you, is about diversity. To segregate
from others with varying opinions is to isolate yourself and your family
diversity. The ability to have these differences of opinions and yet
nonviolently in the same community is a wonderful thing. One of my most
friendships is with someone whose opinions could not be more different
own. We have had some wonderful and heartfelt debates, with the security
knowing that we long ago agreed to disagree and be respectful with each
about it. Would you really want to live in a bubble where everyone
Your children will learn your values by virtue of being your children.
When they are
older, they will use what you taught them to establish their own values,
just as you
did (whether similar or different from your own parents). If you protect
different points of view, they might be a bit shocked when they have to
the real world later.
Another Liberal Parent
We moved to a conservative area from a much more liberal one a
few years ago. Don't assume anyone is judging you. You will get
more respect by sticking to your ethics and not judging anyone
for theirs. For example, Boy Scouting is HUGE where I live.
Seriously, we crank out 8 to 10 Eagle Scouts a year in our very
small community. When we moved here, some neighbors encouraged my
son to join their troop, and we declined. I tried to just say no
thank you, but they pushed it very slightly. I finally replied
that I didn't agree with the organization's position on gays.
They replied that at that young age, no one really cares about
that stuff. I replied that I didn't want my son to invest energy
and emotion into an organization that might one day kick him or
his friends out for just being who they've always been. I added
that my son does other activities that give him some of the same
things he might get from scouts. That was the end of it. We're
still friendly and all. We are liberal, pro-gay marriage, etc.,
and we have met people like us and different from us. Again, just
chill, and continue to be yourself and emit a positive image for
your beliefs. Who knows? Maybe your neighbors actually think,
''Hey that new family is so liberal, but their positions are well
considered and they aren't preachy.'' That's how I think of some
of my conservative neighbors.
My next door neighbor is extremely nosy. She is the landlord to
an apartment and we live in a residential home. When we
purchased the home, after introducing herself, she asked if she
could come into my home because she said she is extremely
curious and has always wanted to see the inside of ''that home.''
I declined her request. We have had renovations made to our
home as we are in the process of remodeling it for ourselves and
our sons, and upon completion, she will ask me or my husband how
much we paid to have such renovation made to the point that I
feel extremely uncomfortable and hesitantly will answer
something in the ''ball range'' figure and she will run to her
husband, speak in her language, (she is trilingual, speaks
English, Spanish, and Chinese) and will ask me in English or my
husband in Spanish, and through her body language and pointing
at us, of course we know she's speaking about us, and exasperate
that we paid SO MUCH money to fix ''that old house!'' We just had
our roof replaced and she without my knowledge tried to seek
info out of my husband in front of the roofer! He didn't
respond to her request, and unbeknownst to me, when she saw me,
she came running to me and asked me how much we paid. I didn't
want to answer her but she kept insisting. When I finally told
her some amount, she stated OMG that's so much and ran to her
husband and then ran across the street to the neighbors who were
outside and stared, kept pointing, and of course spoke in the
language that I can't understand. I don't want to be rude to
her because she is my next door neighbor but at the same time
when I heard her speaking, I immediately regretted having
uttered an answer. I try to avoid her as much as I can but it's
hard when I stay home and she sees me. Any suggestions would be
great. My husband deals with it better than I do and simply
ignores her but it's hard when she literally comes to my face
and bears her noziness! Please advise
Different cultures have different standards regarding what
kinds of questions are appropriate -- in Anglo-influenced
European/American culture questions about how much money one
earns, how much one weighs, how old one is, etc. are often
considered out of line. When I studied Chinese in college, I
had a teacher from Taiwan who used the language-learning
situation to ask how much each person in the class weighed, how
much our fathers/mothers earned, how much our houses cost,
etc. I don't know if her ''nosiness'' is typical in China, but I
learned over time that talking about certain subjects in
various cultures is not as taboo as in ours. By the same
token, when I lived in Scandinavia I found that one only
discussed personal/emotional issues with very intimate friends
and family, and even then a lot of self-censorship went on.
Americans can seem ''nosy'' or too intimate too. Having said
that, I don't think that you need to give up your cultural
norms in this case. I think it would perhaps even be a service
to point out, ''I'm sorry, but I was raised by my parents not to
discuss financial matters with people who are not in my
family. It's just how our culture works. Please don't ask me
about money.'' Of course, this direct approach might also be
culturally aggravating. But I think it helps when living in a
very diverse culture to try to explain ourselves sometimes
nosier than some, not as nosy as others
Why not find a phrase that you feel comfortable with, practice it
in front of the mirror so you can say it to her even if she keeps
pestering and use that? Something like, ''We got a fair price but
I don't want to share the exact amount.'' That should shut her up
but if necessary you can just keep repeating the phrase.
She sounds like a real pain. Sorry you have to deal with her
How about answering ''None of your business'' Or ''I don't want to
talk about it'' from now on? She may bad-mouth you behind your
back about it in Spanish or Chinese, but who cares? She's
probably just as irritating to everyone else in the neighborhood.
Others probably aren't that interested in your personal business
anyway. Follow your husband's lead. Ignore her
My grandmother had very good advice about when people ask a
question that is really none of their business. She said to
respond with ''Why do you ask?'' Their response is generally
something that comes across sounding pretty pathetic (e.g. ''I
just wanted to know.'') because there's really no true answer
(unless they're planning to have the same work done, are going
through the same thing, etc.) other than essentially ''I'm
nosy''. And when they respond with the ''I just wanted to
know.'' Just give thema perplexed look like you can't imagine
why it'd be interesting, nod to yourself, and say ''oh''. And go
about your own business. If they're rude enough to persist and
keep at you about it, you're well within your right to just
flat out say, ''It's a private matter and I don't want to
discuss it.'' If that's taken as rude, then that person should
consider their own rude behavior in asking such questions in
the first place
No one's business but your own
I must commend you for not wanting to be rude when that is all
this person is doing to you-well done! So, depending on how to-
the-point you want to be, I've come up with a few suggestions
and I hope they help. Whenever she asks you a question you
don't want to answer you can say, I'm sorry I can't help you
with that.'' Or, what about ignoring her question altogehter and
saying only ''It was nice talking to you, but I have to get
back''. Or say ''That's a personal matter and I'm uncomfortable
saying anything more''. She may persist even after you've non-
answered her. If she does, just smile and say nothing, or
repeat that you have to go, and then go. However you decide to
handle this, be strong. She's accustomed to getting answers
from you so it might take several attempts before she gets the
The wife of my husband's buddy is like this. She would ask me
point blank how much I paid for this or that. At first I thought
she just honestly needed the information -- she met her husband
overseas and had only recently come to live in the US, so I
thought I was helping her, and gave her the info. However, it
turned out that the real reason she wanted to know dollar amounts
was so she could let me know how much cheaper she was able to get
it for. Example: ''I see you have Ecco shoes - do you like them?''
I fell for it. Next up: ''Where did you get them? How much did you
pay?'' After she had her information, she would drop her bomb:
''oh! don't you know about zappos.com? I got three pairs of Eccos
there for only [some really cheap amount, one tenth what I paid]''
I realize this is a self-esteem thing - she wants to show me how
clever she is - but it was really pissing me off. So, now I tell
her nothing. I turn it into a funny joke. She says ''I love your
new refrigerator. How much did you pay for it?'' I say ''Oh, it
cost a LOT! A WHOLE lot!'' and laugh. Then she will say ''Well,
how much? More than $500?'' and I say ''It cost so much my
husband had to go out and get a second job!'' She says ''No,
really, how much was it?'' And I say ''Really! I hardly ever see
him anymore!'' and so on. It's actually kind of entertaining. She
sees me laughing, we both know what's going on. She might even
laugh too. But she stopped asking me nosy questions. So her new
tactic became ''Ask the Husband''. My husband is such a softie. He
was glad to hand over all sorts of information including what we
owe on our house and how much we paid for infertility treatments!
So we had to spend several ''counselling'' sessions together where
I reminded him over and over not to do this, and also
(important!) suggested wording he could use when she asked him
one of her questions. Next, she began having her husband ask my
husband. This was even worse, since the two guys are good
friends. I told my husband to say ''My wife doesn't want me to
discuss our finances, really sorry, she's just hypersensitive,
blah blah blah.'' So finally we got it solved.
It might be too late, but you might try befriending her...
like ''what do you think? it's a lot, huh?'' kind of questions. I
also have a neighbor who shakes his head whenever we have work
done. He's from a culture different than mine, and he always
wants to see it and then shakes his head, saying 'so much
money'. But he also brings me lemons from his tree, and tomatoes
in the summer. I think his world view is very different from
mine, his life experiences very different, what he does with his
money is very different than what we do, and how we express it
is also different. I guess I'm saying don't take it so
personally. To her she may be being culturally appropriate, but
no sense in getting your feelings hurt. I always believe in
being proactive: 'Hi, Mrs.So&so, how are you? Your garden is
growing nicely, are you well? how are the kids? ...'sorry, not
trying to be condescending, of course you know how to make
friends, but try killing her with kindness and smalltalk. Just a
Three years ago a man moved into our apartment complex. From the
very beginning there was a lot of fighting in his unit. Once when
a car was blocking our parking space we had to go from apartment
to apartment to find out who was blocking our space. When we
knocked on his door and asked him if he knew, he yelled at us and
slammed the door in our face. Ever since then, we've avoided him
In our building, we have large garbage and recycling dumpsters
which we all share. Two years ago, the owner of our building
started missing payments for the garbage and recycling. In any
event, when the garbage and recycling dumpsters are emptied, they
don't always get put back. On the days when they aren't put back,
we put back the recycling dumpsters since we are the biggest
users of the recycling. The other neighbors usually put the
garbage dumpsters back since they use them every day.
This all stopped three months ago when somebody started moving
the garbage dumpsters into strange places early in the morning
after they had been emptied. One dumpster would be placed in our
parking space behind our car and another dumpster would be put
behind some blackberry vines growing out back. None of our
neighbors said anything. We didn't know who was doing it until we
got up very early and saw it was the man who had slammed the door
in our face.
We really don't know what to do about this situation. We wish we
could talk to our neighbors since they also are being affected
and have to deal with the blackberry vines on a daily basis.
While they are friendly and smile at us and say hello, we can't
talk to them because they speak very little English. Also, we
definitely don't want to talk to this man because we are afraid
of him. Ignoring the problem isn't helping since he is doing this
on an almost weekly basis. Asking the owner of the building to
pay to put the garbage and recycling dumpsters back, let alone
make payments on time for garbage and recycling pickup isn't a
solution either. The owner doesn't like to be bothered and pays
only as much as she wants. We are worried that this might
escalate into something worse. Any advice that might help us
would be greatly appreciated
Given what you said, it seems like it's time to move. It doesn't seem like anything will
change in the foreseeable future. There's no reason to have neighbors you can't talk to and
deal with on a reasonable basis. Yes, this is the Bay Area and housing is tight, and it
might take some time to find a better situation, but it will be worth it. Lori
Just put the garbage can and recycling cans back where they belong, and don't expect anybody
else to do it for you, and don't expect any ''fairness'' out of it. This sounds like the
least stressful option. The guy sounds psycho,and apparently is looking for negative
attention. If you ignore it, and just help out yourself and your other neighbors, maybe
he'll grow up a little. Figure that you'll build up some good karma and are making donations
into the goodwill bank. You may need to draw from it some day. You might also consider
I would move. I think you are right to be scared because it does sound like things are
escalating. Ideally, the property owner would make the angry neighbor move, but it sounds
like she is not very responsible. Sounds like a bad situation all around, and I hope you
can get out of it soon. anon
We have new neighbors on our (formerly) quiet residential
Oakland street. A few months ago we noticed that they seem to
be running a business in their garage, invoving the near
continuous use of power tools(sometimes used outside,in the
driveway) and frequent pickups and deliveries that block the
street with large trucks on a daily basis. Also, they have
converted their home from a single family dwelling into a two-
family home,with two house numbers. How can I find out if what
they are doing is legal? Who can I call? If anyone has
experience with this sort of problem,please advise.
neighbor in distress
Call the department that you would call if you wanted to inquire about getting a
business license for yourself. There's probably a listing in the phone book's
government pages, or you can call the main number for city offices and ask where
to call. Call the zoning office to find out about the duplex conversion.
Just ask the business license department if home businesses are permittable in your
neighborhood, and if so what kinds. This way, you are not immediately ''turning in''
your neighbor and possibly creating unneccessary bad feelings.
But have you talked with them, introduced yourself, and let them know nicely that
the noise is becoming a problem for you? It sounds like you know little about them
or what they are actually doing. It's possible that they are working on their own
house, and in that case there will eventually be an end to it. You don't mention
seeing things going out, only things coming in, and any business needs to send
their product out!
Just for your info, I have a home business in North Berkeley and my activities are
limited to ''mail and phone''. I do very occasionally get deliveries by truck, but it's
not frequent, and not loud or a nuisance to my neighbors.
You can contact the City of Oakland Revenue Division to
determine if your neighbors have registered their business with
the City (required of all business entities and rental
properties in the city). If the business hasn't been
registered, the owner will probably be liable for the annual
fee for any years in business in Oakland plus penalties and
interest if they are delinquent. This link has phone numbers:
You can contact the City of Oakland Code Enforcement division
to determine if the business use is compliant with your
neighborhood's zoning, and to determine if the addition of the
second unit was done with permits. Call 238 3381 and leave
your questions along with the property address; you can remain
anonymous. Be sure to get a case number and the name of the
inspector to whom it is assigned (if they can give it to you)
so you can follow up and see what transpires. Usually an
inspector is assigned and visits the property within a few
days, though resolution can take weeks, months, years.
local govt bureaucrat
Sounds like they may be violating the City's zoning code (both
the home-based business and the two units). Go to
www.oaklandnet.com and look up the contact information for
Oakland's Planning and Zoning Dept. (within Community and
Economic Development). There may be info on the zoning code on
the website, but it may be easier to simply call the Planning
and Zoning office and report the suspected violation.
To the person worried about a neighbor possibly operating a
business from his/her home. The best thing for you to do is to
visit the Building Official at City Hall. First you can
determine if the house is permitted for two units. YOu can also
check to see what the neighborhood's zoning is. Perhaps that
block allows that type of business. Or maybe your neighbor has
a home occupation permit. Usually one must prove that they will
not negatively impact the neighborhood in order to get one of
the those. Lots of people don't know they need this type of
permit or don't care to find out and pay the fee. Oakland
probably has some type of noise ordinance so you could also get
at the problem from that aspect although violations are harder
to prove (a city employee needs to use a noise meter thing) Once
you determine if your neighbor is violating some type of City
code (whether a building code or a zoming issue, you can submit
a formal complaint (it's best to do this via letter with a copy
to the City Administrator.) When a city recieves a formal
complaint it becomes a code enforcement issue and a City is
required to investigate. Most cities don't have the staff to
practively enforce codes so they react to complaints. Squeaky
wheels usually get the most attention. And of course, life
safety problems always get the quickest action. You should give
the Building Official a chance to respond and it takes a long
time. If worse comes to worse, the best thing to do is to show
up a Council meeting and speak under the public comment section
on the agenda and submit copies to the City Council at the time
of the steps you have taken to get the City to address the
problem. Good luck.
We have a neighbor lady that well to say it nicely is difficult to deal
with ( just very nosy and unpleasant) but she has had 2 different late,
large, loud parties at her home in the last few months. One was late-
July and one was just this last Saturday night. Our problem is; the loud
music, loud yelling and carrying on, many many cars parked out front,
cigarette butts thrown into the grass area next to our home and
around ( middle of our houses ) and the first party lasted till after 2
AM and this last weekends party was about the same. She lives alone.
We have not spoken to her about either of the parties nor plan to as
we want NO trouble but we are annoyed and like I said; she has just
come off to my husband and I as being very rude, unfriendly and just
not nice. We have done or said nothing to make her feel that way but
apparently her uncle told us once that she just thinks the
neighborhood in general dislikes her and has had “hate mail” sent to
her before we moved here last May. What do we do if anything? Any
ideas or suggestions that you might have we would appreciate. We
have never had troubles with neighbors before and like all our other
neighbors just fine and hate having a unpleasant situation living right
next door but do not want to start waves either! We live in the
Oakland Hills. Please help someone...anyone?
This woman needs a lot of compassion.
Try to understand that if she is used to people disliking her,
she probably has her defenses up rather than being open, so that
it won't hurt again when she finds out that yet another set of
neighbors dislikes her.
I personally think you should befriend her and expect it to take
a LONG time before she opens up to you and lets her defenses
down. She needs someone on her side.
Also, if she's only had a couple parties in a few months, well,
that's not so bad. She sorta has a right to do so. Instead of
complaining, in the meantime, build a strong rapport with her,
and far down the road as you get closer, ask her to give you a
heads up when she's planning an event, so you can make sure to
not plan anything for early the next day.
Sounds like you have tried to be reasonable, and they are not.
The law is on your side, but only if you are willing to use
it. California Civil Code defines Public Nusiance Laws (more
than one neighbor complaining), and Private Nusiance Laws, (if
it only bothers one neighbor).
Cal Civ Code Â§ 3479. What constitutes a nuisance
Anything which is injurious to health,including, but not
limited to, the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is
indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the
free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable
enjoyment of life or property, or unlawfully obstructs the free
passage or use, in the customary manner, of any navigable lake,
or river, bay, stream, canal, or basin, or any public park,
square, street, or highway, is a nuisance.
Cal Civ Code Â§ 3480. Public nuisance
A public nuisance is one which affects at the same time an
entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of
persons, although the extent of the annoyance or damage
inflicted upon individuals may be unequal.
The police will not get involved until you take action first.
You get get a restraining order, it takes an hour or two. Once
obtainined you have something the police can enforce immediatly.
You can also take them to small calims court using the nusiance
laws asking for $5,000 per person per residence. If you can
get other neighbors involved they too can request $5,000 in
damages using the Public Nusance Laws.
Your other option is to take a holiday the next time they have
I had a similar problem with a bunch of drunks who would have
loud parties late into the morning. The neighborhood tried to
reason with them to no avail. We tried using the police, but
they said no laws were being violated.
(An officer then took me aside and muttered you know there are
civil ways you can solve the problem.) One restraining order
and a small claims action is all it took and the problem was
solved. (The restraining order is in effect for three years.)
If they should ever have a loud party, one call to the police
and off to jail with them.
Very easy solution to a frustrating problem.
I can understand that your situation is difficult, but it is possible to call the
police and lodge a complaint anonymously when these parties are
going on. There was a similar situation in our neighbhorhood with loud
parties, I called the police many times to complain, as did other
neighbors. At a certain point, the dispatcher asked me if I wanted to file
a formal complaint in which case I would have to register my name, but
until that time, I was always given the option of complaining
anonymously. Good luck.
Have you heard about East Bay Community Mediation? Its a local
non-profit organization that uses trained community volunteer
mediators to help bring about peaceful resolution of
neighborhood concerns just like the one you describe. You can
do no harm by finding out a little more about how mediation
works -- the process helps promote communication (often the very
thing that is lacking when problems like you're experience
arise). EBCM charges a very low administrative fee for the
service and often waive the fee if people cannot afford to pay.
It's a great resource serving Oakland and other east bay
residents. Check it out at www.ebcm.org or call 548-2377. I
hope this helps.
It sounds like you are a bit harsh on your neighbor. Two parties
since July isn't exactly a lot. Isn't she allowed to have a
party now and then ? Also, having an unpleasant and nosy
neighbor doesn't sound like the worst possible situation. She
just sounds annoying. Why not ignore her personal traits and
call the police when the parties go into the wee hours ?
I think a man in my apartment building is watching me and my daughter
when we play outside. Should I be worried? Should I stop playing
outside? I was out in the yard of my huge apartment building
with my dog and my daughter and noticed a man leaning on his window sill
watching us for about half an hour. He definitely had no shirt on,
though the weather here is well below freezing, and I think may have
been completely naked, although he could possibly have been wearing
low-rider pants. A couple of evenings later, as we were entering the
building and walking up the stairs, an apartment door opened, and a
man--I think the same fellow, but I can't be sure--was crouching down
and stuck just his face through the door and says hello to my
18-month-old daughter. His apartment was completely dark behind him,
and he was sort of hiding his body behind the door. I got scared and
scooped up my daughter and walked away fast. I had the feeling that he's
been watching us for who knows how long, and with
who knows what level of interest.
Since then, I have spoken with one neighbor who has lived here a long
time (we just moved here two months ago), and she says she knows
everyone on that floor and there are no weirdos there. I've been
basically avoiding the yard for the past few days and am feeling less
frightened than I did a few nights ago, but I wondered whether people
had information to the effect that peepers usually are or are not
dangerous, etc. Meg
If I had a neighbor like that one, I would call the police. The guy
might be a registered sex offender - he sounds weird enough. If the
police go and talk to him, it might be enough to keep him from staring
at you, etc. Good luck!
All I have to say is that when I read your description of this weirdo,
my stomach turned with fear for your safety. Please do not let your
guard down and perhaps find out (from the police if possible) if this
person has a record of any kind. Get a name and an exact address so if
you ever should have to call the police, you know where to direct them.
Remember that your gut instincts are ususlly right!
The neighbor could be dangerous or possibly not. I wouldn't take any
chances. Trust your gut. It seems odd that a person would stand
outside in below freezing weather without a shirt for one-half hour. If
you're more comfortable playing elsewhere, then do that. If you play in
your yard keep notes on what you observe. Then, if you need the facts
later for any reason you'll have it. If his behavior continues and
you're still concerned, I'd avoid him and find another place to play.
Don't just take one person's word that the building has no weirdos.
This guy could be new to the building; perhaps your friend doesn't know
of him. I don't think one can generalize that all peepers are dangerous
or that they are all harmless. The situation needs to be evaluated in
light of all the information you have. Especially pay attention to your
feelings about it. I believe that mothers usually have an instinctive
sense of when they or their children are in danger.
Two thoughts about the neighbor who is watching you as you and your
daughter play... Aren't you the list member who has moved from Berkeley
to Russia? I would suggest that this might have some bearing on your
situation. For example:
- different cultures have different ideas about what's acceptable;
this could account for your other neighbor saying there are no weird
people on that floor. Staring at people out the window may not be
considered weird within his own culture.
- maybe your neighbor is just very curious about a U.S. family and is
staring at you the way kids stare at unusual people.
I personally would probably chalk it up to cultural differences
unless I had something more concrete to go on.
From: Claire (2/99)
I was interested to read all the responses to the dangerous neighbor
query. I was the unfortunate object of a "peeping tom"when I was 18,
and it was a fairly hardcore and terrifying experience. The episode
lasted about 2 months (as far as I know). After various incidents
that are too creepy to go into here, the person was apprehended and it
was, in fact, a neighbor in my apartment house. This man acted strangely
to me in person, too, not just secretly. Once the whole debacle was
sorted out, I had to ask myself why I never confronted him about his
behavior (I am not especially timid in that respect) but something about
him simply creeped me out altogether and I avoided him.
So, the moral of my story is this:
If a person is of another culture than yours and doesn't understand that
his behavior threatens you, you need to firmly explain that to him. Ask
a friend (male or not, if it makes you feel more comfortable) to
accompany you, go to their door and explain it to them in civil terms.
If they are innocent, they will learn something from you; if they are
malicious, they will understand that you are not afraid to call them on
their behavior. Confront the behavior when it happens, so the person
understands that you are going to defend yourself in every situation.
For example, when someone is standing partially-hidden in the doorway:
pick up your daughter, stop where you are, and ask very loudly and
firmly, "What are you doing?
Are you trying to scare us?" The person will have to respond, and
judging from that response you will know whether or not to make a report
to the police.
I think my situation lasted as long as it did because the person
threatening me thought I was too scared to do anything about it. Trying
to catch him was a lot of work and summoned a lot of fear in me. If you
can get your fear out first, then you can deal with the behavior from a
position of the clear limits you have set for yourself, and communicated
to the person threatening you.
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