Waiting for retaliation...

(Apologies in advance for the length. This is something I’ve needed to get off my chest for a while)

[backstory] We’re renting a privately-owned house in a neighbourhood that is/was predominantly Housing Trust owned, but recently has sold off more of the houses to private concerns (for those outside Aus, the Housing Trust is a government department who provides low cost housing to the unemployed/low income earners. Council housing, basically). A lot of the houses in the area have been purchased/rented out from private owners by the ex-Housing Trust tenants.

The houses themselves are semi-detached dwellings. Every house in the street is kind of a ‘double house’, joined by a common wall between two houses. Our house has another privately owned dwelling attached, that was purchased by one of the ex-housing-trust families from the area (they sell cheap here).

Most of the people in the area are ‘stereotypically’ Housing Trust. Sort of ‘white trash lite’. None of them are particularly well educated, perhaps one or two of them actually work, the rest seem to be claiming benefits of some kind. They have screaming kids that run around the streets, and they make no effort to tame them, apart from screaming that they’re “fing cnts” and “little shits” etc.

There’s currently a feud going on between the cabal of friends/relatives at my end of the street (approximately three or four households), and some others who live at the other end of the street. Should one lot be having a party or just playing some music a bit louder than normal, the others will come out and scream obscenities at them. There’s been attempts from both sides to get the others chucked out by their landlords, or to make life so unbearable that the others will move or suffer the consequences. They openly stand around in public and talk about the ways they’re going to try and force the other people to have to move out.

In all of this, my husband and I have been fairly neutral. When we moved in 12 months ago, the house next door was empty due to having been burned out about six months beforehand. We got into the habit of saying ‘hi’ to the neighbours, but never really got around to making friends with any of them, due to my work schedule mostly. About five or six months ago, the house next door was purchased, and the neighbours moved in. Since that time we’ve not had any major problems. They gave us warning when they were planning on having a big party one time, and apart from a few occurrences of them screaming and shouting both at each other and their kid, and a couple of occasions where their music has gotten a bit too loud, there’s not been anything I really would have issue with at all.

Until now. [/backstory]

The neighbours park their car on their front lawn, right in front of the porch. It escapes me as to why they do it, as they have a fully servicable driveway that never has anything in it, but it’s their house and I don’t question. Due to the nature of the house, there is no separation between their front yard and ours. And so, when they can’t be bothered reversing out of their driveway, they’ve taken to driving across our front lawn to get out.

The first few times I wasn’t sure if they were or not. On occasion I would hear a car driving what seemed to be right out the front of my computer room window (which faces the front yard directly), but by the time I got up to look, they’d driven off and I had no proof that anyone had been driving there. So I didn’t concern myself that much. I saw no damage to the lawn, and didn’t think about it that much. A couple weeks after the first instance, I was sitting on the couch and looking out the front door, when I actually saw them driving right across our front lawn. After they’d gone, I checked to make sure they hadn’t ploughed up the grass or anything, but I didn’t really fuss again. After all, no harm, no foul, right?

Then they ran over our water metre. I heard the crunch, but again by the time I’d gotten up to look the car was out of sight. I didn’t think about it, because on occasion there’s been bottles/cans dropped in the gutter at the end of our driveway by other neighbours, and they’d run over them from time to time before and made a similar noise. But a couple of days later I went out to check the mail and noticed it. The water metre was in pieces, partly mashed into the ground. It looks like they’d run over it with one of the tyres, so probably no damage done to their car, so I don’t know if they even noticed it or not.

Now, it’s an offence to have a broken/inactive water metre on your property, and I didn’t know when the next water reading was due to be. But because it’s not our property, I had to then call the real estate agent and report it to them, so they could forward it on to the water company and have them come out and repair it. While speaking to the estate agent, she asked how it could have been done. I mentioned the neighbours driving on the front lawn, that I’d seen it once and heard it a couple of times. The agent said she’d send them a letter asking them not to drive on the front lawn, and then she’d get the water company out to repair the metre. This was about a month or so ago.

We expected maybe a bit of a “What the hell’s this?” reaction when the neighbours got the letter, but heard nothing in all this time. We thought maybe they’d gotten the letter, understood it and decided to not drive on our lawn. Great. Until early last week, when the real estate agent contacted me and said that they hadn’t actually sent a letter to the neighbours at all, that they’d gotten a bill from the water company for $230 for the replacement of the water metre, and that they would be sending it to the neighbours with a demand for payment or a threat to take them to small claims court.

Oh shit. I should have been expecting/thinking about this, but I didn’t.

So for most of last week, I’d been having nervous panic attacks whenever I heard the neighbours shouting about something, or whenever I went to go outside (they like to sit on their porch and just watch people going past while they smoke and talk). I didn’t know how the neighbours were going to react, but these were people who’d aimed a firework at one of the other neighbours from down the street when they’d had an argument during a party one time. Shit shit shit. Then the real estate agent contacts me again on thursday last week. Sorry, they haven’t sent the letter yet, they’ll be sending it on friday so the neighbours should receive it on tuesday or wednesday (no mail delivery on weekends, public holiday monday). Tuesday being today, wednesday being tomorrow. Now I’m in a flat panic. I’m having trouble mustering the balls to go out of the house. I don’t want to be fronted by a screaming neighbour, I’m rather much on the side of conflict avoidance.

Rationally, I know I shouldn’t wind myself up so much. I could be wrong. The neighbours might realise they’d broken the metre, pay up to the real estate agent and not even contact us about it at all. But somewhere deep inside is the little part of me expecting one of them to come over and have a go at my husband and/or myself, or to approach one of us when we’re on our way to the shops or the train station, or start one of the passive-aggressive methods of letting us know their displeasure, such as blasting their music into our house, or possibly throwing things at the house. I don’t know. But now I’m regretting having gone to the estate agent. I’m thinking I should have just called the water company myself, and fronted up the bill for the repair of the metre. It’s not worth the potential aggro, IMHO.

If you’re that worried about it, it’s time for you to be proactive. Go talk to the neighbors yourself and let them know:

  1. They broke the water meter by driving over it

  2. The real estate agent is handling the matter in a way you didn’t expect, and don’t approve of

  3. You thought they’d rather hear about it from you than from receiving a nasty letter. As far as you’re concerned, you just need the meter replaced. No harm, no foul, and you expect to continue to have good neighborly relations.

They might get angry when you talk to them, but they’re MUCH less likely to get angry if you talk to them before they get the letter. And this might be sexist, but I think they’re less likely to be confrontational with a woman than with a man, especially if you go into the discussion in a non-confrontational way.

Good luck.

Beadlin’s advice is excellent, nothing to add there. I would like to commend you though on your patience, restraint and attempts to keep the peace in what appears to be a dedgum minefield of potential conflict.

“And so, when they can’t be bothered reversing out of their driveway, they’ve taken to driving across our front lawn to get out.”