Ever since Rhonda and Audrey finally arrived from America, three years ago this week, we have lived on the ground floor of a small block of flats.
It is located on a housing estate built in the late ’80s, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, ideally situated for Audrey’s school, Rhonda’s job and local shops. We have our own garden and, until recently, perfectly decent neighbours in the other three flats in the block.
When I originally rented number 14, the flat we now live in, (back when Rhonda and I were still battling the labyrinthine bureaucracy of immigration agencies, on opposite sides of the Atlantic) we were unaware that the landlord was going to sell it six months later, a problem we solved by moving to number 16 next door.
For the next two years we lived next door and got on fine with the nice Hungarian family above us, became friends with Meg and Adam, the young couple who eventually moved into number 14, (after considerable renovation from the state it was in when we lived there) and had no problems with the other upstairs neighbour, who we hardly ever saw or heard from.
Then, in May of this year, when Meg and Adam moved out, we went back across the hall to number 14, due to a very tempting offer from the owner. We had got to know her when she was doing the renovations, (the young couple were the owner’s daughter and her boyfriend) and she wanted someone she could trust to live there; meaning we got a fully refurbished flat, lower rent, no deposit and a nicer garden.
Sound too good to be true?
Almost as soon as we moved back, it was clear that the pair who had moved into the flat above since we were last there (see photo) were not exactly in thrall to domestic bliss, in fact they seemed to be in an almost constant state of war with each other.
She was heavily pregnant, he was very obviously selling drugs to a steady stream of unpleasant visitors, (which they all stood and openly smoked on the front step, right outside our door, making the stairwell and entryway permanently stink of weed) and they often had long screaming rows, which made Audrey very nervous and resulted in the police being called more than once.
In fact on one occasion, soon after their baby was born, I was already at work at 7 a.m. when Rhonda called to say the woman upstairs was hanging out of the window, screaming “Somebody help me!” so she’d rung the police and they’d arrived, broken up the fight and hauled away The Twat (as I now habitually refer to him) while she screamed that he should never come back, etc etc etc.
Already long story, short; this has happened multiple times over the last few months, with him coming back the next day and the cycle begins all over again.
Sometimes the fights are so violent that we can hear them dragging each other around upstairs and hear every hoarsely screamed obscenity, along with the poor, doomed baby adding its own terrified protests to the infernal din from above.
During my recent whiplash holiday from work, I was here for the latest police visit, informing them that this was the nth time this had happened and what were they going to do about it, because these two lunatics were ruining the lives of everyone within earshot which, given their prowess at bellowing and screaming, was by now quite a radius.
“It’s a domestic, there’s nothing we can do unless a law is broken, speak to the landlord” is the standard police response to this type of enquiry, so once they’ve allegedly restored the peace, they just bugger off and leave us all to it.
So, having already complained several times to our landlady, who passed on our concerns to the landlord of the flat upstairs (which he rents privately, not through a letting agent, otherwise they’d be gone by now) I finally spoke directly to him on Monday, to find out what he was going to do about his Neighbours From Hell.
Now, I’d mistakenly been under the impression that he would be aghast at hearing of his tenants’ continuing bad behaviour and be keen to see the back of them asap, but no, no such luck.
He initially told me that he’d spoken to The Twat and that he’d promised there’d be no more arguments or noise.
I respectfully enquired when it was he’d acquired this assurance and he told me it was the day before.
I politely informed him that Mr and Mrs Twat had in fact woken Rhonda and Audrey up with a high volume slanging match at 5 o’clock that very morning and therefore, with the greatest of respect, The Twat was talking bollocks.
I also informed him, with nothing but the most delicate diplomacy, of course, that my wife and daughter were regularly subjected to frightening and distressing episodes of violence and that it was his responsibility to do something about it.
What, I enquired gently, the fuck are you going to do about getting rid of these two scumbags, (my diplomatic repertoire was beginning to wear thin at this point) who are making my family’s life a misery?
His answer was; “If at any time you or your family ever feel threatened or nervous in any way, you should of course call the police.”
I pointed out to him in a friendly tone that we had done that, several times, which was why I was ringing him; to tell him he had a pair of menaces to society living in his property and wouldn’t it better for everyone if he evicted them and replaced them with ordinary, decent human beings?
To which he gave this extraordinary reply; “I’m not going to evict them on your say so, I’ll evict them when and if I think the time is right.”
He’s only going to evict them if I stop complaining that he needs to evict them?
I smell spineless bullshit.
So I did ring the police, again, to ask their advice on a matter they obviously don’t really give a shit about. I even highlighted the child protection issue and they gave me some crap about them “always filling out an at risk form when a child is present at a reported disturbance”.
They told me to see a solicitor, or go to to the Citizens Advice Bureau, or (and this was when I softly hung up the phone) maybe I could try talking to the landlord…?
I did copy out all the landlord’s phone numbers several times and handed them out to the neighbours, making sure they definitely didn’t ring him every five minutes if they heard even slightly raised voices from upstairs.
I guess we’ll just have to wait until he decides the time is right to do something about it and hope his cowardly prevarication isn’t at the cost of the life of mother or child.