Q: I have a question about how to deal with my neighbors. We’ve live in Dover Terrace South for almost 20 years now. My husband and I are both in our late 70s and my husband is wheelchair bound. About three months ago some kids moved in next door. I call them kids but they’re probably all in their early 20s. They have motorcycles and loud parties all night long. We’ve called the police out several times to quiet down the parties. The last time I guess one of the officers must have told them who complained and ever since they’ve been harassing us. They’ll stand at their property line, which is right by our bedroom windows, and yell obscenities in the middle of the night. They’ve thrown empty beer cans and bottles at our house. They’ll bang pots or whatever to wake us up at 2 a.m. They’ve even deliberately parked their motorcycles in front of our driveway. I’m afraid if I have to take my husband to the hospital I won’t be able to get out. We are afraid for our safety and about at our wits’ end but don’t know what to do. Can you help?
A: I’m sure as people are reading this on Saturday morning their coffee cups are shaking and any number of them are ready to march over to your neighbors’ house with torches and pitchforks.
And as much sense as that makes, I have an ethical obligation not to suggest it. However, there are a number of things you can do, but all will involve you standing up and deciding you’re not going to take it anymore.
First and foremost is keeping the police emergency number on your speed dial. Find out from the Suisun City Police Department what the best number is to call them directly when you need an immediate response.
Next, document everything.
That means recording the noises they make, what is said, etc. A tape recorder, video camera, or a trusty iPhone will do it. In addition, keep a log book with the what, when and where’s documented.
At this point you have the ability to call the police department at a moment’s notice and to prove what’s going on and how often.
Police make records of every call, including what house caused the problem. As more and more calls regarding your neighbor’s house add up, the chances that your problem will be kicked upstairs in the department, and ultimately to the District Attorney’s office, goes up. The police will try to do more daily drive-bys, etc.
If your log, and maybe even your recordings, document threats to you, your husband or your property, that will constitute a crime and the police can take immediate action. So pay attention.
Now, criminal justice aside, there are civil things you can do.
First, and this is a little outside my area, but you may be able to go to court and get a civil restraining order that keeps the neighbors from, say, having a noisy party after a certain hour or parking in front of your driveway.
With a restraining order in hand, the police can take action, and even make an arrest that they normally couldn’t.
You can file a lawsuit based on the nuisance the neighbors are creating. But the problem with that is not only the cost of a Superior Court lawsuit, but even if you win the day all you get is another restraining order and a judgment for some money they probably won’t pay.
One other thought, you didn’t mention if these “kids” own or rent the house. I’m taking a wild guess here that they rent the place.
You can find out who owns it at the county Recorder’s Office on the second floor of the county building in Fairfield. Find out who owns the house and call them. Make forceful demands and rattle their cage.
It’s possible the property owners don’t live anywhere around here and have no idea what’s going on. The neighbors’ conduct is likely a violation of their rental agreement and would allow the landlord to evict them.
Frankly, any responsible landlord doesn’t want people like this in their properties.
But the take-home from this discussion is that there’s no Lone Ranger going to ride to your rescue. You have to take the proverbial bull by the horns and keep pushing.
Tim Jones is a real estate attorney in Fairfield. If you have any real estate questions you would like to have answered in this column you can contact him at [email protected].