Thursday, December 8, 2011

Neighbors who are and are not there

neighbors by amy marie stadelmann
The neighbor who is not there

Our nearest "neighbor" is AWOL.  Has been for a long, long time.  We've never seen him.  We know it's a him because, just like the house that our twin is attached to, he owns several other vacant properties around the city. The home has been empty for a long time, apparently there was (according to other people on the block) a squatter who died there, but not before ripping out the copper piping.  So needless to say, it's at least quiet on the other side of our walls.  (Incidentally, we would never have bought the house had we known about this -- but because people on the block were caring for the lawn, and there are simply curtains over the windows and nothing's broken, we didn't realize at first that it was abandoned.)  Eventually when the grass got long, we got the city to hire a contractor to take care of it.  But then came the lingering fear over mold -- after all, the house has been baking in the humidity of the city all summer, and going through rains a-plenty, and now winter is coming...  there's a distinct possibility that there's mold.

That's where things get tied up in red government tape.

We don't own the home, so we can't check for mold.  Our home was inspected for it, and came up clean, but that could be because the mold over there simply has not spread yet.  And if that were to happen, it would be very, very bad for our first little home.  And our health, obviously.

I contacted the city via their "email us!" link, and it promptly came back as undeliverable.

So, I called them.  "Oh honey no we can't check for mold," three people in a row tell me as I am bounced around.  "We can't go into any property."

And so we're stuck.  The owner is listed on a government page of owners who own vacant/abandoned properties -- it's very clear that it's not lived in.  But because we don't own it, and it's owned by someone, we're at an impasse.  Our home is mold-free so there's no precedent for getting someone in there, technically.  I wrote an email to my councilman as a last-ditch effort, and that has probably fallen on deaf ears.

The neighbor who is there

Then there's the neighbor slightly further away.  I think she hates us.  Once, Patrick parked his car close to hers, but not so close that it was impossible, and she waited just inside her door until he went to leave for work and came out and blisteringly asked him why he parked all up on her like that.  (We've lived in this city for years -- we know how close to park on a street, thankyou -- but I think she does this to everyone on the street, since almost nobody parks within five feet of her car these days.)

She complained to our direct neighbors about our dogs barking (she didn't come to us directly), and when we realized they were barking during the day we immediately stopped letting them stay outside.  But apparently that span of barking caused her to further hate our souls, because today when I was walking one of the dogs, he hopped up onto the vacant lot's grassy yard patch to smell a leaf, (the grassy patch is connected to her yard), and low and behold, she quickly opens her door to glare at me!  I explain sweetly that he was on the vacant lot and not hers, and walk away.  She glared at me and grumbled something I didn't hear.  (Keep in mind, dog was sniffing at the grass on the vacant patch, and as soon as he hopped up away from the sidewalk I started to guide him back down...I'm not talking about him running into her yard to defecate or something clearly more upsetting.)

Later I left her a Christmas card in her door explaining that we're very sorry if we've offended or upset her in some way and we would like to be good neighbors, and when we realized our dogs were barking we quickly stopped letting them stay outside...which was weeks ago.  So the ball's in her court.  Meanwhile, since it's become evident that she likes to sit inside by her door waiting for anyone to cross her, we'll walk on the other side of the street for now...

I know this comes off as a little self-righteously complaining, but still -- yes, our dogs were barking during the day for about a week or so...and we fixed the problem as soon as we found out it was going on.  And she was mean about the car thing before we ever had a barking issue with the new dog, so I'm erring on the side of us on this one: she's actively looking for things to be cranky about.

The thing is, though, that there are plenty of other things she could get cranky about instead...just the other night there were loud gunshots a block away or so.  There's this vacant house sitting right next to hers that could have toxic mold.  Why not get mad about those neighborhood issues?  Why wait inside by your door every time we're outside, waiting to spring out?

I like to think we're good people; back when we lived in the upper-level of a house in the Fan and were getting our puppy, we bought a bottle of wine and a card for the downstairs neighbors as a pre-curser apology for any puppy-related noise.  We do try to be nice.  But somehow, we're on a shit-list.


Ultimately with both issues I'm left throwing up my hands asking, "What else am I supposed to do?"

So far, I've come up with the following possible solutions and would welcome more:

  • Bake cookies, bring said cookies to Neighbor Who Is There
  • Write a letter to Neighbor Who Is Not There asking him to take a look at the house and let us know so we can stop worrying about  mold/health issues.  (Downside: let's hope he has mail forwarding, since obviously he's not there to get mail at that address...but the city records may list other contact information...) (Other downside: this seems unlikely to solve anything, given he didn't care enough to mow his own lawn all summer.  I'm fully aware that this option seems unlikely to work...)


  1. Sounds like cranky lady is an old biddy who wants someone to talk to and the only way she can do it is by pulling people aside to yell at them.

    You should tell the Not There property owner that you know someone interested in the property but they are very sensitive to mold and want him to have it checked. Either that or dress yourselves up in disguise and meet with him to look at buying the property while secretly swiping for a mail-out mold test. X-D

  2. Well, at the very least if you mail him your concerns he can't ever say that you're "suddenly" interested in the mold when you've been concerned for awhile.

    As for the neighbor that is there, it sounds like she has some personal problems. Maybe recommend a therapist when you drop off the cookies.