How neighbours from hell destroy lives
With two thirds of Brits complaining about nuisance residents, Closer speaks to one woman who has lived through it…
Last month, L ex-eastenders actor Ivan Kaye and his partner Beatrix told a court how they were forced out of their £750,000 London home by a neighbour who, he claims, launched a “terrifyingly frosty campaign of torment”.
Ivan, 57, lived above children’s author Amanda Lees from 2013 until recently. The actor claims that Lees bombarded him with “frighteningly angry” noise complaints, would repeatedly bang on her ceiling, and let her garden grow so high that it blocked his lounge window.
The actor, who played Dr Jonathan Leroy in the BBC soap, was forced to rent out the flat due to being at his “wits’ end”, but his tenants went on to suffer a “tirade of complaints”.
Despite Lees denying the claims, Judge Richard Roberts accepted Ivan’s version of events. His lawyers say Lees faces having to pay up to £1 million in compensation because he was unable to sell or rent the flat.
Experts say rows between neighbours are increasing each year, with rising house prices possibly to blame as more people live in cramped spaces. Statistics show that over two thirds of UK homeowners have reported being plagued by nightmare neighbours. Last year, over 250,000 people made complaints about noise – of which only 8,000 were followed up with legal notices or fines from councils.
In addition, there were over 570,000 complaints to councils about bad behaviour from neighbours last year, with arguments about parking spaces, extensions and building works.
Dr Simon Stuart, a clinical psychologist, says it’s important that complaints are taken seriously. He says, “Our homes are our sanctuaries where we can relax, so if that is disrupted, it can have huge physical and mental effects. Often, people who are dealing with nuisance neighbours are in a constant state of stress, which can affect everything from sleep to relationships.
“Whether you’re a homeowner or in rented accommodation, it’s easy to feel trapped. But taking practical steps and following your local authority’s advice can help to make you feel more in control.”
Tabby Farrar, 26, understands what it’s like to have neighbours that make your life hell. In March 2017, the marketing executive was excited to move in to her first rented flat in Norwich with boyfriend Chris, 36, an insurance claims handler.
Tabby explains, “It seemed like a lovely location, quiet and overlooking a park. We couldn’t believe we’d been so lucky.”
But two weeks after moving in, the couple were shocked when their downstairs neighbour began singing loudly late at night.
Tabby says, “It was more like shrieking than singing, but we tried to ignore it. However, when it got to 11pm, I decided to go downstairs and ask her to tone it down a bit.
“I was shocked when she refused to open the door, but instead hurled insults and profanities at me and just carried on screeching.
“I was speechless. As I walked back up the stairs to our flat, another neighbour was walking out of his door and said, ‘That’s just the start – she’ll be up all night.’ We later realised that the words she was singing were all offensive words.”
The couple contacted their letting agent the next morning.
Tabby says, “I was given the number of a police officer and contact at the council who was dealing with complaints about this particular neighbour – it had been going on for months but nothing was mentioned when we viewed the flat. We complained immediately, but were offered little help from the letting agents. We were devastated.”
From then on, Tabby and her neighbours phoned the police multiple times a week with noise complaints.
She explains, “It was awful. She would sing from 11pm to 7am and it was right below our bedroom. It was so loud that residents in flats two buildings away began complaining.
“If you tried to confront her, she would scream profanities at you. We couldn’t have a conversation over dinner or watch a film because she was so loud. It was exhausting and
❛OUR SEX LIFE ALL BUT DRIED UP AS WE HATED BEING AT HOME❜
started affecting our work.
“We both had counselling to try to deal with the stress, but there was no release. Normally, if something is bothering you, you can go home and forget about it for a while, but there was no respite for us.
“Our sex life all but dried up as we hated being at home. We spent a lot of money on eating out in pubs. Three months in, we stayed with some friends who had a spare room for a few days to get some sleep. Each time we complained, she would be cautioned and then carried on anyway. We felt totally helpless.”
The couple’s flat was fitted with microphones and they were asked to submit sound recordings to the council’s noise abatement team.
Meanwhile, Tabby and Chris were desperate to get out of their tenancy. Tabby explained, “We were tied in to a year’s contract and couldn’t afford to lose our deposit if we broke it.
“Finally, after offers of reduced rent, we were able to get out of it and, in November 2017, we moved out.”
A month later, the couple’s neighbour, Heather Webb, 48, was finally taken to court and given a 24-month Criminal Behaviour Order banning her from singing loudly.
Tabby says, “I know most of the other residents have moved out, too. It’s taken us a long time to get over it. Even now, if I hear a squeaking pipe or a child scream, I recoil.”