Sensitive/Difficult Neighbour Complaining About Everything

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Hey all, we've been in our most recent flat for about a year now and the neighbour below is driving us a little mad. She seems to complain about everything. In the first couple of months of living here she came around and asked us to not throw food down the sink in the kitchen, not that we do this. At this point we'd only been living here a couple of months (there's 4 flats in total in the building and we're on the 1. floor of 4 fwiw). We politely said we try not to let any food go down the sink and she disappeared.

 

In the basement there are three locked areas, one for each of the first three flats - the fourth flat at the top has an attic, to use for storage. There is also an area to dry clothes after washing. Us and the family below us are the only ones who seem to use this drying area. Through the winter when we needed clothes a little faster to dry, I turned on the radiator to speed it up. We have a little boy (3 yo now), and sometimes he needed his stuff sooner, not that we ever turned the radiator on too high or for longer than a few hours before getting the clothes back again.

 

So, of course, the woman downstairs (who is about 50 and lives with her husband and 20 yo son), didn't like this and surprised us when we went out one day in the stairwell and complained about how pointless it was to turn on the heater because she's lived in the building for 15 years and never had any problems. We explained we wanted to speed up our drying a little and to avoid mould growth. She went on and on about the cost of living going up and we gave up and stopped turning the heating on.

 

Then a few months went by and the next complaint came. This time it was about our son being too loud in the stairwell before we went to Kita. Again, she had waited and jumped out of her flat to surprise us, this time it being 7:20am in the morning on a Monday. She complained he was too loud and jumping down the steps (I mean, he's active and lively, but he's three), and he shouldn't be playing in the communal areas and that we also close the door to loudly when we leave the flat. Bearing in mind it was on a Monday morning and taking my kid to Kita before I go to work is a little stressful anyway (and given we've just had a newborn as well who is now 6 months), and I'm starting to get annoyed with her constant shouting (she's a VERY loud talker), I rolled my eyes and explained my annoyance that my son is only 3 and I can't cover his mouth up with tape or turn him off etc and that we're only in the stairwell for 5-10 mins and that we don't let him "play", that he's just lively. To which she replied that she works at home now and needs her peace and quiet in the morning before she starts work so that she can have a coffee and needs her 'Ruhe'. I was pretty irate at this and politely ended the conversation, knowing that in our area from 7am Ruhezeit is over until 10pm. Since then, we've tried to close our flat door as quietly as possible as well as not letting our son jump down any steps etc. More or less, we gave her what she wanted.

 

Then three days later came the next complaint. This time it was about the smell of turpentine in the basement. The thing is, I like to paint a little. Impressionist style landscapes and stuff like that. I keep all the paints and the turpentine (which is the odourless replacement kind, so no smell from that), in a sealed plastic box, and only get them out when I find the time - which is very seldom anyway. Bearing in mind that I've probably painted downstairs about 20 times over the last year, averaging about twice a month. She didn't care for the first 10 months of our tenancy and I'm always tidy and air the basement out during and afterwards, but since she complained about our son and I pushed back a little, she called up the Hausverwaltung and complained that the smell of the turpentine was getting into her drying clothes and she was having to re-wash her clothes etc. I mean, that's just straight up bullshit. We have a little baby and a toddler and hang their clothes down in the same space and never have their clothes stunk of turpentine or oil paint etc - and also we wouldn't put them in clothes that DID stink of that. I feel like going down and asking her to smell her clothes for proof!

 

So anyway, I covered the wire fencing of the basement up in our little corner and bought an air purifyer. Then we went on holiday to the UK for 2.5 weeks. I was hoping that she would be happy with some peace and quiet, and maybe after we came back we would all have cooled off a little and be able to get on a little better. Then I painted in the basement two days after we came back - literally for 30 mins - and then two days later we got a letter from the Hausverwaltung banning any painting in the basement due to flammable liquids being down there. I'm a little shocked they just believed her without investigating or calling us. We're yet to call them back, but we're a little disappointed at them for just caving to this woman.

 

We're also getting increasingly pissed off with this woman - who we've tried to placate each time she's complained, and she just wants more. I feel like there's a pattern? 

 

I feel like just going back to turning the heating on in the drying area and letting our son jump down the steps as he wants, and slamming our door shut each and every morning/evening.

 

Has anyone got any experience with someone like this in Germany? We're going to join a housing advice organisation and see what they say, but this woman is starting to annoy the hell out of us. We've never had complaints in any of the flats we've lived in (5 now including this one), and we're always super friendly and talkative and respectful. We don't have parties and we don't have pets or anything like.

 

Anyone got any other advice?

 

Apologies for the long post.

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"Complaining about "Everything" is the sort of inappropriate exaggerated phrase one hears sometimes in Germany, my colleague supervisor used similar language to me, that and other similar utterances destroyed our relationship (we did not really have one). Obviously (?) she is NOT complaining about "Everything"!!

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Buy more clothes so they can be left longer to dry without using/wasting energy.

 

Probably the energy charges for the basement are shared between the flats, so using as little as possible seems very reasonable.

 

Restrictions on solvents seem quite reasonable too (possible fire or health risk).

 

Slamming doors to annoy the neighbours might result in an Abmahnung and would escalate the situation.

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I was told once by a neighbor that I should only hang clothes in the cellar on certain days, which were noted on a bit of cardboard many years old. I hung the clothes outside instead, if I was lucky they got rinsed again😉

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IMO, you should contac the Hausverwaltung yourself, explain what is going on, and ask them to send somebody round to check out the situation.

If you can prove to them that this neighbour seems to have a bee in her bonnet, then they might take any future complaints with a pinch of salt, rather than complaining to you directly.

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The complaint about the heating is reasonable, why should everyone in the building pay for you drying your clothes faster? 

 

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having lived as a tenant in a large apartment building - with a drying room in the basement, being a hobby artist myself, and raising a child - I have personally experienced similar situations, I can certainly relate.


In my opinion, engaging in a "fight" with the complaint leader, or the building management, is a waste of your personal energy.

 

Here's how I solved the "problems" for myself:
 

1. I bought my own dryer (and later a washer too) to be independent from a communal washing/drying schedule. It helps a lot when you can simply (wash and) dry your clothes whenever you want/need to. This requires a little creativity in picking the perfect spot for your dryer, depending on the size of your apartment. Dryers don't usually need a water hook-up - so if you couldn't set it up in the bathroom, or in the kitchen, maybe your bedroom works? Running the radiator in the "public" area to "speed-dry" your clothes is not a good plan.


2. My painting and supplies for it were relegated to the kitchen. I found that kitchen kabinets in an off-white, and a kitchen window facing East greatly improved the lighting situation. My paintings turned out way brighter than before when I was working in the basement. This setup requires a higher degree of discipline and organisation in the kitchen. Using your corner of the basement as an art studio is not a good plan.

 

3. as for your child being perceived as "noisy" by the neighbor, you can simply (and quietly) point her in the direction of relevant court rulings: children can be noisy (within reason) any time, there is no "Ruhezeit" for children's noise. Being extra noisy and slamming doors, just to  "get back" at your neighbor is not a good plan.

 

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If all of your art supplies are non-flammable, show them to the Hausverwaltung. Perhaps take photos of them and send.

 

Most important, listen to the complainer while nodding your head and then walk away. 

 

Nobody slams doors on purpose. Occasionally, the wind will grab mine and bang it shut. I always close as gently as possible.

 

You can also report her for harassment.

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We had a similar discussion with a neighbour about the drying room.  My husband only turned the heating on once and they neighbour complained.  It was against the rules to dry washing in your flat.  It was also not allowed to dry your clothes on the balcony if they could be seen.  For the people on the top floors this was no problem, for those on the bottom, it could be.  All these things should be discussed with your Hausverwaltung. 

 

We used the communal washing machine on a Sunday morning  - one of the children had had an 'accident'.  Someone else used the machine after us, which took it into the lunch hour.  We got a nasty anonymous note complaining about Sunday use, and they were particularly disgusted that the washing machine was used at lunch time.  Someone probably complained to the Hausverwaltung because a couple of days later there was a sign on the door confirming that the washing machine could be used from 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week. (We still tried not to use it on a Sunday.)  

 

Our Hausverwaltung put up signs saying that children were allowed to make noise.  When my daughter saw this, she understood she could be as noisy as she wanted but I said, no, we should still try to be considerate.

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Has she formally complained? Are you going to complain about the complaint? Thought about getting an attorney?😕

 

Much better to "keep the ball near the ground", as they say in German.

 

I have lived here many years, my German is quite good, but I would really try to avoid getting into an argument with a neighbor. Or with a police officer.

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No problems where I live, people keep to themselves. But my doorbell rang a moment ago, and I accepted a packet for someone upstairs, she will be so grateful.

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Children? Noise? Kinderlaerm ist Zukunftsmusik!

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One shared cost that I do not compromise on is light in the stairwell. It stays on a couple minutes, that costs each flat a fraction of a cent.

 

Better than risking falling over in the dark and breaking a bone😕

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I would définitely think hard about what she does ... apart from moan ... that annoys you and make a oiint of complaining back to her. Every time you see her. You do hear her in the stairwell, and when she closes her door, and those cooking smells, or her cigar habit...

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Evidently she has you in her sights, she sees you as a vector to relieve some of the tedium of living a dull and gray life and you are her only entertainment other than the reality TV show she so craves. I rather doubt that any pacifying will make things better, also any attempt to comply will be seen as conformation of your "failings" she is full of her own righteousness and perceived self importance and sees you as the foreigner as a lower creature than herself. It builds her up a little to have shown the "foreigner" their place.

I would think about how far you want to escalate and next time when she springs her grievance to tell her in no uncertain terms to fornicate off and leave you alone. As a German of a certain age she will fear authority, so you have to be the authority and make her flinch.

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