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I live in Australia in a block of flats. We are the middle flat of three. Each flat has a front and back balcony. Due to the nature of the flats the back doors will bang in the wind if not secured - this will be a constant loud bang, every 5-10 seconds which is loud enough to penetrate ear plugs due to its short sharp nature.

Not too soon after our upstair neighbour moved in she left her back balcony door open when she went for an early morning walk. It banged and woke us up at 6:30 am which was very frustrating. We left her a friendly note and also some supplies to attach it (normal string will break in a few days due to the stress from the wind). In the preceding days the door was secured so it didn't bang. She decided not to use our method. (although I find it difficult for notes not to be passive aggressive we attempted to write it in a light friendly manner trying to be helpful and not judgemental).

Wind forward 3 months and into a heat wave. She left her door open over night to encourage a slight breeze but unfortunately it came loose at 2:30 in the morning. This woke my wife up and then woke me up about 30 minutes later.

Here is the conundrum, what do you do at 3am when a door is banging, how do you contact the person in that house? I decided that knocking on her actual door was not ideal (as the entry way is dark and I am tall) I didn't want to scare our single female neighbour. Instead I went out the front of our property and rang the intercom bell. I rang a few short sharp rings until she answered and asked her to secure her door.

Hello, sorry to bother you but your door has been banging in the wind for about an hour, do you think you can secure it?

Note - I am English so find it hard to be rude even when tired and grumpy.

We slept badly that night but both understood it was a complete freak of nature that shouldn't happen again.

The morning after next we received a letter on our door from her. The basic gist of it was:

  • Sorry for waking you up in the middle of the night BUT
  • It was a complete accident AND
  • You make noise during the day too which I don't complain about

(the tone felt quite aggressive as if the door banging was our fault - also noting legal sections and paragraphs felt completely unnecessary)

Finally she said something along the lines of

I don't feel comfortable with you ringing my door bell in the middle of the night. It makes me feel uncomfortable in my house and you should never do this again in future. Please refer to (section XX, paragraph YY) the noise regulations about noise.

This is the part I am asking my question about:

IF this happens again and I want to respect my neighbours wishes how can I communicate with her to close the door?

I can only think of a few ways to get in contact with her:

  1. Phone: She hasn't given us her number (we have given her ours and tried to arrange chats) and this might be off or on silent over night
  2. Front buzzer: She has specifically said she is made to feel uncomfortable by this
  3. Do nothing: And get no sleep while getting angrier and angrier
  4. Call the police: This feels like making a mountain over a molehill. As it feels like too small a thing to bother them with. This coupled with the fact that they will just ring her front buzzer anyway which I could do without calling the police. It also feels like an unnecessary escalation for something which should be resolvable anyway.

It is worth noting a few things:

  • We have repeatedly tried to chat with her about it, we have given her our numbers, asked her to meet up and even arranged times. She has never messaged us (as agreed) and has always been out at times when we arranged.
  • We have given her our phone number and suggested we exchange phone numbers to deal with the noise but have not received any message from her (except paper notes on the door)
  • She is around our age (early 30s) so there is not a large age or maturity gap

This question isn't about what we should do with regards to her per se (we need to find a time to chat everything through) but is more about how to communicate that we want to respect her boundaries but also want to get a good nights sleep. I don't want to say "well if we can't contact you we'll call the police next time" but honestly I don't know what we would do (probably ring on the buzzer if it happened tonight). I also don't know whether calling the police is blowing it out of all proportion or whether ringing the buzzer is for that matter.

It is worth noting that we are not keen on launching formal complaints. I feel that a good relationship with your neighbours is important and unless they are being very inconsiderate then it is better to deal with them directly instead of calling body corporate or the estate agent.

  • 3
    "I decided that knocking on her actual door was not ideal (as the entry way is dark and I am tall) I didn't want to scare our single female neighbour." Considering your concenrs and her reaction (about making her feel uncomfortable), why don't you let your wife handle it? – Anne Daunted Feb 6 '18 at 9:41
  • The door started banging in the middle of the night and woke you up, but how come it did not wake her up? – peufeu Feb 6 '18 at 10:56
  • @AnneDaunted my wife didn’t want to go out in the dark at night. In future I can suggest her dealing with our neighbour but she finds it a very stressful situation so is loath to get heavily involved – simon_smiley Feb 6 '18 at 11:13
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I actually think that the option you disregarded initially is the best one. Knock directly on her door. This indicates immediately to her that you aren't a stranger buzzing the intercom, but a known neighbour with access to the building and probably a good reason for knocking in the middle of the night. Perhaps get your wife to do this if you think she is less likely to make your neighbour uncomfortable, although as a single female I wouldn't be bothered.

Also bear in mind that the noise of the door doesn't appear to bother her nearly as much as it does you. You might want to apologise for scaring her in the middle of the night to help smooth things over. It seems like she just wants to be left alone; so I wouldn't try exchanging phone numbers again or engaging more than that - she knows it's a problem now so if she doesn't fix it (at least mostly - one off forgetfulness is different) I think you're somewhat beyond interpersonal solutions.

  • Exactly this. If she doesn't mind waking you up every night when the wind is blowing, you don't have to mind banging on her door every time her door wakes you up. – Hans Janssen Apr 12 '18 at 14:54
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My thoughts/framing of problem

You are facing a tough situation from an IPS standpoint as many of your attempts at polite and direct avenues of communication/resolution have been actively limited by your neighbor.

Do nothing

Not really an option.

Phone

She hasn't given us her number (we have given her ours and tried to arrange chats)

This seems like she has already shut down this method of communication

Front Buzzer

"I don't feel comfortable with you ringing my door bell in the middle of the night."

Getting your concerns through to somebody will be tough if they feel uncomfortable.

Notes

It seems like this method of communication is one your neighbor is comfortable with and has reciprocated, unfortunately a note slipped under a door rarely wakes somebody in time to save you sleep.

Knocking on her door and talking face to face

It seems that you and your wife have already interacted with your neighbor during the day via this method, but sporadically and never at an agreed upon or planned time.

As for knocking on her door during the night, her previous discomfort at ringing her buzzer as well as

I decided that knocking on her actual door was not ideal (as the entry way is dark and I am tall) I didn't want to scare our single female neighbour

makes this option seem as bad as the others, but it is basically your only option at this point for addressing the issue while its happening.

Some indirect methods for resolution have also been brought up:

Getting the police involved

I agree with you that this seems heavy-handed, nobody in this situation has broken any laws (afaik).

Bringing in the landlord/property manager

While you are hesitant to do this, one of the roles of a landlord can be conflict resolution between tenants and another role is building maintenance.


Neighbor POV

While I cannot infer much about your neighbor's viewpoint, the exercise of trying to see her perspective can lead to new insights. From her angle, she moved into a new flat with a door that sometimes blows in the breeze and makes some noise, but it doesn't bother her. The door was already like that. Her neighbors are really sensitive light sleepers and keep bothering her about her door and expecting her to put in effort to make their lives easier.


My advice, seeing as you have tried and been shutdown on a number of direct approaches to resolution without outside intervention is:

Talk to your landlord about the door issue instead of the conflict

Over anything else I would advise talking to your landlord, but not in the frame of "neighbor x won't properly secure her door", in the frame of "Building has issue with loudly banging doors. This issue (in neighbors' doors as well as our own) has a serious negative impact on my sleep."

The best possible outcome here is that your landlord did not eve know about the banging doors and fixes them.

If they know about the issue, but will not fix the doors, possibly because there isn't a problem when the doors are "properly used" (read closed and secured), then you could request that they send a reminder to all tenants to properly secure the doors to prevent the issue, or something along those lines. This puts official sanction behind your requests to your neighbor without directly involving the landlord in your conflict.

They may tell you to just work it out with your neighbor, but the base result of this conversation with your landlord is that they are now aware of/have acknowledged:

  • The banging doors issue

  • Your neighbor's door costing you sleep, generally being a nuisance

This means that if the situation comes to a head in the future they are aware of your side of the story which, combined with your seniority as a longer existing tenant, will work in your favor.

If no door fix or PSA is forthcoming from your landlord conversation then I would advise continuing as you have. Some people need to hear things more than once (or twice) to get the message.

If you want to avoid causing discomfort and hostility at the cost of not immediately fixing the problem that night, leave a note (continuing with your English politeness, but maybe let a little passive-aggression creep in) every night this happens. Maybe offer more door-holding supplies, even an offer of helping show how to use the door-holders. This approach bends to your neighbor's limiting of communication, but emphasizes that this really matters to you, enough to leave her a note each time.

For an immediate fix, try sending your wife to knock on her door, this should reduce the scariness you feared imposing by being tall and male. Your wife could also go the buzzer route, but this, unlike the door has been specifically requested to not happen.

If the problem still persists then return to your landlord with a direct complaint, you've done all you can.

Personal opinion/thoughts: (not part of my answer) IANAL and not familiar with Aussie noise laws, but here in the US, noise complaints at night and during the day are totally different in law. Your complaint would hold a lot more weight than her "noises during the day I don't complain about." This combined with the other factors I mentioned above means that if an authority (cops/landlords) became involved, you would be in the right.

  • I took wayy to long writing this, Rosemary has clearly stated a couple of points that I only vaguely touched even though I meant to get them across – spiral succulent Feb 6 '18 at 20:45
  • I agree that daytime noises are different from night ones. The bylaws in Canada are similar. However, I would also argue that a door waking you up every 3 months in mild when you're living in a block of apartments. On the other hand, bringing up the day time noises was passive aggressive of her. – doctordonna Feb 6 '18 at 21:20
  • Thats kind of what I was trying to get across, the citing of legal code and vague tit for tat complaints about day noises seem really out of place – spiral succulent Feb 6 '18 at 21:59
  • Downvoted without comment :/ – spiral succulent Mar 3 '18 at 0:06
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The fact that she cited legal code means that she has looked it up. It sounds like she's feeling defensive. She may also genuinely have a phobia (unfounded, perhaps, but fears don't care about that).

If that's the case, it's probably counter-productive to continue approaching her directly. Get the strata manager involved: ask them to convey your apology for potentially scaring her, and to ask that something (specific) be done with the door. Strata managers deal with interpersonal issues as part of their job, and they have a legitimate reason to make contact. However, you would be well-advised to make clear to the strata manager that you're not trying to express your annoyance; they have been known to be overzealous in their pursuit of 'the right thing' on occasion.

The strata manager can start the process to have the door fixed. But more importantly, they can also put in a good word for you, possibly giving you a chance to make a second first impression, as it were.

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