THE writer of this week’s THINKING ALLOWED has neighbours from hell, who are badly affecting her health and that of her husband. She says she’s being made to jump through bureaucratic hoops while official agencies do little to protect the amenity of her Spearwood neighbourhood.
TRANSFORMATION from a politically correct, tolerant and peaceful person to something quite the opposite is only two nightmare neighbours away.
The southern suburbs fibro and weatherboard was dilapidated but sweet, and within our first home budget. We looked forward to renovating it; our own home, made with our hands, during the long summer days.
That first weekend was a portent of things to come. A raging argument on their front lawn, her face inches from his, contorted with violence, a confused toddler in the background.
The next weekend, a humid storm of mutual anger brooded and then exploded. She grasped the toddler’s hand and dragged him up the street behind the man, accusing him at the top of her lungs—among many things—of being a paedophile toward his own son.
The verbal abuse we then heard daily was more totally uncontrolled anger. This shouting occurred several times daily, between the adult residents, and toward the child.
This child was the catalyst of our efforts. Here is your choice. Your chance of owning a home, but you must listen to child abuse. Once, she yelled at the child to enter the house and when he did not respond immediately she released a horrific and frustrated groan, and belted the door repeatedly into the doorframe, calling the child a ****ing ***hole.
We made the first of many reports to child protection, the police, to the housing department. It was, I formulated, as simple as setting boundaries and adding to the very public discussion of what was acceptable. Drawing a line in the sand. Months of hell followed.
This daily experience was shocking and very depressing. We were privy to private details of the adult residents’ lives that no-one would wish to hear, except the volume of their arguments made this unavoidable.
In the course of the first week we had lost much of the enthusiasm of owning our first home, and over time we were dreading the day our home repairs were completed and we would be living there full-time and exposed to this behaviour 24/7—not forgetting the child living in the neighbouring home was already doing so.
Ten months later more than a dozen reports had been made and three strikes had been issued—highlights included when drug paraphernalia was thrown over our fence and against the side of our house in a fit of rage by the woman, and the man attempted to climb the fence to retrieve it; when the woman visited to abuse me on my property; and when the man thrust half his body over the fence to threaten me.
Attending police officers shared that the couple was known to them. No charges were pursued. Throughout the course of our exposure to these neighbours, there has been repeated intimidation, abuse and threats towards us—I’m told to take out a misconduct restraining order, because the police cannot act unless this is breached, or unless one of them attacks me.
Letters to the housing minister bring firm responses peppered with reminders of these tenants’ rights. Child protection is receptive, but impotent. When I discover tenancies have been ended before, multiple times from previous public housing properties, for abandonment, drug use and disruptive behaviour, I am furious.
Despite restrictions on tenancy lengths in the past, and knowledge of criminal activity, we have been the department’s lackey for 10 months, making audio recordings of fights, keeping logs, writing reports and taking telephone calls, in order to help it initiate court proceedings against its own tenants, whose character they understood very well, long before placing them next door.
A pre-Christmas eviction order request to the magistrate’s court was inevitably rejected. The female tenant began a war with her duplex neighbours, resulting in them throwing a letterbox through her front window. We continue to ignore her, but several disturbances over Christmas included abuse directed toward our residence as her bullying and bravado returned afresh.
More than one year later, the housing department has not taken independent action to relieve us of this onslaught. I am aware of the irony of the request that this resident be relocated—a problem is not solved, we contribute to a flawed system. But we are at the boundary of our mental anguish. I now make repeated demands for moral justice and decency, referencing the continuing risk we are exposed to.
I cannot describe the emotional toll of this experience, yet I try to be proactive. I correspond regularly with various levels of the department, including the director-general. I write to politicians, the premier, the ombudsman, and now the Herald.
We have experienced the entire process offered by the housing department, and then it quietly resets to zero, to November 2013. Return to start, do not pass go…until the house is completely finished, we are trapped in a Monopoly-inspired nightmare. Then we will be set to encounter the financial repercussions of selling our home unwillingly.
I share this with others in our community and they cannot believe our situation. There is a general perception the “three strikes” policy is a solution. It has become very clear to me our rights as hard-working and modest people trying to pay off a home and enjoy a quiet life are being ignored.
Our exposure to this really unhealthy situation continues, and beyond the mental suffering, we’re very angry.