You Be the Judge: The Nightmare Neighbor | Reader's Digest

You Be the Judge: The Nightmare Neighbor

In the four months after a loud tenant arrived, a neighbor sent 17 letters of complaint to the condo board, asking it to take action. The board did nothing. Should she be compensated for the disturbances? You be the judge.

By Robin Gerber
Also published in Reader's Digest Magazine November 2007

Woman covering her earsiStock/Thinkstock

Myra Harris was ready to tear her hair out. She loved her condo on the fourth floor of the Federal Fibre Mills building in New Orleans’s historic and trendy Warehouse District—and who wouldn’t, with its high ceilings, cypress-wood beams, exposed-brick walls and a view of the Mississippi River? But life there had become a nightmare.

Myra’s big headache started when the owner of the unit below leased it in September 2001 to a middle-aged woman. Suddenly Myra was being jolted awake between midnight and six in the morning when the new tenant blasted the television or stereo at full volume, Myra said in court documents.

TV noise wasn’t even the worst of it. On numerous occasions, Myra said, the woman would wail and scream in the early morning hours. Myra also claimed that the tenant held loud parties that lasted late into the night. Myra said in her court petition that her neighbor would bang on the ceiling and pipes with a hard object for hours. The clanging echoed into Myra’s unit above. A number of times, she even called the New Orleans Police Department, which took hours to send officers.

To get away from the racket, Myra began sleeping in another neighbor’s condo when he was out of town. In the four months after the downstairs tenant’s arrival, Myra sent 17 letters of complaint to the condo board, asking it to take action. The board did nothing until January 2002, Myra asserted, when it sent the owner of the condo a letter saying it would enforce the rules.

Myra said that she reported the problem to building security, but nothing came of it, other than a visit from a guard, who made some notes in his log—but he eventually stopped responding to Myra’s calls.

She described another time when she called the police and waited for them in the building lobby in the early hours of the morning because of the din. The police told Myra that they could ticket the noisy neighbor, but whatever they did, the situation didn’t change.

Finally, Myra decided to file a lawsuit against the condo association, claiming it was responsible for the administration, operation and enforcement of the rules and restrictions that applied to all the condos on the property. Those rules, contained in a document called “The Declaration of Condominium Regime,” stated that no loud noise, music or other nuisances that would “disturb or annoy” other occupants of the building would be permitted between 11 p.m. and 9 a.m.

The rules also said that “no noxious or offensive activity” could go on at any time in any unit, and that any nuisance that is “a source of annoyance to residents” would not be allowed.

The declaration clearly gave the board the right to enforce the rules and to impose fines for violations. But, Myra claimed in her lawsuit, instead of helping her, the Federal Fibre Mills board told security personnel to stop responding to her complaints. She also asserted that it had failed to take prompt action against the owner of the condo, who had rented the unit to the problem tenant in the first place. Not until January 15 did the board finally send a letter to the owner saying it would enforce the rules, according to Myra’s petition. Eventually it fined the owner of the condo unit.

For Myra, it was too little, too late. She asked the court to award damages to her for the condominium board’s failure to enforce the building’s rules and for an “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” She claimed the tenant violated her right to enjoy her property without unreasonable disturbance. She also said that the board had failed in its responsibility to protect her rights.

The condo board, for its part, argued that Myra had no basis to make a legal claim. Although the declaration that contained the condo association rules stated that the board had a right to enforce the rules, it didn’t say that it had a duty to do so. The board added that there was no Louisiana law that imposed such a duty. The board contended that it had the absolute right to enforce—or not enforce—the condo rules and restrictions. The choice, it said, was up to the board.

Should Myra Harris be compensated for her disturbed peace? You be the judge.

Next: The Verdict »

  • Your Comments

    • Pamela Ann Tracy

      This goes on all over the USA. Certain people, women living alone, are discriminated against. Landlords here have rented after they rented to me to young people who drink and illegal drug…the landlords play into the illegal drug users. Many of them. Landlords here waste more time and money and repairs renting to younger people than to senior women like myself who spent money on their residences, making the outdoors and indoors look nice and kept it nice. The cops and their criminal mediums moved in 20 something illegal drug users in next to me in two residences here. I had to keep calling the cops on four nights per week parties and illegal drugs on one…he finally started a fire with his friends on his side of our duplex…just what I had been afraid of…so he had to move. Then some other criminal who was an alcoholic and illegal drug user moved in next to me and his young 20 something women kept picking on me because he wanted his friend to move in next to him. I was looking for another place anyway…..I was not happy with my landlord moving someone new in next to me every six months, so I was looking for a place without a basement and without high gas and electric bills. I moved and then some granny neighbor let her illegal drug addict and dealer grandson move in next to me and so cops gave me local drug narcs telephone number and he asked me to get license plates for him…I did not know there was a bigger investigation going on in Montana to do with the Bakken gang drug dealers in North Dakota…however I was discriminated against by my neighbors who were afraid to call the police…..so I moved to senior housing and some cop/medium liar started lying about me here, and other things happened so I am filing a civil rights complaint against my town and certain two peoples and maybe a few more peoples. IT IS NOT EASY TO BE A YOUNGER SENIOR IN THIS WORLD. EVEN THE NSA SAYS WOMEN WHO LIVE ALONG ARE GAY ALTHOUGH A JOURNALIST HAS DEBUNKED THAT SAYING. OUR GOVERNMENT IS A BAD BUNCH OF CORPORATE CONTRACTORS AND BAD NSA AND THE NSA AND GOVT AND STATES AND CITIES ARE RUINING OUR YOUNGER PEOPLE…….THIS COUNTRY HAS A DEFINITE CLASS DISCRIMINATION ISSUE AND I AM TIRED OF IT. AFTER MOVING HERE BECAUSE I AM NOT THEIR PARTY GIRL LIKE THEY SAID….THEY HURT MY REPUTATION WITH THEIR DELUSIONAL COP CRAP LIES…THE ONLY THING NICE ABOUT LIVING HERE IS THAT IS IT FAR FROM MOST OF THE MADDING CROWDS…HOWEVER, THEY ARE NOW TRYING TO MOVE IN YOUNGER MORE WILD PEOPLE INTO THIS BUILDING ALSO…FORTUNATELY THERE ARE MANY HERE TO STAY LIKE MYSELF FOR A LONG TIME SO I AM DIGGING IN FOR MY PEACE AND SAFETY. IN MY LAST PLACE THE LOCAL DRUG TASK FORCE LEADER TOLD ME TO MAKE SURE I LOCKED MY DOOR WHEN THE ILLEGAL DRUGGIE NEXT DOOR AND HIS FRIENDS WERE THERE. AND THEN PEOPLE WONDER WHY WE DONT WANT TO RENT THEIR HOUSES OR DUPLEXES IN THE COMMUNITY.

      OUR APARTMENT HAS STRICT RULES SO MOST PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO PARTY A LOT DO NOT RENT HERE AND IF THEY DO THEY MOVE OUT SOON BECAUSE THEY DO NOT LIKE BEING QUIET.

    • jhg6

      Myra should have bought some ear plugs!

    • Sultry_Clue

      Yeah, good for Myra. I know owning a condo is probably a little easier than owning a house. But unless you’re prepared to put up with people living (and making noise) so close to you, you are better off buying a house.

    • Ted

      This is crazy.. If I were her, I would have also sued the owner of the condo who leased it to the woman making all the trouble as well as the woman herself. If you are going to sue, might as well name all the parties involved. The condo might not be responsible… but I would think somebody sure is. It sounds to me like the old bat is off her nut.

    • Sarah Cornelius

      I want to hear from the other side, this article is very one sided