I bought my flat here in 2008. I got it at just the right time; the bottom of the market. It wasn’t perfect as a flat; just one bedroom, living room, tiny kitchen and a bathroom with no window; there’s a noisy extractor fan instead. There’s no storage space and only a small communal garden between ten flats but it’s a nice area and I’ve spent money on it. I very definitely went for the ‘best street’ rather than the ‘best flat’ approach as I didn’t intend to stay long and had one eye on the resale value. I still do. I know I know!

It all went wrong when the lovely old man who lived in the flat below me, died. It wasn’t unexpected; I’d been awoken in the night often enough by the ambulances and the emergency alarm. I’d pottered down the stairs in my dressing gown to check on him and knew he was increasingly frail.

Anyway the flat lay empty for quite some time; a whole winter when I had to turn the heating up high to compensate for the cold void below. It wasn’t in good condition and the market was slow. When it sold for what in this area amounts to peanuts (a whisker less than six figures), I was glad to have someone in it at last saving my fuel bills.

The owner came and introduced himself as ‘your new neighbour’. He seemed nice I thought, and was spending what looked like an absolute fortune on the place. But then a little note appeared on the communal notice board: ‘flat to let’. Yep. He was a buy to let owner and not my neighbour at all. I was a little bemused too as to why he wanted to advertise there; I mean we all had one already! It didn’t fill me with confidence. I didn’t see the flat advertised for let anywhere else, actually advertised with a letting agency that is, just a little note in the same block. Anyway; somebody eventually moved in.

All was fine for a while. I was glad of someone below me, though I began to pick up rumblings of discontent from other residents. Sure, they’re council tenants; that’s fine. I’m not a snob. I didn’t even object to the smell of dope permeating up through the bathroom fan until it became so strong that I was getting headaches. I always had that problem with dope; I was no fun as a student. The security light stopped working too; apparently they smashed it and cars in the car park were damaged, though not mine. These stories began to percolate around.

It was officially let to one person. They were what the council refers to officially as ‘statutory obligation to house’ but there’s more than one person living there. I’m not a curtain twitcher and I’ve never counted but I’ve seen at least five different people repeatedly as I go about my business and I’ve heard a variety of voices too.

They play music loudly of course. I quite liked it at first though; trancey stuff which worked quite well through the floor and not too loud, but it did gradually become constant and all pervading. Other noise began too; one of the men clearly had a fiery temper and raised his voice with the slightest provocation; other residents were at it like bunnies. I lay awake in my bed listening to them going at it incessantly. My flat and theirs have exactly the same layout so there’s no getting away from it. I can’t imagine what it would be like sharing with four other people. Mine is cramped whenever I have one other person to stay.

Temper man gradually became more and more irritable and more and more violent too. I don’t think he’s violent towards people but he certainly is towards the furniture. I hear the floor boards being ripped up and smashed. I’ve heard blocks of concrete being dragged around; at least that’s what it sounded like, and I dread to think if any of the kitchen cupboards or furniture is still in one piece.

They had a water leak while I was away one day and a neighbour who is a builder went in and fixed it for them as it was damaging communal areas. He told stories of black mould growing up the walls and a bathroom that you just don’t want to see. The place had been done up so nicely before it was let and now it’s a bombsite.

Meanwhile the amount of sleep I’m getting is diminishing rapidly. The police have been around several times. The communal garden is out of bounds as they do drugs and drink lager there, shouting and swearing while they’re at it so I’m getting no sunshine or fresh air and to make matters worse I’m now forced to work from home two days a week. Needless to say I get very little done.

It was so slow in building up for me. Nuisance neighbours don’t arrive with a bang but the cumulative effect of months of borderline anti-social behaviour and disrupted sleep is now taking its toll. We’ve contacted the council but with the best will in the world we sound like a group of snobby middle-class owner occupiers who want to eject the lower classes. It’s not like that though. We just want some sleep. But what can the council do? If they’re obliged to house them they’ll probably stay until they burn the place down. That frightens me. It frightens me while I’m there and it frightens me while I’m not.

And as I write this, temper man is kicking off again. Shouting and screaming obscenities at the top of his voice! The door slams. The block shakes.

I can’t stand it anymore.

 

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