Exercise caution before badmouthing a ‘rotten’ neighbor

CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
The Telegraph
October 18, 2007

Anyone who has ever worked as a police officer, newspaper reporter or has served in local government knows this universal truth about human relations: Animal disputes bring out the worst in people.  A typical small town dog hearing packs in more hate and resentment than the United Nations General Assembly.

Of course, neighborhood grudges simmer for many reasons beyond killer pit bulls and toxic doggie doo-doo. Touted as a breakthrough consumer real estate tool, a new Web site chronicles the myriad of causes for shattered communal harmony.

RottenNeighbor.com was launched this summer by Brant Walker, a 27-year-old computer programmer from San Diego. The site is a geographical hate forum for bitter neighbors to “warn” newcomers against buying a home in their area. Maybe it’s because there’s someone on the street who doesn’t mow their lawn, or there are teenage vandals or druggies in the next apartment.  Or maybe the freak-next-door raises alligators in his bathtub or is stockpiling anti-aircraft weapons in the shed for the “next revolution.”

In any case, the altruistic motivation to keep prospective homeowners out of your neighborhood – regardless of how utopian or dysfunctional it might be – seems like a self-destructive exercise to me.  If no one wants to live on your street, real estate values will plummet and your chance of escape dwindles.

On his site, Walker brags that he’s offering the “the first real estate search engine of its kind that helps you find bad neighbors before you move so you don’t regret the purchase of your new house, home, condo or apartment.”

“Real estate agents will never tell you about bad neighbors,” he writes. “If a bad neighbor exists, this information should be made freely and easily available to everyone.”

Before purchasing my current home, I did the traditional background check for area child molesters, domestic abusers and assorted malfeasants. I wish I had access to the secret police database that documents exactly where the “bad people” live.  But I have no privileged access to the cops or Santa Claus.  I just did a simple newspaper archive search and turned up only a couple of kids who liked to play with matches.

I figured as long as I didn’t give out Bic lighters or blowtorches on Halloween, I would be all set.

Although RottenNeighbor.com has already enjoyed massive success in generating grass-roots buzz, the Web site itself so far is not living up to its promises.

I plugged in the “03060” zip code for Nashua and the Google map was directed to upstate New York.  I did this multiple times to check if I was typing in the wrong information.  Using the navigation arrows, I eventually was able to migrate from Albany to Milford.  Many of the neighborhood complaints do not even include a street – so libel or not, what’s the point?

Here’s a gem RottenNeighbor “report” from Greater Nashua:

“WORST NEIGHBORS EVER!!!! Where in the world do I begin? Liars, liars, liars. 3 boys and a dog. Husband tells me “Oh the wife is a notorious liar.” The sad part is, he is an even BIGGER one. Now that the boys are growing up, guess what they are turning out to be –liars also.

They have zero respect for anyone else, their yard, house anything. They are huge slobs. Cause all sorts of problems in the neighborhood with their lies. Had to have our yard surveyed because they said that part of our property was theirs. Surveyor says “Nope, here’s the proof.” Kids knock down our marked survey sticks sledding–what does Dad say? “Oh well, boys will be boys.” The next time they do it, he blames the other neighbor who is nice enough to plow his driveway. Complete buttholes.”

And some more insightful testimony from The Telegraph’s circulation area:

“Recently separated from husband and left alone with 3 kids, this woman is out of control! … Summer was a living nightmare—every day 7 to 9 kids here in blow up pool all day long yelling screaming crying and left unattended because she spends her entire life ON HER PHONE.

“Her children made 2 huge holes in my brand new fence so that they could watch us swim in our pool in my backyard… My favorite is when her kids hang out the upstairs windows yelling to us asking if they can swim here with us… I did not save my money for years to buy a home in this wonderful affluent community… only to end up next to a RENTER!!!!!”

As it’s structured now, RottenNeighbor.com only exists to confirm the obvious. Southern New Hampshire is teeming with potential guests for Jerry Springer or Judge Judy.  Although I confess that I did not know that owning an inflatable pool is a character flaw or even a crime.

Walker would be better off requiring that the complainers on RottenNeighbor.com provide their full names and addresses.  Those are the people I’d really like to avoid.

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in
Encore magazine. Feedback is welcomed at cultureschlock (at) gmail.com.

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Filed under Darren's Archive Vault, Rotten Neighbors

9 responses to “Exercise caution before badmouthing a ‘rotten’ neighbor

  1. Deb

    I put a comment on that rotten neighbors site. We have an awful old grumpy man in our neighborhood. My comment wasn’t to keep anyone out of our neighborhood but to warn prospective buyers that there was a man who has threatened people, calls handicapped women names, is suspected of killing neighborhood cats because he hates cats by running them over with his golf cart or dragging them to their deaths. He’s threatened to actually kill two of my neighbors, that I know of, after one of his drinking binges. He hates children and won’t even say hello when a small child says hello to him. He’s been kicked out of other neighborhoods and the cops have been at his home to “visit” with him on several occasions this year. So some people might have used the site with the wrong intention but I certainly didn’t. The site was a way to vent a bit yes, but it was also to warn and maybe send a message to the bad neighbors themselves that they need to improve their people skills.

  2. J

    If you live next to a genuinely bad neighbor, be smart enough to not post about it to rotten neighbor before you put your house up for sale and sure as hell don’t before the ink is dry on the final sale papers. You got to look out for yourself first.

  3. The site is gone now, at least, for the time being. Apparently it was because of management issues? The site served a great purpose. I hope it gets replaced with a comparable site.

  4. Asia

    Were buying our first home this summer in a new town and while browsing for houses online, I remembered rottenneighbor.com. I was so excited that this previously entertaining website would finally come into some real use to me! However my heart sank when I couldn’t find it. Oh, how I hope it comes back… and soon!

  5. ken

    This sort of site is a GREAT IDEA. Unfortunately, rottenneighbor.com had major design flaws and was too slow. But a big company like google should take this on and do it right, because I speak from much personal experience when I tell you: America is CRAWLING with awful neighbors. Before you buy a house, I suggest you stake out the neighborhood for a week, and carefully observe ALL the adjacent properties. If you find any neighbors who spend their whole day, every day, outside making noise, especially if they appear to be working on car parts all day long – RUN AWAY, no matter how much you like the house. Bad neighbors can ruin ANY property, even from a good distance away. These days the only safe bet is to find a place smack in the middle of 1000 empty acres, with no air traffic. GOOD LUCK with that. Sad fact is that most Americans are TOTALLY self-centered and utterly classless.
    Oh, and make sure all your immediate neighbors are long term OWNERS. Tenants are the WORST.
    Even if you are fortunate and find a decent tenant neighbor, it will not last and odds are 98% that the next tenant will be a major nuisance.
    Of course if you have the bucks, just buy up all the houses next door so you can control your own environment. Better yet, move to Norway. Americans simply are classless.

  6. anon

    We have a really Toxic neighbor/ The entire group ” mother father and all the kids are all just a bunch of robots. They are the neighbors everyone dreads. Yes, these are the neighbors who ring your bell with lists of do’s and dont’s and the neighbors who are better than everyone else, are better Christians than anyone else, have husbands on school boards who use their position to look at all and any info. on your children and use it to their benefit. Yes we have those neighbors.

    The list is long on this one family but they are horrible and caustic in a passive aggressive way ( always sure not to be legally responsible for any misdoings of course). They make most angry and many miserable. The Mrs. is a know it all,snarky,self righteous better/holier than though HYPOCRITE. She is a nightmare. You know the type that are like military cops with their kids every thought, movement or idea. They are the biggest control wacky, judgemental freaks I have ever encountered and wish they would move but not going to ever. So. alot of meditation and even calm prayer and trying not to react to their instigation’s. I feel for anyone who has to deal with this lot because they will make your existence a hellish nightmare. ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  7. Tammy G

    I agree, bring back rotten neighbors! I have the worst neighbors. They burn leaves in their back yard every year and I have to close my windows and the smoke still gets in my house. Fire department doesnt give a crap that it gives you and your family headaches or that your clothes smell smokey. This neighbor is off of Kennesaw Due West Rd 2 houses before Stilesboro rd.

  8. RJ

    I wish this site was back up so I could warn prospective buyers in my neighborhood of the redneck, dog-hating neighbor in my neighborhood. This guy is what bullying laws should be about – he’s a coward and tries to get other neighbors to agree with him when slamming someone, and nobody ever agrees with him, most try to avoid him. His next door neighbor, who has owned his house for over 35 years, even had to put up a fence between the properties to keep the redneck out of his yard. He has tried to poison the dogs behind him because they bark a little, no more than should be expected in a residential neighborhood. He has attacked another neighbors dogs because they howled occasionally and he could hear it from his bedroom. That neighbor had to file numerous complaints with the police against the redneck because she was the first person to stand up to him and he escalated his attacks. The last visit was the police telling him if they were called to his house one more time for him vandalizing the neighbor’s property, attacking the dogs, harassing the owner by calling animal control (who is in the dog owner’s corner), or even making a comment to the neighbor, he would go to jail. It would be great to have RottenNeighbor.com back up so I could warn dog-owning prospective buyers in my neighborhood what to expect, unless they are brave enough to stand up to a bully.

  9. Patti McSpadden

    The biggest problem with a web site like rottenneighbor, would be the people that use it. When it first came out, we had a neighbor that yes, was a renter. When they tried to control the neighborhood, and were put in their place, they moved out and the daughter placed bad neighbor stuff on each and everyone of the home owners that refused to deal with them. These are the type of people that get off on using such sites. Good Riddance!

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