“These Are the Goddamn Neighbors!”
Well-adjusted adults don’t want to live in a fraternity house.
The Batterymarch Insider
“These Are the Goddamn Neighbors!”
In the 1981 movie “Neighbors,” John Belushi plays the part of a boring stiff living a quiet life at the end of a suburban cul-de-sac. His world gets turned upside down when a psychopath, played by Dan Aykroyd, moves in next door.
As funny as the movie is, when living in a condominium building, neighbors can be a very serious problem. We caution our clients that the mental stability of potential neighbors is generally beyond the scope of what we can discover in our due diligence process. Things like a leaky roof can be repaired, but bad neighbors - they’re like in-laws, they don’t go away.
Screaming at the Four Seasons
If you think that luxury condominium buildings are immune to disruptive neighbors, think again. Over at the Four Seasons on Dalton Street, the condominium trustees recently filed a 12-page complaint in Suffolk Superior Court against the owner of unit 3506 (Defendant).
According to the complaint, the Defendant is “a well-known perpetuator of loud disturbances within the [sic] Condominium community.” Apparently, he has a habit of playing extremely loud music – until the wee hours of the morning. Making matters worse, the Complaint also notes that the Defendant frequently screams “all through the night and sometimes during the day.”
The Defendant bought his 897 square foot, 1-bedroom unit directly from the developer in July of 2022 for $2.225 million ($2,480/sf). The city has the unit assessed for a more realistic $1.67 million ($1,872/sf). While there’s no excuse for this kind of conduct, maybe the Defendant is acting out because he feels like he got taken over the coals?
For condominium boards, going into a court room to air out their dirty laundry in public is akin to the nuclear option. It can cast a cloud over the property – well-adjusted adults don’t want to live in a fraternity house. This is especially true in a building where people are dropping up to $30 million on their trophy apartments.
Rumble at the Ritz
The situation at the Four Seasons isn’t an isolated incident. Over at the Ritz-Carlton condominiums on Avery Street, they dealt with a similar thing several years ago. Three college-aged brothers shared an apartment on the 36 floor that their father, a wealthy overseas businessman, bought for their use.
According to a Boston Globe article, things got so out of hand at the Ritz that at one point all three brothers were arrested, and a Boston Police officer was punched in the face. The condominium association resorted to hiring a weekend security guard who was stationed on the 36th floor to keep a lid on things.
After 31 late night complaints from neighbors, the brothers racked up $85,000 in condominium association fines. The association eventually brought a lawsuit against the family which was settled out of court. Public records indicate that the family still owns the condominium unit.
The Sociopaths Next Door?
Every once and a while we come across tabloid news articles about how to spot a sociopath. Like most people, we used to dismiss these as click bait. Being in the real estate business you quickly learn that not everyone is playing with a full deck.
Recently I ran into an old acquaintance who lives on the west coast. He and his wife keep a nice two-bedroom condominium in Boston that they use when they’re in town. They recently sold their condominium and bought a new one in the same neighborhood.
I asked what prompted the move. After a litany of trivial reasons, they got to the point – the neighbor from hell. They went on to describe very disturbing passive aggressive behavior. Things got so dark that they didn’t feel comfortable staying in their own apartment and opted to stay at a hotel when in Boston.
It Can Happen to You!
Years ago, our family moved into a nice building on the flat of Beacon Hill. It was the perfect place, and our new neighbors seemed lovely. Our unit had been vacant for several years and it didn’t take long for the downstairs neighbors to realize that their ceiling was our floor, and our toddler did what toddlers do – run around and drop things on the floor.
Our dream home quickly turned into a nightmare. Those seemingly nice neighbors couldn’t handle having an active family living above them and they went completely off the rails. One of their favorite ways to retaliate was to turn their stereo system on full blast and leave for the entire day. I wish I could say that that was the worst of it.
We did everything in our power to be the best possible neighbors. We had carpeting installed and tip toed around. We felt like we were unwanted guests in someone else’s home, it was truly horrible. In the end, we put our sanity first and sold the place.
Can You Protect Yourself?
Massachusetts is a “buyer beware” state, so absent a few things like lead paint and septic systems, sellers really aren’t required to disclose known defects. However, if a buyer asks specific questions, sellers must answer honestly. The best way to protect yourself is to submit a written disclosure questionnaire to the seller.
We also recommend reviewing two years of condominium association meeting minutes. There’s no guarantee that internal conflicts will show up in the minutes. If they do, they’ll likely be cryptic with respect to sensitive issues.
Most agents will not disclose this level of information before the parties enter into a purchase contract. Buyers are expected to commit first and ask questions later. The workaround is to leave plenty of time for contingencies and have a comprehensive escape clause in the offer contract – get your attorney involved early in the process.
There are a lot of benefits to living in a condominium, generally neighbors aren’t one of them. Your neighbors are de facto housemates and business partners. Go in with your eyes wide open – no one wants to move into a loony bin.
About Batterymarch Group LLC – Batterymarch Group is an independent full service real estate brokerage and advisory firm focused on the downtown Boston high-end residential market. We represent both sellers and buyers with a sharp focus on valuation. We also offer sub-advisory and owner’s representation services to financial institutions, family offices, and trustees.
About Andrew Haigney – A 25-year Wall Street veteran, Andrew held senior positions at leading global investment banking institutions where he routinely valued and negotiated complex securities transactions on behalf of institutional clients. Andrew has been an outspoken advocate of a universal fiduciary standard. In founding Batterymarch Group, Andrew brings that same discipline and passion to real estate brokerage.