As is common in many neighborhoods these days, the house next to ours was recently abandoned. Not wanting to advertise that the house was vacant, my honey and I mowed the front yard several times, cursing the negligent neighbor who deserted her home. When an inspection service representing the bank showed up and told us they would be taking care of the property, we rejoiced. They cut the grass and trimmed the bushes. The place looked nice.
Weeks go by, and a man moved in. He told us he was renting, then proceeded to tell us a lot more about his life, which appeared to be extremely chaotic at this point. We were not overjoyed with our new neighbor, but since he wasn't causing us too much grief, we kept to ourselves. Very soon, problems arose. His dogs got loose and ran through the neighborhood, his teenage sons were in and out, he left junk in his front yard. We were not surprised when the police showed up one day and asked if they could go in our back yard to look over the fence. This happened two days in a row, and from there, the situation escalated. After our power went out one night, we stepped outside to find several cops and the electric company in front of the neighbor's house.
I won't bore you with the details, but Mr. M is now in jail, the kids are who-knows-where, and animal control took the poor dogs. It turns out our neighbor wasn't actually renting, he was squatting. He broke the front door, just enough to get in, but still be able to close it. He stole a meter and was able to get electricity to the house, bypassing the electric company. From the pieces I put together listening to the police and other neighbors, Mr. M used to live in the area, knew the house was vacant, and apparently decided it would be a good place to live.
Our neighborhood is nice. People walk their dogs, ride their bikes, and push their children around in strollers. We're quite and we take care of our houses, for the most part. Things like this don't happen in our neighborhood.
My honey and I are not only upset with this thief, we're upset with ourselves. Why didn't we do something sooner? As I reassured him, we couldn't exactly call the police because our neighbor was slightly messy and very weird. He wasn't breaking any laws that we knew about (though it turns out he actually was), so we had no legal recourse.
What we could have done, however, is to listen to our gut. Something told us he was up to no good. We could have called the inspection service, since we had their number, and asked them to take a look at the property. We could have checked in with more neighbors, and found out this guy was bad news. Now, this nice house is reduced to an Unsafe Building, abused and neglected.
My lesson learned, since I always take a lesson from disturbing events, is to listen to my instincts. If something seems off, it probably is. My intuition is good, and I will learn to trust it more often.
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