What Do You Do When the Neighbors Really Suck?

A Swamplot reader from the Missouri City neighborhood of Quail Glen writes in asking for help figuring out what to do about a neighbor who’s tapped her water line:

“. . . the guilty party had dug up the ground and connected a line from [their house] (previous and currently disconnected for several months) into the active line that provides water that we are paying for. This investigation was initially sparked during January 2009 due to skyrocketing water bills. After several visits to our home and meter, the City of Houston discovered the problem on today. When confronted, the inhabitants fabricated a story saying that they pay a 300.00 water bill each month to the City of Houston (despite their account being disconnected) and that they are moving anyway.

Our reader has a bit more to say about those neighbors:


their home is dilapidated, an eyesore with an overgrown yard, missing windows, and a failing picket fence. There are lots of strangers coming and going, frequent fights, arguments, profanity, and on many occasions they are without electricity, not to mention painting cars in the front yard.

But a more immediate concern is getting some action from the city:

I have completed an online police report to the City of Houston and thus far no action has been taken. My husband was also informed today; that no reimbursement or a credit would be permitted by the water department, although we were previously led to believe that this would allowed by the city of Houston staff on the scene at the time the crime was discovered.”

13 Comment

  • That’s sucks, but I’m not surprised.

  • Appeal, appeal, appeal the city for the water bills. Did you press charges? That may be the missing link to getting reimbursement. 311 folks, USE IT. Yard overgrown? 311. Cars with out of date tags or inspection stickers? 311. Profanity or fights? 911, USE IT. If you fear retaliation, when calling, tell them you wish to remain anonymous and do not want the police knocking on your door prior to or after they investigate.

    To complain after the fact does nothing. It doesn’t even make you feel better, just makes you more angry.

  • PS: sounds like the classic symptoms of a crackhouse.

  • From EMME:

    PS: sounds like the classic symptoms of a crackhouse.
    Call me naive, but would a crack house proprietor have the wherewithal to dig up a water pipe, connect a new pipe to it, and run it to their home? For that matter, who would do this? Even if for some reason I wanted to steal my neighbor’s water, I couldn’t do it. It seems like a lot of time and effort would go into it, as well as some actual plumbing know-how. This crime is utterly bizarre!

  • Actually,

    It’s isn’t that hard to tap waterlines (especially smaller residential one).

    It can easily be done while water service is still happening. It’s called a live tap.

    The house could still be a crack house or a the house of a worker who was employed by a WS&D contractor. WS&D stands for water, sanitary, and drainage. These contractors install the utilities before a paving contractor paves the roadway in new subdivision developments.

  • This sounds like a preety extreme case of a neighbor from hell. However I wouldn’t find it hard to believe that the only way to recover the excess water charges would be to go after the neighbor in small claims. The City would probably make the case that the water line after the meter is the homeowner’s responsibility.

    Emme, call 311 for an overgrown yard? Couldn’t that be another case of “one man’s trash being another man’s treasure”? If it’s an HOA thing in that neighborhood then fair enough but otherwise, and unless its a public health hazard, isn’t what I want to do with my yard my concern? Oh, and I have a car with out of date inspection and tags on my driveway right now … but I don’t drive it. Would that be OK?

  • If the overgrown yard is a certain height (I don’t remember the limit)then the city will ticket the homeowner for it. It is okay with me, but if I recall correctly, unless it is garaged, the city can ticket you for it.

    These are all laws and regulations that you would not use on a good neighbor, but if you have a nuisance neighbor, these nuisance laws may be your only avenue to exact change.

    One of the ways that HPD and other law enforcement agencies can identify the location of crack houses is houses that are occupied but do not have one or more of the standard utilities, usually electricity and water. Don’t be thinking crack addicts are dumb hicks. They are not necessarily, and they have a lot of energy to come up with ideas and carry them out. ANd further, crack takes away the conscience that most of us have and they are more likely to steal anything they can that will further their ability to get high.

  • Sorry, was a bit snippy earlier.

    When I was a student the way we knew the house on the corner was a crack house was by observing the steel plates bolted over the windows and doors. I’m assuming they had at least some engineering knowledge/ability in order to be able to get those plasma cut from the original plate.

    Ah, those were the days!

  • This has been very enlightening. My substandard plumbing skills would surely prevent me from ever successfully stealing someone’s water, which is reason #1437 for me to not start smoking crack.

  • Jimbo, I think there is a City of Houston ordinance that requires you to have valid tags and inspection on vehicles parked outside the garage. My father in law used to have about 8 cars in his yard, and HPD used to come by and check them for tags and inspection (they were all legal).

  • Does Mo. City have 311?

  • I saw a shed being driven up my street the other day (not as good as the guy with a twelve pack and a fishing pole when the ditches were flooded) and I jokingly told motioned them to take it to my back yard (it was a pretty cool rustic little thing). The driver said they were taking it to their yard so they would stop getting tickets on their hobby car in the driveway.

  • How did they tap into you water line after the meter. This story sounds like bullshit.