Well, as one who has always believed that people should be free to live their lives as they want, I can understand the concern of civil liberties organisations, but I have always accepted that the freedom to live your life as you want must be constrained by a respect for the rights of others.
At 8.30 on Sunday morning, along with everybody else who lives in Ivy Road in Cricklewood, north London, I was rudely awoken by the raucous calls of young Antipodeans celebrating the successful completion of their mating rituals. They spewed forth from the house whooping with delight, swinging round the lamppost, kicking out at parked cars and waving their arms.
Later on that morning, neighbours complained that the parties at No 61 were going on all through Saturday night and Sunday morning and it was impossible to sleep. Their requests for the music to be turned down had been dismissed. I know exactly how those neighbours feel because I have had to put with years of this in my own home.
Back in 1993, the house next door to me was repossessed and sold to a landlord for less than pounds 80,000. He first let it to four English musicians who, perhaps because they understood about noise, were remarkably considerate. Sadly, they moved and were replaced by half a dozen Australians on visitor work permits. The first Saturday night, their house-warming party lasted until four in the morning. We mistakenly assumed that this would be an occasional occurrence, but it became the norm and when I went next door to complain, the happy Aussie explained that legally there was nothing I could do about it, and that they intended to party whenever they wished to.
Although the parties were bad enough, a good hot day would always bring them out in large numbers to enjoy the sun in their garden, where they would loudly regale the whole neighbourhood with tales of their conquests of various "bitches". There were times when we were grateful that the throbbing bass in their garden managed to drown out the conversation.
We soon realised that the population next door had been rapidly swollen, as a succession of backpackers came and went. This four-bedroom house eventually sheltered 17 or 18 people, with two or three of them sometimes overspilling into the loft. Because of the pressure of numbers on the toilets, those drinking beer in the back garden would urinate into a bucket rather than join a queue for the loos.
A search of the land registry identified the landlord, who agreed to evict the tenants if they did not stop the all-night parties. Things became more tolerable, but there were still diversions.
At one point, we speculated that they had devised a new form of safe sex in which they repeatedly slammed doors until orgasm, but we were wrong. They were merely tobogganing down the stairs on trays at 2am. Then there was the time I awoke to the sounds of someone being violently sick. It was someone in the front bedroom, deciding that it was easier to lean out of the window and vomit down his own front door than walk 10 feet to the toilet.
Last Christmas the landlord finally got rid of them. He assured us that he had found four really "nice, quiet nurses". I have to say, they seemed like four little angels. Reality was different. They told us they were having a house-warming party. At 2.30am, when I asked if they would be stopping, I was told, "we are having a party; that's that; it will be going on for some time". I phoned the landlord after a girl crossed the road to urinate in the gardens of some council flats. The landlord finally appeared at 3am. The music was turned back up again as soon as he'd gone. At 5am they formed a choir, singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane". Eventually our pressure on the landlord led him to decide to sell the property for pounds 300,000, reaping a not-unreasonable profit.
These are not isolated examples. There are complaints about houses in Howard Road, nearby. Neighbours who complain are simply told to "fuck off". When these houses can no longer accommodate the numbers, the overspill sleep in a van labelled, inevitably, the "Luvmobile".
I am delighted that Jack Straw's policies are now in force, and I am asking the council to use them. But I can never forget that it is landlords' greed in demanding pounds 1,000 a week for a property that lies at the root of this appalling problem.Reuse content