Prince Mongo: Bad Neighbor or Freedom Fighter?

Bad neighbors can be harder to escape than ever.

ByAlice Gomstyn <br/> Abc News News Business Unit
April 19, 2010, 6:37 PM

April 20, 2010 &#151; -- Robert Hodges counts nine clothes lines draped with women's undergarments hanging in his front yard. The Port Orange, Fla., man says his lawn also features two sand dunes, two rusting but working bicycles, wood panels from a dismantled deck and a toilet "for emergency use." His one-story, three-bedroom home, he said, is covered in bright orange, yellow and red paint that "attracts signals from my planet."

How would you like to be his neighbor?

For some, the threat of foreclosure and the difficult housing market have proven to be the ultimate real estate nightmare. For others, their housing problems are more about people than property: Lousy neighbors can take the sheen off even an ideal home.

That's what Pam Lucas said happened to her. Lucas, the president of the local homeowners association on Venetian Way in Port Orange, said that Hodges' antics have evolved from bizarre to downright dangerous.

Hodges goes by the name "Prince Mongo" and claims to be a native of Zambovia, a planet, he says, that is nine light years from Earth.

When he's not spending time in the sunshine state, he stays in another home in Memphis, Tenn., and stages runs for mayor in that city, where his perennial candidacy and his ownership of a controversial, now-shuttered nightclub -- Hodges was accused of serving drinks to minors, which he denies -- have made him a local celebrity. As in Port Orange, Hodges also once had an unusual display on his Memphis front lawn, which included mannequin heads and traffic cones.

Lucas, 54, the president of the Venetian Park Association, said that while some may view Hodges with amusement, his behavior has resulted in serious consequences for her and other neighbors.

She said Hodges has welcomed visitors who have threatened elderly residents. Most recently, he posted a message on Facebook inviting felons recently released from prison to stay at his house.

Most of Venetian Way's residents are either "scared to death or totally enraged" by him, Lucas said.

"It starts getting to the point when folks cannot live their lives," she said. "Folks had been able to get out and walk around the block and have a beautiful loving community here. They are now afraid to come out of their homes."

Inviting Felons to the Neighborhood

Hodges denies that any of his guests have made threats against his neighbors. He called Lucas "delusionary" and, though he admitted to the Facebook post, said that he wouldn't actually move convicted felons into his home unless he decided to leave it himself.

"If I have no use for the house, then I will certainly put it to good to use and I will hope that these who live around here will encourage these other people to go straight and rehabilitate them," Hodges said.

As reported by The Orlando Sentinel, Hodges said he hung the clothes lines about a year and a half ago as a protest against neighbors' complaints about a wood deck that the county eventually forced him to dismantle, citing a code violation.

Lucas said there was no neighbor complaint; it was a county inspector, she said, who reported the code violation.

Hodges' protest, he said, is part of his own anti-government corruption crusade that he says has led him to consider joining the Tea Party movement.

"I believe that government has taken too much of our rights and we don't have any say-so and the government has gotten out of hand," he said.

Hodges makes no bones about the fact that he doesn't care how his neighbors feel about him as he takes his stand.

"I don't care how they're disturbed," he said, "I'm disturbed that they have ganged up against me."

But Lucas said the homeowners' association has made a conscious decision not to take any action against Hodges.

The association, she said, "just doesn't want to do anything to antagonize him."

While the tension between Hodges and his local homeowner association may represent an extreme in poor neighbor relations, many American homeowners find themselves in similarly unpleasant situations.

Today, escaping from such situations may prove harder than ever as faltering home sales and low housing prices make selling a home especially daunting.

John Beckett, a Nevada realtor, said he recently fielded an inquiry from an elderly woman hoping to short-sell her house -- to sell it for less than what she owed the bank for it -- to move away from a neighbor who she claimed stole from her and frightened her so much that she eventually obtained a restraining order against him.

But, Beckett said, "a bank's not going to let you short-sell your home just because you have a bad neighbor."

At some point, he said, it's "better to see if you can solve that problem than to lose that home that you have."

Your Bad Neighbor Horror Stories asked readers to share their own bad-neighbor horror stories. Below, find a selection of their responses.

"Many years ago I lived in an apartment with a dirt alley separating me from a neighbor's rented house. My bedroom window faced his back door. At 5:00 am every morning he would loudly open the door, get in an old Volkswagen Beetle start, rev, rev some more, rev even more, get out and go inside while the engine slowly died. It sounded like mechanical crickets.

"Minutes later, door opens, car starts, repeat, go inside. Eventually he would peel out spitting gravel. That would happen five days a week. I named him 'VW Guy.' But it got worse.

"VW Guy acquired a paranoid schizophrenic that they kept in the garage that would scream at the top of his lungs when his meds wore off. He looked like a burnt out surfer and always had a cigarette in his mouth.

"We figured his life was wrapped around 'the big wave.' Either he took it and crashed, or he missed it. We named him 'Smoking Guy.' Years later, when I rented a truck to move, I paid the insurance with the notion of crashing into his car before leaving."

-- Mike Browne, Long Beach, Calif.

"When my father died, I inherited his house and his neighbors. When I moved in, I started having problems. They would park in my driveway, block my driveway, play with their remote controlled toy in my yard, and throw trash over to my side of the fence.

"I started by asking them if they could refrain from doing these things but each time I asked, the problem would escalate. I've had pellets shot into my backyard, racketball played against my car and the smell of pot when they hang out in the driveway with visitors. I'm told they think I'm a joke but I have always respected their boundries since the day I moved in and do not deserve such blatant abuse."

-- Jennifer Seymour, Sunnyvale, Calif.

"My story actually happened a few years ago. I lived in some apartments in Lindsay, California. A lady and her kids moved in and from that day on mine and my children's lives were a living hell.

"These kids (with the encouragement of their mother) stole my daughter's bike, threw oranges at our door during all hours of the day and night, put sand on my car, took our clothes out of the laundry room and threw them everywhere.

"I worked 25 miles away and my kids were at home. My oldest son being in charge. With the bike incident, my kids went to the manager who would do absolutely nothing. I ended up having to call the police from where I worked and they had to go out and get the bike back.

"The manager was friends with the mother and he would do nothing, even after we complained endlessly. Soon after complaining so much the manager then started harrassing us. As I had a year lease we had to stay until the year was up, but believe me as soon as the year was up, I was out of there.

"I heard through other neighbors later that the woman and her kids then started causing problems for the manager. I am a firm believer in what goes around comes around and if the manager had done something about them when they started the problems then maybe he could have been done with them."

-- Arline Martinez, Ontario, Wis.

"We moved into our home in November of 2006, and right off our we knew we made a mistake. The first thing he said to us (He didn't introduce himself) was this is a quiet neighborhood, what kind of weedeater do you have, we prefer you buy an electric one. Then we didn't speak to him again until the spring of 2007.

"We began cleanup of the property, which took several weeks, removing trees, shrubs & other debris left by the previous owner. He would just stand in his yard and stare or sneak up to his second floor bedroom and peek through the curtains. (Creepy.)

"He began to mow his grass but we noticed he was mowing almost to the side of our home. ... Always blowing the debris into our yard and toward our belongings. At our car, even when we were cleaning out the car he mowed to the property line and blew the debris into our car while we were in it cleaning.

"Needless to say we hired a surveyor to survey the property and had pins put in. While the surveyor was there he took out the lawn mower and mowed over the pins shredding the ribbons. Next thing we knew the pins came up missing.

"We couldn't afford a fence so we planted a line of shrubs to separate from him. We took all winter to choose the correct ones, we bought shrubs that grow straight up so they did not encroach on his property. We even went to the borough and got a permit even though we did not need one."

-- Brandy Bennett, Grove City, Pa.

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