Friday, October 30, 2009

Fences Make Good Neighbors, Unless Your Neighbor is a Jerk who Builds an Ugly Fence

Mrs. Ditter,

I have neighbor issues with the rental house next door! Three years ago the owner introduced himself and said he was going to replace the fence. He asked if we would be willing to share in the cost for the side that we share. My husband and I got a few quotes, and later, the son of the owner knocked on our door with their quote--an outrageous amount! We politely declined to pay. A few months ago, they started removing the old fence without notifying us. They built a really ugly fence, nine feet tall, which is against the neighborhood association rules, and it is leaning into our yard. Then, a hand-written invoice for "our portion" of the fence appeared in our mail box. Should we just ignore the invoice or try to find the owner (he has never left us contact information)? I don't really think it is worth discussing. -- All Fenced In
Dear All Fenced In,
You're right. It's not even worth discussing. It's your neighbor's responsibility to build and maintain his fence. Plus, you clearly stated that you would not help with the cost. You're in the clear here. It may be that he tossed the invoice in your mailbox on the off chance that you would throw some money his way. Don't do it! 

The bigger issue here, of course, is when do we stop being polite and start being assertive (yes, many of us have problems being politely assertive). Ideally, we strive to be on good terms with our neighbors, or, in this case, with the owners of the neighboring homes. Sometimes, however, the neighbors don't seem to be as interested in being on good terms with us, even if we're the most polite people in the world and we never encourage our dogs to poo on the neighbor's lawn, or have EAR-BLEEDINGLY LOUD, MUSICALLY CHALLENGED GARAGE BANDS practicing for hours at a time, or have parties that go on outside until three in the morning and end up with setting off fireworks in the street.  
Sorry, did I wander a bit there? Anyway, if I were in your situation, I would contact the neighborhood association and bring them up to speed on what's transpired, because your neighbor doesn't seem to want to be a good neighbor. So cover your butt, is what I'm saying.

I would also write a short note to the owner, and ask the current renters for his contact info. In the note, outline the facts. Stay calm. No name-calling! Refrain from telling him that he's a law-breaking, design-challenged cretin. You could certainly point out that the fence is leaning into your yard, but  then you might have to deal with this yahoo trying to repair the fence, and I think we all know how that will end. 
If it were me? I'd be at the nursery right now, looking for a long trellis and some mighty fast-growing vines. 
Let me know what happens! I'm interested in the outcome.
Have a question for Mrs. Ditter? Leave it in the comments section below.

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