Being A Good Neighbor

songsearchJune 9, 2014

Here's what being a good neighbor gets you: squat.

We live in a remote location; it's 30 miles to the grocery store. A driveway off the pavement about 1/10th of a mile long, six subdivided lots in neigborhood, next to a river, surrounded by national forest. Perfect location, right?

It would be, except for neighbors.

We've bent over backwards for years, trying to be good neighbors. I keep the driveway graded with my tractor at my own expense, never have asked anyone to contribute gas, oil, anything at all. I just do it, because I'm the one with a tractor, and that's what good neighbors do. I and another neighbor are the only full-timers, the others are weekenders, vacation weekenders. I lend a hand, or a tractor pull, lend tools, sprinkler parts, whatever is needed, because we are a long way from the hardware store, and because it's the right thing to do.

The upstream neighbors are citi-folk, and I've done what I can to help them when possible, even allowed them access to my private road so they could get to the steep-hill part of their property that would otherwise be unaccessible.

The previous upstream owners allowed me to put a 2" line across their property to the river to feed my pond, which is also my irrigation water.

Today, the new neighbors told me that they are going to landscape over the area where my water line runs, and my pond/irrigation line will be cut off. I asked if I could replace it after the work is finished - nope, even though it will be buried, out of sight, and even though their power lines run across my property, and I maintain the common driveway at no cost to them, and I keep an eye on their house when they are not around (which is most of the time). I even help them out watering and cutting their lawn when they are gone for long periods (with their permission, of course).

That's what I get for being a good neighbor.

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

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You really got shafted. There is absolutely no excuse for their behavior.
IMMEDIATELY stop doing anything for them on their property.

You mentioned "I maintain the common driveway at no cost to them". If this is a legal easement, look into the legally shared costs to maintain it and have a lawyer send them (and all other property owners who share the driveway) notice of their financial obligation. Send a fixed schedule for maintenance.

It is a crying shame that some people are so selfish. Your 2" invisible water line shouldn't even be an issue. Now, your pond and irrigation needs will be affected. Keep your distance and be assured that YOU were a great neighbor. I'm sorry.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 11:21AM
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Has there never been an easement for the water line then...nothing mentioned in their deed or pre-sales paperwork regarding your line? If not, it's a total shame the former owners didn't have that written in when selling to keep the status quo of the neighborhood.

If you wanted to pursue it, there is a possibility the court may grant an easement. Real estate law: 'If an easement is not recorded, but exists due to long-standing use, the court may formally create the easement.' That possibility could depend on how many years you've had use of the line.

Just a guess though, as this doesn't appear to be your main water source. I certainly can't think of a good reason they would deny you the line. I don't know why this type doesn't buy an island, when they clearly have no interest in joining a neighborhood, a community. Had a neighbor like that buy next door a few years ago, and about the time DH (about the most forgiving and generous man you will meet) was becoming tired of the manipulating, rudeness, stress, the opportunity arose for a larger nicer house on an acre just a few blocks away. We moved. Not ideal for everyone, I know.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 4:23PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Really really sorry to hear this story. Very disheartening. I don't know what is wrong with people. You are entitled to feel really unhappy about it. I hope there is something you can do to obtain an easement so you can still get irrigation.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 4:30PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

what she said...

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 4:43PM
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Very shortsighted of these folks to put themselves in such a position as they are fairly sure to need some assistance from you in the future, especially if they are not on premise much of the time. When you say no in the future, which you should- I hope it is without malice, but answering a fool as a fool should be answered.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 4:43PM
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They will need you long before you will need them......

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 10:11PM
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I was angry, but I'm over it. Now just sad and disappointed.

We could pursue this water line as a legal easement because it's been there for years with full knowledge of both the new owners and the previous owners, but I'm afraid the cost of an attorney, etc. and the hostility that will result is just not worth it. Instead I'll spend the money on a water line re-route, a pump and electricity. What's ironic is that these people are tree huggers from way back. Yup, let's save the planet, but not in my backyard.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 1:15PM
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You were being a good neighbor because it was the right thing to do. And all the others were also being good neighbors.

I guess it's time to let their grass grow when they're away and only maintain the common driveway to your home if theirs is farther down.

Remain cordial. Because obviously they aren't neighbors, they're just the people who live there.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 6:48AM
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Acadiafun, it's already started.

Their contractor tried to park his humongous dump truck and backhoe trailer in my fairly spacious yard this morning. I sent him packing, which means they had to deal with the tiny turnaround in front of the house of TPWLT ('the people who live there'). I did explain to the contractor what was going on and said 'sorry', and he said he understood.

About noon, Mr. TPWLT left a voicemail wanting to borrow a sump pump because the hole they are digging keeps caving in from too much water. This is part of the project that will cut my water line. Talk about gall.

They will get no return call or any help from me, now or in the future.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 6:36PM
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Great, please hold your ground. It doesn't sound like it's in your nature to not share, but they won't learn common courtesy and what 'neighbor' means if you do.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 7:53PM
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So sorry you have ungrateful neighbors.

There is something that you should check in to. You mentioned

"even allowed them access to my private road so they could get to the steep-hill part of their property that would otherwise be unaccessible."

After several years using your driveway, your neighbor will be able to legally claim your private road as their on. Best to check this out and make sure everything is legal now and in the future.

I forgot the legal terms as to what the above is called.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:02PM
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Deleted. Double post.

This post was edited by krissie on Sat, Jun 14, 14 at 15:49

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:03PM
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The road access was a one-time thing, not continuous use. It's normally blocked off and will remain so in the future. As far as I'm concerned, if they need to get up there, they can hire a helicopter.

It's more of a case of a control-freak mental illness rather than lack of common courtesy (I'm only referring to one of the duo, the other one just takes orders). Some people don't feel comfortable unless they can manipulate everybody and everything around them.

They quickly made an enemy of the neighbor on the other side of their property, but up to this point, I've been able to keep them at bay because I know where the skeletons are hidden on their place.

If I wanted to be vindictive, I could make a call or two and they'd have some major building code/property line issues to deal with, but that just make me as bad as them, so I'll keep that ace-in-the-hole up my sleeve and only use it if I absolutely must.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 1:49PM
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If those property line issues have anything to do with you, it's not vindictive, it's proactive.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 4:54PM
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Proactive or vindictive, does it matter? Is there some legal/moral ramification, or are you just being a grammar nazi? (no offense intended)

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 8:28PM
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I just was speaking as if I might be in a similar situation, how I'd feel and / or act. Of course you must do only what feels right to you. To me, vindictive is all about spite and too often comes back to bite you. Proactive means I'd just want to be clear where I stood legally with the property line issues IF it was my property line in question. It wasn't clear to me if it was indeed your property line you were referring to. If it's not, then it doesn't seem like your battle, right? Sorry if my original post came across snarky. I have a lot of empathy for your situation.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 12:56PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil

Cripes, what a deal. :-\

I would definitely confirm who actually owns the common driveway and who has easements to use it. The county recorder's office will have all that in the chain of title for each property. If you own it but there are no easements, it's time to negotiate and file easements for each of the users. Otherwise the turkey butts (or anyone else) could be a problem.

Sounds like these people are just oblivious. Imagine asking to borrow a pump! Geez.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 11:33AM
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I'm not sure what to think about this situation. On the one hand, you are asking for something they have no obligation or legal right (AFAIK) to provide, and getting indignant when they won't. You did these neighborly things because "its the right thing to do" but all along, you've been thinking you have been building longstanding credit with them that entitles you to reciprocation?. You can't assume that they even think that at all.

On the other hand, it sounds like they truly do not understand or even know that you're upset about it. To me, it seems like communication is not flowing! Maybe a third party mediator would be helpful. But again, you're asking for a favor from them which they are under no obligation at all to provide. Technically, you have been trespassing on their land, right?

I would definitely suggest consulting an attorney if you can, because there may be some legal ramifications with the easements, trespass, and water rights.

just being a bit of a devil's advocate here. I mean, people are awful -- don't you know? And unfortunately, real karma takes lifetimes.

This post was edited by Violet.West on Thu, Jun 19, 14 at 12:30

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 12:21PM
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Oh, they understand I'm upset. In fact they came over to apologize the other day, but still refuse to allow the line to be repaired. No reason given, but you are correct, they have no legal obligation. The water line was allowed by verbal agreement with the previous owner, and it hadn't been an issue for the 3 years with the new people until now. And you are correct, I thought I was building up goodwill with them. They totally blindsided me with only a couple of days notice about the water cut off.

It's still puzzling to me that they would in effect sever a relationship that's beneficial to their interests. Who knows? Maybe they have something they're going to cover up over there that they don't want me to see.

I've had to do some real scrambling this past week in the heat to keep our fruit trees, vines, lawn and several gardens from going south, and I'm not going to forget soon who caused my problems.

All I can say is, tread carefully when you screw with someone's water supply during a drought, and in the summer to boot. Karma may come sooner than you think.

The driveway road easement is in the deed, and it's been in existence for over a hundred years, no problem there. I'm going to investigate whether or not they have a powerline easement across my property for their power drop line. It runs right through the middle of my property, and they are the last house on the line. The transformer is right in the middle of my yard. If there's no easement, I may gain some bargaining power for the water line issue.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:00PM
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If there is no easement, demand it removed. I can't imagine that a power line was put in with no easement, though.

I also can't imagine that you don't have some type of legal easement, or the right to demand one, after having a water line going thought that property for a long time. You should check with a lawyer and see what you can do about them damaging your rights to water. A lot of this is going to vary according to the laws that apply.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 5:46PM
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honestly, I'd be upset too. I was just turning this situation around in my head trying to understand it.

it's too bad you couldn't have formalized this agreement when it was in place.

water rights are tricky and as, you said, very critical in a drought. Have you done any research into the relevant laws in your location? (Do you really live in Barbados? If so, most of us will have no clue at all about how easements, etc., work there.)

Please don't stop being a good person just because of rotten apples in the barrel!

This post was edited by Violet.West on Fri, Jun 20, 14 at 18:14

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 6:12PM
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Unfortunately, Barbados is just a fantasy. I live in CA, and water issues out here can be complicated ('expensive to litigate' might be a better description).

In the little research I've done on the internet (I know, I know, the worst possible place to do research) it seems that the power co's always do easements for the mainlines, but it's possible they may not bother with one on a service drop. When I built my house, I had a new service drop extended out about 80 feet to a pole which connected the service to the house, and Edison (power co. out here) did not file or request an easement to my knowledge.

I suspect the same is true for the neighbor's service drop, which was done sometime in the 1990's. Have to find out if there's a county ordinance that gives them the easement automatically, or not. If they can claim a prescriptive easement for a service drop, I should be able to claim the same for my water line, I would think.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 7:07PM
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The conclusion in your last sentence is what I was getting at suggesting you demand removing the electric going across your property. Basically, the same rights apply to your water line and their electric line. They may have some additional legal standing since the electric was put in by the power company. Its possible the electric company may have done some additional filings or has some automatic easements.

Regardless, I would talk to an attorney. I would also notify the neighbors if they disconnect your water line, you will hold them responsible for damages. I would expect in California that the implied easement for your water supply passed through during the sale of the neighbor's house.

Unless there is something going on that we haven't seen yet, it seems their behavior is not at all the behavior of a good neighbor. Hard to believe they didn't offer to pay some of your expenses or actually pay you to maintain the road. That would be a bit irritating. Disconnecting your irrigation water supply is far worse.

This post was edited by GregBradley on Fri, Jun 20, 14 at 22:26

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 10:23PM
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Our neighbors sewer line (100+ years old) runs UNDER our house. Didn't know when we bought the house. The title work not only missed that line, but the next neighbor to the west, and most importantly, a 4'x4'x12' underground irrigation ditch running diagonally across our backyard. Didn't find out until we excavated our slab to move our line and discovered a cavern where the two lines had been leaking for decades. Now I'm not happy about a sewer line running under my bed, but I was certainly NOT going to ask them to spend $12-15,000 to re-route when to replace with a seamless was under $4000. I just don't understand some people. I also understand that if I had been a jerk and demanded it, they would have most likely had an implied easement. Colorado water laws are fun too. Good luck and I'm sorry! At some point those lovely people will wish they had tried to live in community....

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 10:42PM
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Regarding an easement for your water line, I believe there is a time allotment where if it's there for a given amount of time, it automatically becomes an easement. But I don't know what that time frame is as each state is different.

Has the line been there 2 years? 10 years, 30 years, 6 months?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 6:19AM
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"It's still puzzling to me that they would in effect sever a relationship that's beneficial to their interests. Who knows? Maybe they have something they're going to cover up over there that they don't want me to see."

To me it seems like the neighbors view what is theirs is theirs and what is yours is yours, until they want to use it. Maybe the water line is yours due to an easement. It seems like a good idea to look into it.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 11:29AM
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Sadly, I see this a lot when city people move to the country. Maybe it's because they don't know the meaning of being neighborly because they never knew their neighbors. Helping each other was reserved for emergencies only. They live in a cocoon.

A number of years ago I lived in the Poconos of PA. The real estate boom was underway, and developers were advertising directly to New York city and New jersey. And they moved out in droves! And brought the city attitudes with them. A majority of them came with an "I'm better than you" attitude. We were the "hicks". They moved to areas they thought were beautiful because there was a farm across the road from the subdivision.

Oh how quaint is that?

That all changed when the farmer started work at 4 am. He had the audacity to drive his tractor on the road when they were rushing to the bus station to commute the 100 miles to their job in the city! And when the fertilizer went on the fields in may? That was the last straw for many of them.

They went to the Town Supervisors demanding he cease and desist! They made his life so miserable he ended up selling his farm to another developer. Who built more houses. That brought more kids. That meant new schools. That meant skyrocketing property taxes. When I lived there, the local school had 1,200 students. When I left, the school had 7,800 students.

There was almost a civil war between the "locals" and "transplants"!

People were buying more house than they could afford, and when interest rates went up, they just abandoned the houses and moved back to the city. Monroe County, PA had at one point among the highest foreclosure rates in the country.

I moved to Vermont and again I have nice neighbors who will lend a hand at a moment's notice, as will I.

City people just don't get it when we say we don't have a clue where the front door key is.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 7:57AM
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I too think this is worth a quick consult with a local attorney for you.

As far as the electric - you may be right about that. Our local electric company installed my former neighbor's electric line via a pole I paid to have installed on my land.

The pole was on vacant land at the time. I owned the land though, and yet no one thought to ask me if it was ok.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 2:54PM
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