Neighbors set back issues

degcdsJune 28, 2013

Posted this in the home building forum as well but just thought I might get responses here too.

Hello all,
I assume this is where this would go. We are currently building our home and since we have started, 3 other homes have started as well, which is wonderful and extremely excited to have the majority of our street complete- the lots range from 4 acres to 20 acres and have a small list of deed restrictions including a 100 ft set back from the property line on the topo map.

This all came to light about 3 weeks ago. We noticed the neighbors house placement was really close to the road- Mainly because all of our landscaping had been placed to give our lot privacy. we just figured it was because the way they angled their house and gave the appearance of being much closer. Come to find out the bank shut them down because they are 30 feet over the no build line. At that point things started making sense- they had just started putting framing up when it happened and we were growing more irritated with the placement of the house.

They now have to get everybody's signatures to file for a variance. Well they have been anything but tactful in their approach. They have been rude and extremely arrogant continuing to fund the build even after their funding had been cut and were suppose to cease construction until the variance had been approved. They have actually even been insulting other people's homes. Even before they started building The husband said "rules are meant to be broken" as well our deed restrictions specify 70% natural exterior in which he has said the deed restrictions have "expired and do not affect them". We are completely at a loss in how to handle this. Originally they wanted to change the set back for everybody, not just a one time variance. Everybody refused to sign.

It really impacts our views and how we planned our landscape to compliment the views. We are in the process of putting in a vineyard on a portion of our lot which now our sitting area in the vineyard looks at their garage doors- had it been set back where it was suppose to be we would have had a beautiful treeline view.

We really don't want to be "those neighbors" who don't sign off but we have now been told if we don't they will take us to court or take the variance to court to get a judges ruling to approve the variance. In my opinion the builder should be held responsible, as well as them because they told them where to place the house but because their builder is a family friend they do not want to hurt their relationship with him. I feel like we are really being put in a very uncomfortable situation. Many of the neighbors are on the same page as us but wanted to see if any of you had any good suggestions or have been through something like this before.

One of our thoughts were- we would agree to sign if they put in some land scaping- pines and bushes that would give us our view back, but at the end of the day- it still wouldn't be the view we paid for, and we all worry that if we give in to this- then they will think they can push us all over and not follow any of the rules.

Sorry to rant and vent just looking for some help in how to handle this situation with out making a huge stink.


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I wouldn’t sign they are trying to bully you and no matter what they will never be good neighbors. What can they take you to court over? You did nothing to harm them. You could take them to court for blocking the view you paid for. All the neighbors should stick together and make a big stink back at them.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 11:09PM
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Stand firm.
Don't pay for the mistake they made.
Keep a record of what they say and when they say it.
There bank agrees with you.
Working after a "Stop Work Order" way issued??
I think an inspector would like to know about that.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 9:35AM
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"All the neighbors should stick together and make a big stink back at them."

Amen. They don't sound like they will be very good neighbors.

I'd put in a nice fence and tall shrubbery to avert any future issues.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 7:59PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil

It really is their fault for not reading the covenants when they bought the place, or for ignoring them.

You and the neighbors might consider getting together to hire an attorney to handle things on your behalf. That way it's not just you personally, but everyone. It will also help stave off bullying and court action on their part if they know you have an attorney.

If they are actually nice people who made a mistake, they are probably kicking themselves right now. Although it sounds like they may not be nice folks. What they need to realize is, if they bully everyone, they are going to be living amongst a bunch of neighbors they treated badly even before they moved in. Non-jerks might respond to that concept. :-]

Anyway, be civil even if they aren't. You will always be able to speak from firm ground that way.

This post was edited by toxcrusadr on Tue, Jul 2, 13 at 12:22

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 4:13PM
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My favorite was the "deed restrictions have expired". Deed restrictions do NOT expire unless there is an expiration date on the deed.

The neighbor is a bully. And if he gets away with it he will not stop there. Stand your ground. And if he threatens court action, hire an attorney and tell him to go ahead. I say hire an attorney because over time you'll need one dealing with this clown.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 8:22AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Wow! first time I read this thread! Wow! In your shoes, I would hire an attorney, plus I would contact the HOA, if there is one, and the other neighbors, City Planning, etc.

Something is really wrong.

I wish you well!


    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 3:52PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I must be honest here. We bought a short sale, previously a foreclosure 2 story home on a hillside with exceptional views!

The builder got a variance because this is agricultural land. He played the ag card.

Every other home on this hill is a one story. We have a two story..

It doesn't make it right, and we didn't build it. We just bought it. But we do our best not to block our neighbor's views! Vineyards are kinda low, you know?


    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 3:56PM
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You neighbor will have to apply for a variance for the town/county to approve the change of set back. Neighbors within a set distance of the property should be legally notified of the variance hearing. You should attend with all your neighbors and voice your objections regarding the negative impacts on your line of sight (the view that you paid for). The neighbor objections can carry great weight as to IF the authorities will permit the house to remain in its current location. I have seen more than one variance fail due to neighbor objections of views and sight lines.

Additionally, you can report to the town building department that they are violating the order to cease and desist construction.

Building regulations are there for everyones benefit and you have a right that your neighbors adhere to the same laws as you. As with any bully, if they get away with disregarding the neighborhood laws now, what sort of courtesy can you expect in the future? As a neighborhood you should stick together and tell them NO!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 12:20PM
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Call the building department and file a nuisance complaint. Their unpermitted building is negatively impacting your property value. The nuisance complaint will trigger another set of hoops for them to jump through. It will also reiterate the cease and desist order which they are already ignoring.

The nuisance abatement order will allow for the AHJ to come in and remove the unpermitted structure and stick the property owner with the bill! They will have a set timeframe to comply.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 4:31PM
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They can file for a variance with or without your signature. You can contest the filing. Boards that deal with variances are normally quasi judicial in nature and their rulings are hard to contest. Call code enforcement and tell them they are still building even with a stop work order. Its possible they will have to go to local court if code enforcement issue a citation. They will probably be fined. Do not sign anything. If you do go the landscaping route, make sure that you have the words 'in perpetuity' in their. Having said that this jerk would probably ignore this and you will end up with a civil case. Be careful, could cost you a bunch of money trying to get him to play be the rules

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 10:17PM
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I agree with most of the advice by other posters. I would not hurry to hire a lawyer. He can threaten to sue you, but what could he sue you for? Not signing a viariance request? No way, baby. Stand your ground, along with all the other neighbors who also refused to sign. He is a bully and thinks he can get away with whatever he wants to get away with. Don't let him do that or you and your neighbors will have the worst homeowner ever. He will continue to bully all of you when he moves in. Stop his insanity now. And make that call to the building department over the cease and desist order that is being vilolated. Good luck. And keep us posted!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 12:39PM
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been over a month...what happened..?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 1:23PM
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Sorry everybody- we have been busy with our own house build. Currently their house is still sitting, no work, nothing. Nobody has heard from them for about a month.

The last I heard from them was when they cornered me and kept asking why we were the only ones to vote no in the variance. Which is completely not the truth. It was anonymous vote so they wouldnt know who voted no. Anyhow we are close with all of our other neighbors and the majority of them were on the same page as us.

They were just fishing for info. We have decided that if they corner me again we will not stand for it. I felt pretty defenseless because my other half was not around. And they are still not taking any responsibility for whats happening. They also said they consulted a lawyer and 5 other homes on our street (there are only 5 including ours not done yet) had problems with the deed restrictions. We have followed the deed restrictions to a T- the only ones I know that would have a problem is our neighbors who have a camper that wont fit in their building- but is hidden in the woods.

As of right now apparently they are punishing all of us by not doing anything to their home. And after they called our house ugly to my face I could care less if they ever finish their home.

Their daughter also put a large sign in their yard. It pretty much said we all have horrible character- said that we were all horrible people, then quoted some bible verses and the incorrect amount they built over the no build line- Saying it was 11ft. which is closer to 25ft. So maybe they are lying to their own daughter.

Just thought I'd update everyone!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 4:18PM
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Do your covenants or town codes have a time limit on home construction? Many have a 12 month time limit for the exterior to be complete with landscaping.

If he has stopped construction, I guess it means the bank has stopped the money supply until he is within code.

If he tries to fish for information, just stand there and say NOTHING. The best thing to give him is a blank stare when he starts asking questions. No facial expressions at all.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 6:51AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil

Geez, you *have* to post a picture of the wacky sign! :-D

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 12:14PM
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Sorry in advance for the long post, but here is my personal story about bully neighbors, and how to deal with them:

First, you have to understand what kind of people you're dealing with. These people are classic "wealthy bullies." They think that because they have more money than you, they can do things you and the others can't. If they can't do things their way, they will not know how they are better than everyone else, and this motive preceeds their every action. Start messing with them every way possible.

Call the town and report the sign as a nuisance. I'm sure the deed restrictions have something in there about what kind of sign you can display.

Keep thinking of ways to mess with these people. That's the best way to get rid of bad neighbors. If you persist with calling the town code enforcement, they will eventually get tired of your complaints. If your complaints are legit, they will cite your neighbor. Keep it up and they will award your neighbor with a red tag. If you make yourself a problem, this kind of bad neighbor will eventually go away. These people have a little bit of financial wealth, and major attitude of entitlement. They are classic "wealthy bullies" I have dealt with this kind before.

I'm not the kind of person who starts stuff with my neighbors. When our shared fence needs replacement, I pay for it and build it myself. I do not ever ask my neighbors for anything. That makes for good neighbors. If neighbors are noisy at night, we put in ear plugs. If they park in front of our house, we park in front of their house. No problem. We put out the trash cans for each other, we watch out for each other. Thats how neighbors should be.

When we first moved to our current house, there were some BAD neighbors behind us. The people started all kinds of problems with us. The other neighbors warned us about them. They started a property line dispute. They did it with the previous owners, too. We knew this, as it was disclosed upon purchase. The county records even showed a long history of dispute over this property line. Many surveys were conducted, but the people behind us still believed they owned half of our back yard.

To improve our back yard, which was built on a steep slope, I took out a building permit to install a retaining wall. I informed the neighbors about the planned construction and permit. (I did not know how bad of neighbors they were yet) The retaining wall is about 5 feet tall at the property line, and makes our back yard flat. With the reatining wall in place, there is no question about the location of the property line. Well the neighbors called the building department and claimed I was building on their property. This stopped the permit, after it was in process. The city building department required that I build the retaining wall 1 foot on my side of the property line, thus giving a sliver of my land to the bad neighbors. I obliged without hesitation. But the city also required that I hire a surveyor and have markers installed, due to the property line dispute.

The surveys on record already indicate markers at the corners of my property, which I located. I sent everything in with my engineer's calculatoins, and the city approved the permit. I started working, removed an old chain link fence, and started grading the earth for the retaining wall. Within a few days, the neighbor hired a contractor and had him build a new wooden fence on my construction site, about 2-3 feet on my side of the property line. When they did this, they dug soil away from the foundation of my shed, thus undermining the footings. The new fence, which was built 2-3 feet on our side of the property line, made my shed look like it was actually hanging over their side of the fence. The undermined footing made it look dangerous, and the lowered grade made the overall height of the roof too tall. Our city has a 12' height limit on sheds. When measured from their side of the hill, the roof was about 13'6", because they dug 3 or 4 feet of soil away from the foundation.

So they called the city and re-disputed the property line! They got my permit suspended, and the city stuck me with a nuisance abatement citation. The shed was now, apparantly, in violation of several codes. The city basically told me that they do not get involved in property line disputes. They told me that they must follow the fence line or survey markers if they are visible. Well, the neighbor had tried to destroy the survey markers with the grading. They covered them with dirt. The new wooden fence made it so I could not locate the markers without going into "their yard" It seemed as if I had no recourse, and would have to pay for another survey, pay to have the courts submit it as an official survey of record, or lose a significant part of my property, including my shed.

The last option I had left was to use my lawyer friends for help. Never underestimate the value of a good lawyer. At this point, my only chance was to think of ways to mess with these people. They were clearly in the wrong, and I was clearly in the right. The problem was that it would cost me thousands of dollars to prove I was right, and it would cost me thousands more to use the courts and the city to enforce my rights.

So I started writing letters. I sent each one to my lawyer. He edited it, endorsed it, and sent it to the city, county, and my neighbors. In one, I stated that a survey of record indicates their fence is constructed on my property. The survey of record I referred to was the one on file, and the same one they had covered up the markers with dirt. The neighbor responded by calling the police and reported me for trespassing in their back yard! They told the police they saw me lurking around suspiciously inside their fenced back yard. They assumed I had gone there to uncover the survey marker. I didn't go in there, I had seen the survey marker months before before they covered it, and I had already measured from the benchmark monument in the street, to verify it's proper location. They were ignorant to this fact, and falsely accused me of trespassing.

The next letter I sent stated that they had to remove the fence onto their own property or face legal action. It reminded them that destroying a surveyor's marker was a crime, and the survey on record had identified an existing marker from a previous survey, with different surveyor's ID tag. I actually talked to both professionals, one a surveyor, the other a civil engineer. They both remembered the case as unusual, because many different surveys were conducted on the same property line. They remember the wierd people who kept paying for more surveys, and never believed any were correct. So I had located professional witnesses that would prove our case 100%

The next letter stated that I intended to have a contractor remove the fence, sue them for the cost, and keep the materials. A week later, I look out back and notice the fence had "moved" to exactly one inch inside their property line. I look closer, and see NEW survey markers! They hired ANOTHER survey! What can I say about these people? They spent thousands of dollars for nothing! This had gone on for a year and four months.

With the fence where it should be, the city closed the "nuisance abatement" case against me, and re-issued my permit for the retaining wall. I built it and finished my yard, repairing the shed foundation and raising the grade of my yard.

At this point, the bad neighbors were defeated, but they were still around. I would not rest until they were gone. All my other neighbors had warned me about these people at first. After they saw them defeated, they were extremely proud and respectful of us. I kept thinking of ways to mess with these people. The lady was so ashamed, she moved out. She went to Sacramento. I kept tabs on her whereabouts, just so I could send certified letters from lawyers. Getting a certified letter from a lawyer seemed to be these people's kryptonite. The husband had emotional outbursts when I would see him around town. I would go right up to him and say "Hi neighbor! Thanks for moving your fence. I'm so glad we worked things out!" This was the ultimate insult. He ran at me once, screaming "why don't you have your lawyer come see me!" I just chuckled and jogged out of his way. I wasn't really worried about having to defend myself, as his emotinal rage was a pathetic attempt to engage me physically. He was ready to fight me, but he had no control of himself. I avoided the fight, because I had prepared myself to remain cool, even though I had planned to push his buttons. I would have even let him hurt me a little, and used minimal self-defense, just to see how deep of a hole this jerk was willing to dig himself.

He called the police and reported me for trespassing again. This was his attempt to justify his aggression, as he probably thought I was going to call the police on him. The police contacted me, took my statement and closed the case. I never saw them again. The next month, the house was for sale. They disclosed to the new owners about how "bad neighbors" (we) live in our house. That was perfect. The new neighbors made every effort to not piss us off. When we finally met, they were surprised to find us as pleasant, private people. They made a comment about how they bought this house from some crazy bit-ch, and what a nightmare she made the transaction. I just smiled and said "hmmm."

Good luck. Hopefully they will follow the predictable course of behavior for their personality type.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 2:59PM
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My late father would have loved you. He enjoyed playing with people's "alleged minds".

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 8:35AM
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That is the ultimate when you can mind f**k someone and have them actually help you do it!!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 10:15AM
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Aidan m

You sound a little overboard as well. Keeping tabs on someone after the problem has been solved and they moved away is scary.

Some of what you have said just doesn't sound right. Better take a look in the mirror.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 12:15PM
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Have you ever needed to sue someone in civil court?

Has the offending party hidden from correspondence, sending your letters back "nobody by this name living at the address"

Have you ever had someone blatantly try to steal your property? Have you ever had the code enforcement show up and tell you that a building on your property must be removed, based on the neighbor's claim that their new fence built on your property is actually their own?

Have you ever had a neighbor who does all this and then claims to not even live there, so therefore you can not even correspond? That is why I had to keep tabs on her- to maintain required legal correspondence.

Have you ever been accused of crimes that the accuser plans to perpetrate against you? I was accused of damaging their property and trespassing. This is exactly what they did: dug soil away from my foundation, erected a fence on my property, and tampered with a surveyor's marking.

You may have the displeasure to meet her one day. Maybe she'll become your neighbor. When this happens to you, better take a look into a good lawyer.

My personal story is relevant here. To the OP, the owners have been MIA for a month. The last correspondence was them cornering you. Then they disappear. How do you communicate? Will mail be delivered to the address? Will they actually read it? I would start sending letters to where they will get them. You'll need to find out a little more about them, find out other properties they own, where they work, etc. That's the only way to deal with this directly. You need to stat a lawsuit against them for building too close to your lot, and the damage is the negative impact it will have on your property value. The local building department has their own case to enforce, with the violation of deed restrictions. These are two separate cases. You need to start a civil suit while the town does or doesn't do whatever they're going to.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 11:44AM
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Thanks for the story. I think you have a right to be a little bitter after dealing with a person like your former neighbor.

I would be curious about the end result of the OP's problem. The best plan could easily vary quite a bit according to the laws and normal procedures of their local city, county, or even their state.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 5:38PM
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Update on this.

I would NEVER have allowed someone to barge in and pressure everyone else to let them do what they want when it's clearly against the rules. Love the post about "wealth bullies" - see this all the time in the news and in life - people someone think because they have money they are above the law and rules for the "little people."

I make good money, but I grew up with teaching to treat everyone the same and don't ever think you're better than anyone else.

I sure hope this has been followed up on and people didn't fold and let them build - I can guarantee it won't be the last problem they bring to that neighborhood.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 8:44PM
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