New Neighbours and now my problems start

anna13July 26, 2011

Good day everyone. Hoping that I am posting in the correct forum, if not my apologies.

I have lived in this house 33 years and had our 7th neighbour move in about 2.5 years ago who started renovating the house and it is still under renovations to this day. I have put up with jack hammering and all kinds of noise trying to be a good neighbour, but the latest project has me really worried. The only time they are really friendly is when they need a favor to do something otherwise they do not talk to me (mostly his wife).

When we bought our house the neighbour and my husband (who passed away 5 years ago), graded/sloped the land in between the houses so the water would run off and we would not get flooding in the basement. Only on 2 occasions did we get a bit of water in the basement when there was heavy rain during the winter when the ground was frozen. Everything was fine all these years until our newest neighbour moved in and decided to put in a walkway right against his house. Now that the walkway is in I see that it is not sloping and is much higher then my stone walkway and I am concerned that come this spring if and when we have heavy rain and the ground is frozen I will get flooding in the basement.

Are my young new neighbours trying to take advantage of this old widow? Your suggestions would be appreciated..thank you.

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Put a curb/retaining wall just inside your property line higher than the new sidewalk. This will prevent water from draining into your basement from the neighbor.

Water runoff is the hazards of living on the downgrade or the land.

Your neighbor has a right to a sidewalk just as you do.

We put an elevated fence footing to prevent neighbors in the back from directing their runoff water into our yard, worked very well.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 1:55PM
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Thanks for the reply krissie, I will look into a curb/retaining wall. I would feel a lot better if our new neighbour would at least install a downpipe on his eaves. There was a piece of it hanging for over a year and now he has removed it and there is been just a whole in the eaves and when it rains all the water pools around my house. Before in used to run off towards the street.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 3:16PM
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While natural water form a higher elevation normally must be accepted by the lower property owner, the higher owner is not usually allowed to do anything to increase the run off onto the lower property.

"Now that the walkway is in I see that it is not sloping and is much higher then my stone walkway and I am concerned that come this spring if and when we have heavy rain and the ground is frozen I will get flooding in the basement. "

Trying to get the 'concern' of a possible problem fixed is often a losing battle.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 5:02PM
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You should never grade your property so that water flows onto someone elses property. Since your houses are so close together, there isn't much choice. Both sidewalks should slope away from each house, and the space between the sidewalks should have a lower elevation. There should then be a drainage channel sloping towards the street or the back of the property (or both). Judging by your picture, it does not look like the area between the sidewalks is low enough.

My suggestion - You can either bury a drainage pipe with some inlets attached to it, or you can have a concrete guy pour a gutter between the sidewalks and direct the water away from the houses. The drainage pipe idea can be a do-it-yourself thing, and all materials can be picked up at any major home improvement center. Krissie suggested a retaining wall or curb, but the only bad thing about that would be that this could be a tripping hazard.

Whatever drainage system you decide on would benefit both of you, so it would not be unrealistic to expect the neighbor to spilt the cost of doing this. I would talk to him, express your concerns, and ask him nicely if he would split these costs. Hopefully he will be receptive to the idea. If he refuses, then you may just have to do it all on your own.

You could also contact your local stormwater management authority and see what they say about it. They may even make him fix all drainage issues all by himself, since he is the one making all these changes, and in the past you have never had problems. Of course, once you contact them, and if they do force him to take care of this, then there is the chance that he will become your enemy for life. Nobody likes being ratted out, and even though he may deserve it, he may still hold a grudge against you because of it. So just be careful with what you decide to do.

Good luck

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 11:44PM
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Thank you all for such wonderful suggestions, I really appreciate it.

Brickeyee that is exactly one of my concerns, with no downpipe the water pours in between the houses, increasing the run off.

Cas66ragtop, there was a drainage channel (a v) and grass between the houses but our neighbour came with a bobcat loader and levelled it before installing the walkway. I let him tear down the fence, pile dirt against my house and remove the grass. He did mention about burying a drainage pipe and will check out what "inlets" are and suggest it to him. I hope he installs the pipe before winter as there has not been any work done in the past 3 weeks.

I have no intentions of contacting the local storm water management authority; I would not rat out on my neighbour as it would get him into tons of trouble. This young man has gutted his complete house, lowered his basement etc without any permits. The back yard has been and still is a dumping ground, and the front yard is still all clay so when it rains there is runoff of dirt onto the sidewalk. I also had to beg him to stop burning the left over wood in a 45 gallon drum; at least he listened and has not done it since. Like you said, I have been a good neighbour for over 30 years and do not need an enemy.

Have a good day

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 8:59AM
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"I have no intentions of contacting the local storm water management authority; I would not rat out on my neighbour as it would get him into tons of trouble. "

Do you pay taxes?

The authority works for YOU.

Let them do their job.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 9:24AM
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Thanks brickeyee, will only call authorities as a last resort, will try to work it out as a good neighbour at first.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 10:12AM
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Anna, you are doing the right thing by being patient and understanding. You are being a good neighbor, something that a lot of people nowadays seem to have trouble with. I admire you for that.

I also do respect the neighbor for what he is trying to accomplish. I guess the house was in need of a lot of updating/repair. Gutting a house is no easy task, and if you are capable of doing it yourself, then I have great admiration for that, too. Providing of course you can do it in a timely manner and do a quality job.

I don't know if 2.5 years would be considered timely, especially for a house that size. I know I wouldn't be happy living next to all that. And the picture of the back yard - there is no excuse for that - I would be very unhappy having to look at that for so long.

It is a huge concern that he is doing all this without permits. Permits and inspections are not just a way for the local government to make a few bucks - it is primarily for safety reasons. Your house is so close to his - if his house caught fire, odds are very high your house would be lost or severely damaged too. If he has gutted the house, I am sure he has messed around with the electrical wiring. Are you willing to bet your life that he rewired it correctly and safely?

I would have no idea how insurance would work in this situation. If the insurance company found out all this work was done without permits, do you think they would cover the damage? Do you think they would cover damage to your house if they found out you knew he had no permits, and failed to report it?

I am not trying to scare you, I am just trying to make you think about some of this stuff, thats all. Its a tough situation to be in. On one hand, I would not suggest ratting him out, because you still have to live next to him, and things could get really nasty. You need to keep things on good terms and hopefully all the construction will finally be over with. On the other hand, he could be endangering you (whether he thinks he is or not), and maybe something should be done. All this activity is not just affecting you - I am sure a few other neighbors may be annoyed as well. I'm surprised nobody else has said anything.

Good luck again. Hope your life can get back to normal soon.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 11:47AM
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Thanks cas66ragtop, I always try to be a good neighbour and agree that some work was needed, but mostly being a young couple they wanted an open concept as the houses on this street were built in the 1960's.

I do not mind the backyard being a mess, what my concern was them burning wood and other garbage in the 45 gallon drum and the poor people walking along the sidewalk with all that mud in their way. My friend cleaned it a couple of times but I figured the neighbours were half our age so gave up on doing it.

I am also very nervous about the wiring. I could be wrong, but believe that he had several friends that were knowledgeable in wiring and plumbing helping him out. I just pray that nothing bad happens and am thankful that the fire station is only 3 minutes away.

I have no idea how the insurance would work in this situation either. Surprising that with all the people passing by no one reported him, as a lot of people stopped, looked at the condition of the house, shook their heads and continued walking. Most of the people on this street are much more elderly then I and am sure do not want to cause problems. There was one incident last fall, an inspector came by about the huge linden tree in distress on his property. There were several feet of clay covering the trunk that sat there for several months, next thing I see is our neighbour removing the clay and watering it for a few hours. The inspector came by the next day to check it but there was no one home, so he left some sort of paperwork and as he was going to his vehicle just shook his head. Mature trees are protected in our province and there is a huge fine ($5,000 or more) if you cut down a healthy tree or mistreat it.

I am a little scared and appreciate your warning, but am trying to tread lightly with this neighbour. He is OK towards me if things are working in his favor but his wife must be by-polar or something whenever she passes me on the street she looks the other way pretending that she does not see me. Does not bother me because all the neighbours told me that she is the same way with them. My only concern is their neighbour on the other side who is 88 years old living on her own who was so terrified when the flames from the drum were shooting into the air only 5 feet away from tree branches.

I will monitor this situation and if he does not do the things he promised and I still have a concern with the water problem I will pursue with the proper authorities from the city.

Thanks again for your valuable input, I appreciate it.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 4:30PM
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Everywhere I have ever lived saw building code guys driving around looking for unpermitted work sites. If they had seen a mess like this one (especially for this amount of time) they would stop and ask to see permits and if permits were not available the work would be shut down.
As mentioned above building codes are ultimately about safety and so I would have no problem calling code enforcement on all of this.

I'm all for being a good neighbor and not rocking the boat but the safety of you and your home are affected.
How would you feel if his house caught fire and burned yours down right along with it?
And the 88 year old on the other side- what if she didn't make it out of the fire?
Would having been a good neighbor make up for the loss?
How about a basement flood?
Would being a good neighbor sop up the mess for you?

If you don't want to call anyone then drop them an anonymous note with the address.
This can in no way be traced back to you- that entire property is a disaster zone and any fool driving by could report it.

Please stand up for your own interests.
For your property value if for nothing else.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 10:10AM
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Correct me if I am wrong.

In your original photo. Is your sidewalk the old one that slopes DOWN grade to the new paver sidewalk?

BTW: It is Bipolar, not By-Polar. Not hanging out with the neighbors is not a symptom of Bipolar Disorder.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 8:24PM
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Cearbhaill, thank you for your words of wisdom, you are 100% correct and I am going to slowly start standing up for my rights.

Took a lot of guts but yesterday I stopped by our fire station and explained my situation and told them that the neighbour was burning wood and other garbage as we speak. A fire truck was dispatched and I am sure that the neighbour was given a warning. They had no idea who reported it and am sure that I was not suspected as I was gone a total of 3 hours, 1/2 hour before the fire truck arrived and 2 1/2 hrs after it left.

My next step is to talk to my neighbour about installing a downpipe on his eaves and burying a drainage pipe between the two properties that he promised to do 2 months ago.

Grammyt, yes, you are correct, my sidewalk is the old one that slopes DOWN grade. Also, sorry about misspelling Bipolar Disorder, besides, I should not have posted that, as I always tell people that if they have nothing nice to say, not to say anything at all.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 7:26PM
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How do you know that all the work has been done without permits, and that there were no permits for burning?

I hate to criticize since I feel for you in this situation, but not talking to you does not equal "not friendly," either. A lot of people are not used to chatting with their neighbors. We have no contact with our neighbors. And it may not be great to look at a mess for so long, but it's their house, not yours.

I get the impression that you are making a lot of assumptions about your neighbors, their intent, and their personalities. I'm not sure that taking sneaky pictures and posting them on the internet is all that "neighborly" either.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 2:07PM
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Lizzie, sorry, I did not mean to get you so upset, I was just trying to get some advice from people that were more experienced. Normally my husband would be handling things like this but he passed away after a long illness and I am trying my best to do the upkeep on my own on limited resources.

Not sure how things work in the USA, but here in Canada it is the law to post permits in the front window when there are major renovations and there were none. Also, we are not allowed to burn wood or leaves in 45 gallon drums in the major cities, especially us having the hottest July on record with very little rain.

I don't expect my neighbours to be chatty just be neighbourly, not only when it is of benefit to them. I would also understand if it was just me but other neighbours are complaining about them to me. One neighbour told me that he was walking his dog by their house and just took a longer then normal glance their way and my neighbour's wife told him, just keep on walking and don't look this way.

Anyway, I feel bad enough about defending myself on this board, so will take the excellent suggestions given here and call it a night

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 5:48PM
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Anna is not the villain here, she has done nothing wrong. She is actually being way nicer than most people would be about this. She has every right to complain about this.

The neighbor is clearly in the wrong. It is a lot less "neighborly" to create such a huge mess and leave it there for everyone to look at for so long - whether they have permits or not. I don't care if you are in the middle of a construction project - it doesn't cost any extra or take too much time to at least keep things clean and presentable. That back yard alone is absolutely horrible. I would hate to see what the rest of the place looks like - and Anna has been dealing with this for 2.5 years! Way too long for the size of the project.

Yes, it's his property - but other people have to look at it (whether they want to or not), and it also diminishes property values. I would be absolutely miserable having to live next to this guy.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 6:20PM
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this is the most awesome thread in the history of the interwebz

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 12:26AM
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The authorities require permits for remodeling/ new construction for a good reason. The ordinances are written to protect the homeowner and the neighbors. How would you feel if there was a gas leak and his house blew up because he had not done the work correctly? By contacting the authorities you are protecting both parties. Secondly it is illegal to knowingly direct water onto to another homeowners property. Had the guy got the required permits you probably wouldn't be in this situation.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 9:49PM
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Anna has bent over backwards for her neighbors"let them take out her fence, take out the channel & pile dirt up against HER house! Not on your life would I let a neighbor do all that he could have put that walk in without touching her property." Dirt against her house" might never have been removed!! He could have back-hoed the dirt to his front or back yard. He should have left the fence & drainage alone. Anna is not the problem. The neighbor is making problems for her & whole neighborhood. They may have to go together to get the burning stopped tho it should not take more than 1 visit from fire dept. Anna should get city out on the flood issues & grading issues as a start. Maybe they would inform other depts so she wouldn't have to about the lack of permits etc. A flooded basement would be a very bad & expensive problem for the lady. Hope it gets resolved soon. Anna, when talking to neighbors don't use "you" "your wife" that sounds like you are "blaming them" instead say, "I'm so worried about whether there will be a flood in my basement, it just seems like the channel should be in or something so I thought the city could tell me what needs to be done. Be sure to tell them he tore out your wall & channel drainage." Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 1:35AM
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If no permits were pulled then likely no inspections were ever done on this guy's work, so as bmmalone states there could be some serious safety issues. He may be trying to save money by not getting permits; he may realize that in most places permits expire so he'd have to finish his work within a certain timeline and he doesn't want deadlines; or he may be ignorant of the whole process. In any case, being a good neighbor doesn't mean being taken advantage of. I'd print the pictures you posted and bring them to whatever office/person in your town does permitting and just ask if this is all OK. You could simply express concern about an elderly neighbor slipping in the mud, or concern about water damage on your property. Bringing up these concerns is NOT being a bad neighbor.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 5:58PM
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