Dilemma With Neighbor and Home Repair...help!

FijayNovember 22, 2013


We recently purchased (this past July) a home built in 1854. It is renovated, but being an old house we knew there would still be repairs. A neighbor of ours told us he could do handyman work, etc. if we ever needed him. Our house is a 2 story antebellum, so it is quite tall. We don't yet have a ladder tall enough to reach the gutters in the front of the house. So we offered to pay him to clean the gutters for us (just in the front). After he cleaned them, he told us the gutter had separated from the roof and that had caused the eave to rot due to water. He told us the entire eave on the left side would need replaced. We want to be historically accurate with this house, so we knew we needed poplar. We ordered the poplar. He told us he would need a scaffold, as his ladder would not be safe for this type of repair. We agreed and paid to rent some scaffolding. This cost about $300 for the poplar and scaffold. He quoted us a price of $700 to take down the rotten eave and paint and put up the new one. This seemed fair so we agreed. Well, yesterday he gets up the scaffold and after about an hour, comes back down. He then tells us he was wrong. The eave is just fine, it's just the gutter wasn't installed correctly and had pulled away from the roof. He fixed the gutter. He now demands we pay him $700. Not only are we out the $300 for poplar and scaffold we didn't need (he could have fixed the gutter with the ladder), he now wants to be paid for something he didn't have to do. I thought he had gone up the ladder and personally inspected the eave and found it rotten. What he had actually done was assumed the eave was rotten since the gutter had pulled away. Is paying him the $700 fair? Am I being unreasonable to think he should only be paid for fixing the gutter?? I would hate for this to cause friction between us as neighbors, but should I pay $700 just to avoid tension?
Thank you so much!

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Well, if you have $700 just sitting around and feel like giving it away, then go ahead and give it to him. Sorry for the sarcasm, but he's definitely in the wrong and if he's demanding $700 for just reattaching a gutter, I suggest you not ever use him again for handy work. Regarding 'friction between neighbors': since he apparently doesn't seem to care about being neighborly, then why should you care if you're ever friends with this guy.
If it makes you feel better, ask him what his hourly wage is and pay him based on the time he spent repairing the gutters. Whether you pay him for the time spent building/dismantling the scaffold is up to you, but in all honesty I wouldn't hesitate to let him know that he should be paying for the scaffolding (or at least 1/2 the cost) since he's the one that said it was needed. But, I'm sure the scaffold made replacing the gutter much easier.

Store the poplar somewhere safe since you may need it in the future.

This post was edited by annz on Fri, Nov 22, 13 at 21:24

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 9:23PM
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His mistake; he pays.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2013 at 7:05AM
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If it was me I would pay him the $700. Smile politely at him or wave when you see him, but never be more friendly than that. You read on these forums about neighbor disputes quite frequently, and they are very expensive in regards to quality of life. It is not fair, and it shouldn't be this way, but avoiding a huge conflict that may last years seems IMHO the best way to go.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2013 at 4:50PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil

I would not expect to pay the full amount if the job turned out to be smaller. Was there a written agreement (contract) or estimate? I'm guessing not.

How many hours did it actually take to do the repair? Even at $50 per hour (which is a lot for a guy who didn't take the time to diagnose properly), that's 14 hours worth of work.

I'd negotiate. And return the poplar to the store and get your money back. :-]

    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 4:30PM
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How does one misdiagnose rotten wood? It's rotten or it's not.

I would have had him change it, then see what he says about the price.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 9:28AM
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Most people get into these situations do so to save money. Hey, donâÂÂt get me wrong, I hire workers on the side for my home regularly to save a buck. However, I know how to direct them, make sure what they are doing is needed and if their work is correct. I also know every square inch of my property.

I have a very large umbrella policy that would cover me if someone was injured on my property. If your neighbor was seriously injured working on your home, the courts would likely award him a hefty sum of your money if an insurance policy wasn't in place.

Most people donâÂÂt (want to) consider repairs and maintenance into their monthly budget when purchasing a home. If R&M is considered, that typically means less money to spend on the purchase price of the home. WeâÂÂve all been there.

A good 30âÂÂ-40â extension ladder can cost you $400.00 at Home Depot. Not to mention all the other tools to maintain and repair a historic house can run on forever. If you donâÂÂt even have a ladder, you are not prepared to maintain a historic home. Trust me; a ladder is just the beginning. Many people can't safely handle an extension ladder of that size anyway.


IMO, pay the $700.00, never let him touch your home again as he lacks experience and consider you got off cheap. It would have likely gotten real expensive if he actually did some work and screwed it up.

Going forward, find a small contractor who has good references and plenty of experience for historic homes and answers his/her cell phone when you call. If his/her voicemail won't accept any messages because the mailbox is full, Run, Forest, Run! Start a relationship with a contractor and make sure your neighbors conclusion is correct at the same time.

Make sure the contractor has sufficient insurance with workers comp. If he's a one man band and doesnâÂÂt have workers comp, make sure you get an indemnification/hold harmless agreement signed and make sure it holds up in your state. Only pay for work completed or materials delivered to your home. Never pay for work in advance!

Budget for R&M just like groceries but use the 1% rule. Figure 1% of your homes purchase price annually for R&M. Older homes will typically be more and newer homes will typically be less. A home built before the Civil War, more! If you want to keep your home maintained and its value up, itâÂÂs absolutely necessary. IâÂÂll even wager youâÂÂll save money in the long run.

Good luck,

This post was edited by mepop on Tue, Nov 26, 13 at 19:08

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 10:54AM
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