2 driveways next to ea. other. Can a fence be built between?

theresseMarch 2, 2010

I'm trying like crazy to figure out what to do about my problem. Even looking at other houses (talk about desperate!) although I don't want to be driven from my house by these toxic neighbors.

There is a driveway easement, presumably in the deed, which allows me to drive onto their driveway at the point in which my sunroom (older than their house, oddly) sticks out onto half of my driveway, preventing me from accessing the back end of my driveway including my garage. I don't need to use the garage for a car and would love to lose the easement if it meant we could have a dividing fence between our two driveways. The driveways are side by side w/ no patch of grass between them. They don't use their garage for a car either. Many of the home owners in our historic neighborhood have converted garages into studios, workshops or guest houses as the separate garages aren't really large enough for today's cars anyway (not if you also want to keep other things in there like lawnmowers and rakes, etc.).

Ignore this paragraph if you don't want to read my rant about the neighbors: They keep dinging my car - even w/ witnesses - and then aren't accountable or even just friendly/apologetic about it, and they're ridiculously haughty and unfriendly, while being around the same age as us - just a bit older (I'm 40). Actually, I was surprised to just discover after several years of not knowing, that most of my neighbors save one or two have been offended by their shockingly arrogant behavior at this point. It would be funny if I didn't have to deal w/ them on a daily basis - just cause I've never met a married couple that were more well-suited for each other and were so embarrassingly self-important.

The guy's always building things and he just built a fence between our two driveways but way in the back, starting at the garages, and only coming out about 20 feet or so, where it then connects to a gate which connects to his house. It serves as extra security since they've had bikes stolen.

If I somehow figured out how to continue that fence (only I'd make it as high as is legally allowed), I'd like it to go all the way down the middle, to the sidewalk or at least beyond the point where our cars usually sit side by side. I realize I'd never have a way to put a car in the garage after that, nor would the people who live here after me if I were to do this (if it's even legal). I wish I could fill that space w/ flagstone pavers and a few columnar trees and troughs full of bamboo, too. ;) Then someday the garage could have french doors put on it and it could be converted to a workshop or studio. Ah, one can dream...

So, under the circumstances of having this easement, do you know if this would be legal, to build a fence right in between two driveways that aren't separated by even a thin patch of grass? I know every city is probably different but what I'm really asking is if you've EVER heard of this being legal, in any city? I can't seem to get through to the city to ask. I'm sure the neighbors would have to approve, and who knows if they would or not but they might be willing just cause I can only imagine the feeling is mutual (not liking each other). I mean, they don't like anyone, which definitely doesn't exclude me. :) If it's not legal, I wonder if I can extend my driveway into my yard a foot or two, to give me more room to park without getting hit. The neighbors refuse to even consider staggering our cars to prevent damage from their doors swinging out and hitting us (our doors slide), or from his backing up too quickly and side-swiping our car which he's done before, even though I only have one car to their two, and even though none of the cars would ever have to stick out onto the sidewalk if staggered.

Thank you!!!

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In older areas in our town many houses share a driveway. I would agree this could be a nightmare if you don't get along.

I would be tempted to do two things - do you use the sunroom? I cannot fathom someone building something onto a house that blocks the driveway. I would thing that would be a deal breaker in trying to sell the house down the road. What is behind the sunroom before you get to the garage - more unused driveway?

If that isn't an option - probably not as it would involve alot of construction, I would definitely extend my driveway into my own yard a couple of feet so you can park far enough over to avoid their cars.

The fence would be fairly unattractive and would definitely be a hard selling point for future buyers. Do you have the room in your yard?

If they have two cars and don't park in their garage, how do you drive around your sunporch anyways? It seems to me their cars would block the driveway or could potentially block you into your garage area if you want to back out and they're parked in the drive.

Personally, this would make me crazy. I'm not a good sharer! I would modify my house so that I had a driveway of my own to park my car - so I could choose to park right up beside my garage where they can't ding me.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 7:51AM
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1st thing you need to do is actually view the deed and its restrictions..I have seen what you propose,so it isn't something that hasn't been done...Yes, you can also add more pavement onto your own property to widen the driveway to accomodate your vehicle without banging into your neighbors car..
Another question is if the fence is installed as you suggest,will there be enough room for THEIR driver's side door to open without issues?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 7:55AM
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I feel your pain - I have a shared driveway. I've had all the same feelings: fight, flight or just deal. Agree with qdwag - you must verify an easement. A fence can be attractive if done right/style appropriate to house/neighborhood. If you cut your driveway off at the sunroom, would you have enough room for visitors cars, and even your own when those boys grow up and get their own cars. In no time at all, your driveway could look like a used car lot :)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 11:09AM
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Before you dive in, you might want to consider the can of worms you might be opening. In older neighborhoods, property lines aren't always cut and dry. Legal descriptions may include references to trees, streets etc that have changed slightly over the decades. There may be setback requirements for new fences. There may be solid surface restrictions for new parking pads. There is also the possibility of creating a situation where they are granted an easement if your changes restrict access to their garage.

Also, while you don't care for the neighbors, there is a difference between living next to someone you don't like and someone who is actively feuding with you. I would be careful to make sure the solution to this problem doesn't create a much bigger one.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 11:37AM
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You need to have the property surveyed if you've never had it done. Where the pins are will tell you more about what you can and can't do than anything else.
JUST because you were told when you bought that the driveway was shared does not mean that is what it is legally on paper. That may have been a verbal agreement between neighbors from long ago.
For all you know the neighbors could be encroaching on your property. A proper survey is needed before you can go forward on anything having to do with the driveway and fence issue.
BTW your agent should have insisted you have a survey done BEFORE you bought the house. Shared driveways are a big turn off to me for this very reason!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 12:56PM
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Excellent advice, thank you so much, caroleoh, qdwag, ruffian1 and billl!

caroleoh - I don't drive around my sunporch. We just park in the driveway before the house. Many in this urban, historic neighborhood don't use their garages for cards, which are separate garages, and instead have converted them into other things such as workshops, studios, or even half storage room and half opened up covered porch with expanded back yard.

I've thought of taking out my sunroom but above it sits a balcony that allows me to take out my telescope which I love to do now and again. The sunroom/balcony is original and very much completes the look of the colonial revival house. I can only assume the original owners used to own the lot next to ours, before the newer house was built, and that they didn't think about the future so well or the lots weren't planned out yet. Or, they didn't have a car or had just a horse or something like that. The house was built in 1913. So anyway I don't think I have what it takes to take down the sunroom.

As for the fence being unattractive, I think they can be made attractively...it seems to me I've seen some nice examples in the neighborhood. A lot of people put horse troughs or large planters with bamboo and other vines or trees growing up, and interesting lattice choices, and many have chosen to tear out the cement altogether and plant pavers and gardens/walkways to the back, bringing more nature into this urban space. Of course the nicer the fence, the more expensive - especially if adding vegetation. Future owners may not like it, but as more and more people move here from N.Y./East coast (we're in Portland), they seem to like fences where they come from. ;)

qdwag - yes I need to check the deed for sure and good point about whether they'll have enough space to open their doors. In theory, and with care, yes. Right now I don't feel like either of us do though so they just hit us/ding our car. But they also chose to fill the space right next to their driveway with tall plants and rocks instead of giving them more room as we did on our side. Why should I have to suffer? They're ALWAYS thinking of themselves, only. Ugh - so frustrating!

ruffian1 - I'm glad you got me thinking about how many cars we could have someday due to having 3 kids! Eegads! But yes there's enough room. My husband parks in front and I park in the driveway, and then after me there'd be room for 1 if not 2 more cars (if I were allowed to pull all the way up to the sunroom; right now I park wherever their car doors aren't, which means I never park in the same spot).

Billl - yes it's important to consider how ugly this could get, and to be cautious. I really appreciate that warning! It feels more like an active feud (sans lawyers) already just cause this last time he dinged my car I asked him very nicely if he'd reconsider staggering the cars and he jumped all over me, saying cars are meant to get dinged and more or less that people are dying in Haiti, which not only takes things waaaay out of context but implies I'm petty. Trust me - anyone who knows me would tell you I'm not petty (and that I care about what's happening in Haiti and Chile and elsewhere). And he knows that too but was just being defensive and nasty. He said "talk to me when you have something important to talk about" and walked away. But this car dinging is only a piece of it. They're mean-spirited people who have caused negative juju more times than I can count - and not just w/ me but they've offended other neighbors too - just hurt feelings. I don't even want to SEE them anymore if I can help it. I'm so, so done.

It does make me sad. My stoop is the one most of the neighbors come by and sit on and we chat and laugh and eat and drink and the kids dance around. Having that openness is inviting and representative of how open we are to our neighbors and community. But I've gone through this hell since the year 2000 and I have more stories that would "shock and amaze" you about their behavior and lack of friendliness than I care to think about/write about now. You can thank me later. ;) The reason I'm sad is best stated by Robert Frost:


    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 1:53PM
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Carol - thanks for that, I only saw it now. I considered getting a survey but I'm told they cost too much and the neighbors' recently built fence implies they believe the line down the middle is the actual line. I also think I've seen a pin there in the past. But I still have to check on the deed which will tell me a lot more. That's a good point that it could just be verbal. Thanks! :)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 1:57PM
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I just got off the phone w/ the city. They said that while I still have to check the deed, my sunroom sits back far enough that building a fence shouldn't be a problem if the deed can be terminated for whatever reason. That's the part I still have to check on.

They said that within the first 10 feet of the front property line, only a 3.5' fence can be built. It would look weird to do that and then suddenly go higher, so I'd probably just ignore the first 10 feet (12 feet if you count the fact that the city owns the first 2 feet in from the sidewalk) and build as high as I could after that.

They said what's required is that I'm left with a 9 x 18 parking space (presumably the neighbors must be left with this also) that's again beyond the first 10' from the front property line (12' in our case). My sunroom starts at about 34 feet from the front property line which leaves plenty of room. They said I can expand my driveway if I want, though it would require a permit. They said I could build a fence on my side of the property line just my side of the middle (if deed works out) without the neighbor's consent, and that it can be 6 feet high without a permit and 8 feet high with a permit - and that lattice above the 8 feet isn't allowed).

I'm now wondering what all the nuances are regarding broaching the subject/proposing a fence. These people are very selfish and appear to be the litigious type unless they've done something wrong (in which case e.g. they've asked that we allow them to fix the dent in the car themselves and not file a claim w/ insurance. If situation were reversed, no way). If they also want a fence - and they may, I don't know - they would hope that I broach the subject so that they'd say no, then I'd have to pay for it myself, you see? It's not likely that they'd agree to pay half, even if they too want it, if they think they can get away with my having to pay for it all myself. Also they'll lose no property if it's built on my side rather than down the middle. Hmmm...

Actually they might hope we'll move away in which case they wouldn't want a fence, so they could befriend the next people. When we moved in the wife told me she'd hoped their friends would get the house. Uh, thanks for the warm welcome!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 2:01PM
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So, if I understand this correctly, because of your sunroom, you use their drive to get access to your garage. This would constrain them from ever parking where it would block your entrance then so that they must leave that area of their drive open ........just in case you may want to access it.

I assume this sunroom existed before you or the folks next door bought your homes? I assume they knew this before they bought. I'm also assuming it doesn't lay well with them.

Like others said, look into how the legals describe this easement before you do anything. Either one of you may have a surprise. Like Billl also says, in older settlements, the boundaries may be more than a little off and in dispute. If it were my house, I'd also consider removing the sunroom if I wanted access to the garage so I wouldn't have to encroach on their drive if you wanted to park in it, or I'd widen your own drive so you can park unimpeded of their car doors.

I'm sorry. This has to be a difficult situation. As difficult as it is, it could turn into the Hatfield/McCoy feud if handled clumsily.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 2:10PM
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My stoop is the one most of the neighbors come by and sit on and we chat and laugh and eat and drink and the kids dance around. Having that openness is inviting and representative of how open we are to our neighbors and community.

I don't know what is eating at your neighbors to make them so rude, but I would not enjoy living next door to this situation.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2010 at 8:59AM
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Calliope - no I don't use their drive to get access to my garage. I walk back there cause there's plenty of room to walk or move bikes or have kids' trikes go by in my space, lawnmowers, etc. I don't need to access it for a car cause I don't park in the garage and never did, never will. They know this, so they've never left a space open for us, which is fine (why should they?). Yes the sunroom has existed since 1913 and their house was built in the '20's. They knew it when they moved in and i don't know who initially filed for the easement but I don't think it was them. The previous owners of my house don't seem like the types who'd go through the steps of getting an easement but perhaps they did. If it's a mutual easement in some way that I'm not aware of, I think it was still done before my current neighbors moved in.

I'd consider removing the sunroom but don't want to get rid of the balcony above it. Also remember I don't need to park back there (most in this neighborhood don't park in the backs of their driveways as it's impractical...remember this is an old neighborhood w/ detached, narrow garages) so to remove the sunroom for the sole purpose of terminating the deed seems a bit extreme (especially if I can get the deed terminated without needing the neighbors' permissision - though I don't know yet). I'll definitely do my research on the deed before talking to the neighbors about any of this. It may be that if I find out I can get the deed terminated and that they don't have the right to have a deed (best case scenario), that my "threatening" to build a fence will be enough to make them consider the staggering-of-cars idea and then I won't have to build a fence. Not that I enjoy looking at them. I don't know whether a feud will come of this but I'll take preventative action with this in mind (considering all options and their effects) while at the same time also making sure - if possible - that they can no longer be abusive to us or our property. Thank you!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2010 at 1:39PM
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Graywings - yes I understand why you wrote that and in truth, I didn't explain it well. When the weather's warm, and we have planned neighborhood gatherings (meaning sometimes I didn't even plan them - and in fact sometimes the rude neighbors plan them themselves) we tend to sit on our stoop because our yard and stoop are the only ones that are open and spacious enough. But these gatherings don't happen often. Sometimes 3 or so of us will sit there and drink iced tea or wine spontaneously on a hot afternoon but that too is random, and we're not loud. Sometimes the kids will gather in front too and yes make noise but it doesn't happen all that often and even if it did, the mean neighbors have 2 pre-teen boys who have been plenty loud (little emperors) so they have no issues kid-wise or certainly don't have the right to anyway. The husband plays in a band and they practice at their house sometimes and he also has a loud motorcycle that never starts up on the first try and that vrooms into our loud, echoey driveway area (no grass between the two houses) late at night. They often sit out on their porch either as a family or with friends and have their music playing. None of us mind - our neighborhood is a very social neighborhood and that's part of what attracts people to this urban neighborhood in the first place (beautiful old, often large houses w/ huge old trees and sidewalks, parks, cafes, quick bike rides to everywhere and a strong sense of community)... that's also what attracted these neighbors next to me to the neighborhood - along with the fact that it's a pretty liberal, environmentally-friendly neighborhood as well. There are only so many cities/neighborhoods in this country that are known for this and they chose ours (ugh). They came from New York and our city is small so I think they had preconceived notions about just how blessed we'd feel by their worldly presence as well as how used we are to others from huge cities moving in. They're not so unique. But others from New York, L.A. etc. have been very respectful, unlike them. I just don't understand why they have to be so condescending and rude and have no consideration for others (and yet still socialize w/ everyone, which is bizarre). These neighbors are considered part of our block and they're not excluded, but they're just arrogant and haughty when they interact with others and either don't realize this or else figure that since they're superior, we can all learn from them. If they were much older it would be somewhat understandable but they're the same age as everyone else - maybe 3 years older than a few others and a couple of years younger than others. One neighbor loaned them a book she really liked and the wife gave it back to her saying it was garbage. The person who loaned her the book felt a little shocked and hurt and she happens to have gone to an ivy league school and is an avid reader and while the neighbor who borrowed the book is also well-read, she needs to go to some sort of finishing school for manners. They just have this huge sense of entitlement...it's nuts.

I've tolerated this for years but for him to damage our car on more than one occasion and then be dismissive about it and unwilling to brainstorm prevention ideas, such as to stagger the cars (or what's worse - to flat out not mention it until told he was seen backing into our car and then to ask me not to report it but to let HIM fix it - and THEN to put it off for 1.5 years!) is humiliating and disgusting. So this last time he dinged the car - a few weeks ago - and caught me rubbing at the ding/dent in bewilderment (has his car's paint on it and matches up to his door), he just gave up trying and was totally dismissive saying cars are meant to get dinged/dented and that I should talk to him when I have something worth talking about. I'd rather him dent a fence than my car.

Ah crap, I just vented again! ;)

    Bookmark   March 3, 2010 at 1:47PM
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It may be a lot less expensive and far less complex to just install a surveillance camera...and use the footage to report him for repeated and purposeful property damage. IMO, the door dinging would stop..pronto.

And, yes, that may make the relationship even more strained, but that is generally always the case when you are dealing with a disrespectful bully...and this guy seems to fit that description.

It's a judgement call, because anything you do at this point carries the same risk. If you are going to do anything, it may be best to choose the least costly...as chances are he will be whacking your newly installed fence with his doors..and then expect you to repair the damage as otherwise he will claim it is defacing his property.

People such as this are bottom line abusive...and trying to find the best solution to appease them generally never works...unless it involves facing a consequence for their actions...such as being nailed on repeated (and therefore malicious) property damage.

If he was in his mid 20's or so, I would say he was the 10 year old who used to whack our car (and others) with his ball when we lived in NYC...and when I asked him to be careful to not do so, he told me that I shouldn't care because the car (a brand new Honda) was not a Mercedes.

IMO, it is a NYC thing...

    Bookmark   March 3, 2010 at 2:29PM
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By all means, build the fence on your property and be done with it. But not without a survey first and a check of the neighbour's registered deed to be sure his property doesn't have an easement over yours.

I lived in one home with a mutual drive. The young guys who were given the home next door by their parents were friendly and pleasant. But guests were forever coming by and stopping "just for a moment" in the drive, blocking my access and egress.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2010 at 10:22PM
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Wow. This sounds like a nightmare. It is so unpleasant to have an unreasonable neighbor.

We also live in a historic neighborhood where driveways create issues. We do not share a driveway, but the edge of our driveway IS the property line. Our neighbor is getting ready to put up a fence and, guess what, he will be placing it right up against our driveway. This means, of course, that until our car is driven behind our house we will never be able to open our car doors. Our driveway will be a tunnel: on one side our house, on the other side a fence. Lovely. :-(

It is so obvious that we will be forever inconvenienced (not to mention how it will turn off potential future buyers if we decide to move), but the neighbor does have the RIGHT to place the fence there. He could, out of courtesy, place the fence a little way into his very large yard; but he won't give an inch.

So, I sincerely hope you get a survey to find out your legal options. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2010 at 11:51PM
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logic - there'd be no way to monitor their behavior because of the positioning of our cars. I'd have to put the camera on THEIR property in order to do that - hahha. I've thought of the word bully myself. He definitely is one, though not in the typical sense. Just flippant and dismissive and uncaring all in the name of looking out for number one. Then when there's tension, in defensiveness he goes on the offense and says my name a lot before each sentence. I think it's a combination of talking to me as if I were a child (I say my son's name several times when trying to explain something to him that he needs to understand during conflict, for example), while also showing disrespect by being too familiar or intimate in a sense with me (by using my name a lot) when at this point it should be all about a kind of distant common courtesy. Does that make sense? Who knows - doesn't matter.

The comment about your car not being a Mercedes really sounded a lot like him...how funny. I told him that all the dings add up when it comes time to sell the car, because people will use the dings as an excuse to low-ball and he said "Oh common when are you REALLY going to sell your car, Theresse?" And I said that's not the point and that should we get laid off or are able to upgrade in a week or 5 years from now, we'll want and need to get as much as we can for it (otherwise it's like handing him a wad of cash!) and he said that their car was newer (and implied nicer) than ours and that THEY don't care about every little ding.

I don't want to believe this is true about all New Yorkers. I mean they have a reputation here anyway for always and only looking out for #1 and being confrontational and ready to fight (lack of space?!) and used to conflict enough that they don't bother trying to prevent it I guess...but I'm sure they don't all act like such city rats & alley cats! ;) It is funny how many more honks our city hears though...it used to be that people only honked if a car was about to pull into head-on traffic or something like that!

worthy - I'm going to avoid getting a survey if I can help it just cause i heard they're very expensive (I was originally here on GW because I'm about to have work on my kitchen done and money is tight!) but I'll try to find markers and measure based on what the lot sizes are, and I'll definitely take a close look at the deed and theirs too. Thanks for that extra tip!

pinkpaula - wow back at you! I"m sorry you have to go through that, and how strange that you're experiencing what my neighbors will potentially have to experience if I build a fence. But like I say, IF the deed checks out and I am able to build a fence, I may give them the opportunity to rethink their selfish unwillingness to stagger the cars, in which case I can postpone building a fence indefinitely. It takes SO little effort...I should know - I have to do it each and every single time I park, regardless of how they hog the drive - just to avoid getting dinged when possible. You get used to it. They have two cars and I have only one so they'd only have to deal with my one car.

I HAVE thought of various ways of torturing them (fence being one, although my biggest motive is no longer getting hit) and I've thought that they might see how good they had it if my husband starts parking behind me every day! We don't care so much about that car (not since the first time the jerk smashed into it and took 1.5 years to repair it) so if they hit that car, not only would it be less painful for us but it would be fun to file an insurance claim w/ their insurance this time. ;) I also wondered how much they'd like it if we started leaving all our kids' ridable toy cars and scooters and bikes and trikes out on our side of the driveway, right up next to where they park (they can't cause them much damage and we don't really want them anymore anyway). Hee hee. Can you say "eye sore?" Yeah I know, I shouldn't deliberately try to start an all out war but remember, everyone has his/her breaking point and not to sound too juvenile but THEY STARTED IT! Ahem...okay composing myself now - sorry.

I've also thought about building a fence just in part of the driveway instead of the whole thing - just the part where my car usually gets dinged and where I'd have to see them when I'm on my stoop relaxing in the sun. That would be about the length of my car (plus a little) only, and then I could always park where I want to park and right where my kids could get out and walk on the path that leads to the main front walk to prevent getting muddy. I'd still have to see their windows when in the house, but in those areas I could put up a couple of troughs w/thick clumping bamboo which would grow higher than a fence and would be nice to look at. I might even be able to keep the easement by doing so (!).

pinkpaula - do you have no space before the tunnel to park? E.g. isn't your house set back a bit further from where the driveway starts?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 1:16AM
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Just build the fence if you can afford to pay 100% of it. Else save up for it until you can afford it.

DO NOT ask the neighbors to pay half, because you can't afford it. You already are having issues with them, and splitting costs of a fence will be sure to invite more issues with them - even if they agree to pay (which they probably won't).
Here are some exampes of the future issues: If you both agree split the costs, now they want to pick out the fence material, placement, height and and style and you want something different. they want to pick when it is installed and they want to pick the fence company (or do it themselves and you pay for their half of the labor). Who maintains the fence (paint, replacement when the boards rot), etc.

My opionion - pay for it yourself, follow the county/city rules. If you can't afford it, shop around for good deals and save up for it.

Also - I would not want to even give them advance notice that you are to install the fence, else there might be some wrangling. You said the city allows you to put up the fence with no approval from the neighbors. No need to drag them into this.

Also - try not to drag other neighbors into gossip about these folks or drag the neighbors into the fence issue or the issue with the car dings. Sounds like y'all like the talk about these neighbors(else you wouldn't know that others don't like them either). This might be perpetuating the hard feelings with them - as they realize y'all talk about them.

I do think that in the end, they will love the fence as much as you. Isn't there an old saying something like: good fences make good neighbors.

I think you both need your space from eachother, and the fence will help.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 9:14AM
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Rottweiler and fence or invisible fence. Probably a nice one in your local shelter that's an innocent victim of foreclosure and might die if not adopted. Actually, any large protective (not to be confused with attack) dog will do but Rotties look tough (most are calm, obedient marshmallows). If the nasty neighbor has had bikes stolen, then there are other misbehaving types around, too, that need deterring.

Get the survey and put up the fence just inside your property.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 9:34AM
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I appreciate the explanation about the community gather spot on the porch. The partial fence to protect your car seems like a great idea!

I would be able to deal with these people as maturely as you are.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 9:42AM
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RE: pinkpaula - do you have no space before the tunnel to park? E.g. isn't your house set back a bit further from where the driveway starts?

Yes, we can park from the front edge of our porch to the sidewalk, which is 20 feet. However,with a fence on the property line, we couldn't open the driver's side car doors unless we actually went off into the lawn on the right side of the driveway. This isn't good for our landscaping. We could make some changes in the yard if necessary, but it would involve cutting down a 50+ year old tree in order to expand our driveway even two feet. THAT would be a true sacrifice. I don't think our city arborist would approve taking down a healthy, beautiful tree. So, I guess we will just have to learn to drive through the tunnel every day and to ask our guests to park on the street.

We just have to wonder why someone would build a fence which abuts the edge of our driveway when they have a HUGE open yard and could easily build the fence 1 little foot inside their property line. And, yes, we have politely talked to them about the situation. We get a big smile and a smug laugh. Then they change the subject.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 10:46AM
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I'm going to avoid getting a survey...cause i heard they're very expensive

A survey is less expensive than building a fence, then having to take it down. You can't go by markers. During the building of one home, one neighbour kept pulling out my survey pins--as if that would change what was his and what was mine! Turns out he was trying to coverup that his asphalt driveway was partially "mine." I let him use it anyway.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 11:11AM
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pinkpaula, building the fence inside their property line could come back to bite them later. A future owner of your house might eventually try to claim that strip of land, based on their using it and caring for it. Maybe you could offer to have a legal agreement written up, that gives you use of the land for a period of time for a nominal rent, and precludes a future claim on it.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 11:57AM
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sweet tea - excellent advice, thank you. I've been thinking along the same lines. Just do all my research, find out what's what and then start building one day. They go out of town a few times per year and probably have one coming up (Spring break?) so it would be ideal to do it then (if I only do it in the one spot) unless their cars are parked there. But then even if they are parked there, in theory the fence could still go up as long as the builders are careful.

Re. the gossiping about them: I suppose it would be silly to deny that ;) however you must understand we're talking about one abuse after another since the year 2000. But even then, it's more subtle than that. There's been a strong sense of community as a whole, and they're invited to all parties and we all put up a good front. We - my husband and I and yes even some of the other neighbors who've been hurt/offended by them - have forgiven them SO often (always to stay sane and/or avoid awkwardness). With the exception of this last conflict, they've always believed I've been on friendly-enough terms I think, mainly because my behavior seems to indicate I'm allowing them to be the alfa wolves and I just stay friendly. The other thing is that there is one household across the street that is close with them (very nice family to all of us though) and I'm close with a couple of households across the street also. So we each have our best friends (and these truly have become my best friends). So with best friends you end up telling all, especially when you're on the verge of tears, you know? It's not quite like your standard gossiping I don't think. Likewise with my friends, when they're offended by the mean neighbors. And remember - we're talking about people who make a point to act superior and then have been forgiven countless times - literally countless times. I've often wondered if there's more to them than meets the eye; if they really do have hearts or have had bad childhoods or just don't trust anyone or are really depressed/unhappy...I've often used these "visualizations" to help me forgive them on these many occasions. But in the end, selfish people are just selfish people and I'm past caring if they wonder if they're being gossiped about. Everyone on our block is mature and kind in general and there's no childish behavior so they have no reason to suspect gossip unless they're simply aware that they deserve it and assume we MUST be complaining.

But yes it's clear they don't like us so I"m sure they'll benefit from the fence, once they get over being pissed about it and start moving plants over a few inches (just as I'll have to) in order to get out of their cars more easily.

The "good fences make good neighbors" quote is from Robert Frost, which I liked you all to at the top of this thread in fact! The poem is really saying good fences DON'T make good neighbors, which is why I feel sad that I'm going to have to build one and be more closed off instead of as open and inviting as we've always been. See link below to the poem:

Here is a link that might be useful: Good fences make good neighbors...

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 12:31PM
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Hmmmm, you're right. I suppose if I had the big yard, I would want what was rightfully mine, too. It is best to stick to what is legal, and, at the same time, try to be a considerate neighbor. After all, when we bought the house we knew where the property lines were.

I think if the real estate market was better, I would try to move out to the country. I would be willing to bet, however, that there are just as many boundary disputes out there, too.

theresse, let us all know how your situation plays out.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 12:40PM
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riverspots - the neighbors have a half-rottweiler and barks all the time. I have 3 small kids and much as I've always loved dogs, am SO not adding to our already too-large family. Another entity of any kind would probably push me over the edge! Love the invisible fence idea though. ;) For the neighbors, that is. Invisible electric fence would be even better!

graywings - thank you. :) I do love that about our block - that we can sometimes all just come together on a warm late afternoon...a bottle of wine and glasses will get passed around while the kids take their big sticks of colored chalk and color up the sidewalk. Sometimes one or two of us will get out a guitar or other instrument, sometimes we'll just turn on a little Bach, Coltraine, Dixie Chicks or what have you from inside the house for that extra bit of ambience. The neighborhood's beautiful and living in the NW, when we get blue skies we all get a little excited and come together. Including the meanies next door. I wish they'd try being kinder more often (they try on occasion but it never lasts long)...they don't really dislike others so much as just...probably consider pleasantries to be superficial and unnecessary (that's how intellectual they are or consider themselves) as well as are just naturally indifferent/aloof.

pinkpaula - oh I wouldn't want to tear out a beautiful old tree either! I'm guessing your neighbors would be disappointed if that tree of yours disappeared too. Have you thought of talking to them from that perspective, or are they that awful that they wouldn't care about the tree? Is there no way to park just beside the tree without hurting its roots? Probably not. I'm sorry...

Worthy - yes a survey would be less expensive than that but I'm willing to take my chances if everything else checks out and looks consistent. In other words if I go measure a few lawns in a row and everyone's checks out as the same distance or something like that. My neighbors just built a fence in the back of our driveways, and built it right up to the center line on their side. As I was saying earlier they're the litigious types so wouldn't have done that without being sure of the line. That doesn't mean they wouldn't raise hell or double-check themselves after my fence is built, of course. Anyway, I'll do the best I can to get my ducks in a row. I realize getting a survey is A+ advice. There's no question of it. Our lots are very cut & dry though. Not from front to back as clearly (though still cut & dry), but from side to side they're more obvious.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 12:52PM
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I would be able to deal with these people as maturely as you are.

What I meant to type was: I would NOT be able to deal with these people as maturely as you are doing.

The only positive thing I can say is that it's wonderful these two people found each other . . .

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 8:47AM
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theresse, quite true that not all New Yorkers are like your neighbors, however, all too many do indeed behave in that manner....which is the main reason WHY we moved to a rural area in NJ.

That said, there are bully's everywhere...and your bully neigbor is the passive agressive type. Doesn't it just gall you when someone acts as if it is THEIR right and not yours to decide how your property is treated?

That said, IMO, a partial fence is a great idea. If you can find a record of the distance of your house from the property line, perhaps you can just simply measure.

As far as the surveillance camera....if you have a video camera...or if you can borrow one, set it up in your car to record every time you park. Sooner or later it will catch the neighbor at his favorite sport, the door bang.

You can then either approach the neigbor once again, video camera obviously rolling (so he KNOWS he is being recorded and you don't risk breaking any law by doing so), show him the evidence, and ask him politely to pay for the damage.

This will given him the chance to grow up and take responsibility for his actions, and avoid a charge of malicious mischief.

If he refuses, take it all to the police, and file charges for property damage.

As I said, once the police come knocking on his door, my guess is he is not going to want a record in exchange for satisfying his juvenile urges to ding your doors, and chances are extremely high that the practice will stop...

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 10:54AM
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I just had to link to this article in today's news...very "on point" with regard to the NYC attitude about property damage...


"STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Two of New York's Strongest earned a different title -- New York's Slimiest -- after they clobbered an SUV parked in Great Kills with their city garbage truck, surveyed the damage and scurried off.

The SUV's owner, Mario Fugallo, caught the action on two separate surveillance cameras, but a month later, the city still hasn't made good on the $3,000-plus damage, he told the Advance...."

Here is a link that might be useful: Sanitation workers caught on video backing into SUV, fleeing

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 11:01AM
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In the Washington DC area a full-yard survey costs about $400, and getting one edge of a property surveyed can cost as little as $100 -- check with survey companies in your area for pricing; it's a bit more if they will need to put in new end mark-ers.

Having that done gained me four feet of land along a 130-foot line -- the neighbor based his version of the boundary on extrapolation from the markers across the street, and my surveyors found the REAL markers.

I certainly would not put in a fence -- which could run you hundreds if not thousands of dollars -- without putting in that small invest-ment to know where your property line truly falls.

It's not uncommon for houses not to be centered on the lots around here -- my driveway also is hard up against the property line on the other side of the lot.



    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 1:57PM
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Thank you so much everyone graywings, logic and lynnt! I'm short on time at the moment or I'd write more. Excellent advice/feedback as always.

What would I do without this forum??!


    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 3:42PM
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Are you sure you're not "cutting off your nose to spite your face?"
In other words, are you sure your quality of life would truly be improved by a fence?

I'm just asking -- not judging. Only you can answer that.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 3:44PM
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Hi sweeby -

I think my quality of life would only be improved if I was sure to leave myself enough room to get out of the car since the fence would be on MY left! If it's too big a project to scoot over to the right a bit (e.g. if paving over a little bit of my yard is too big a project), then yes, it could end up not worth it. But they often park right next to me and I still manage to get out, albeit somewhat carefully.

But I tell you, if building a fence *would* actually leave me room to get out easily, I would also love having a fence there (I'm now thinking only the length of my car or a bit longer...but I'm no longer thinking about the whole driveway yet just in case I can't terminate the easement - which I don't know yet)...because it would mean I wouldn't have to see them so much when in my front yard or sitting on my stoop. When I see them my hearts sinks. It's always very awkward. Even before the drama they never said hi. It's just yuck yuck yuck. They're the only ones cutting off noses (that would be MY nose - or my car's nose at any rate) I promise. ;)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 6:04AM
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Have you thought about the expense of the fence and extending your driveway, v. fixing the dings in your car?

How about just pounding some three foot high metal stakes in the ground so that when they open their doors they ding the stakes instead of your car? (Check to see if that's legal.)

It occurred to me that maybe they are still mad, after ten years, that their friends who wanted to buy your house lost out to you. I know that's a long time to carry a grudge, but it is certainly possible. (Not that it excuses their horrible behavior.)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 10:49PM
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pinkpaula, have you considered asking your fence-building neighbor to sell you a 1- or 2-foot strip of his lawn?

Maybe that would cover the price of his fence! And would protect his property rights while he was at it.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 2:10PM
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talley sue nyc,

LOL, you haven't met my neighbor.

He already has lawn chairs set up within one foot of the property line (right under our bedroom windows)and a very large playhouse/swingset erected nearby (our guests ask if a "daycare center" is legally allowed in our neighborhood ;-(

In addition, at the back end of his property he built a large garden shed within four feet of our backyard fence.

HIS plans are always the most important. So, if we offered to purchase a couple of feet of his yard, he would either laugh it off or ask for an enormous amount of money.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 4:21PM
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I agree strongly with those who advise you to get a survey done and don't go by current fences or property stakes. At a former house when I had a survey done, I discovered I owned much of what my neighbor and I had considered his yard. When he had a survey done, he discovered he owned his other neighbor's master bedroom. (The entire street was a mess! Surveyors and lawyers made $$ straightening it out.) At another house as a result of a survey, we found that the fence that had been there when we purchased was encroaching on a neighbor by almost 2'. We moved the fence.

Before you install a fence or stakes, be sure to check with the city for setback rules. Don't take a chance in dealing with people like these. Be sure you're doing what's legal.

I've been where you are. Having the neighbors from he!! isn't fun. Best of luck.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 8:54AM
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