Privacy and Other Issues

grlwprlsSeptember 7, 2012

I think everyone has heard that we moved into a 1920's house in AR, handling the entire transaction while living out of state. Oddly, no one mentioned this house to us so imagine our surprise when we pulled up with our moving truck. And imagine more surprise when we realized how big and how close this house was going to end up being and how out of scale with our house.

When we put our offer in on this house, it had a lovely garden with three established trees along the far fence line and a black aluminum fence. The garden, and its somewhat carefree maintenance was one of the big selling features to us.

Fast forward to moving in and discovering almost immediately that one of our trees was encroaching on the new build. Two tree companies came out and both said that because the prior owner of my house hadn't kept the tree trimmed properly on our side and it was so far over the property line on the other side, that by the time they thinned the canopy we would have a trunk that might not survive. So out came that tree.

So now our garden is a little out of sorts and the middle maple has really been stressed this summer with its new sun exposure.

For us, we have a huge issue of privacy. When we linger in our garden now, we have a huge hole along the fence, and the neighbors' new windows from their living area give us a very "gorillas at the zoo" feeling.

The neighbors cannot landscape because their house is literally right at the 4' setback. So, landscaping is going to fall to me. Part of me wants to just jack my side fence up to 6 ft (it's 4' now) and put privacy mesh on it. Then, plant troughs of camellias so that only *I* get to enjoy my high dollar landscaping. I know that doesn't seem very neighborly, but they put every plumbing vent, their gas meter, and their AC units right against my garden. In the case of their AC units, I half suspect that their position is in violation of the set back.

Granted, I have to landscape all the way down the property line, but the lower garden can just be cheap hollies or some such thing. We're going to have to rework our beds and hardscape to gain back some privacy in our upper garden.

Is it horrible to do a privacy mesh thing? Or maybe I should do a wooden fence? Would that be nicer? It won't match my front fence or rear fence. They have a large, odd shaped casement window set up that looks right into the seating area of my garden.

What would you do if you had a house built nearly on top of you? We've already had to redo all our window treatments - and then keep them closed all the time! - because their windows look directly into ours. And our back deck? Prime viewing from their kids' bedrooms. Argh. So much for my idyllic park like grounds!

Ugh. I sound bitter, don't I? I just hope it looks better when finished than it appears to look now. The entire house has awful proportions and completely lacks symmetry - but only in a "why is that window 6 inches over?" sort of way. It looks accidental rather than purposeful.

So anyway. The fence. Go with a higher version than my current 4 ft. black aluminum with mesh or go with a totally different fence along our shared property line?

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If it were me, and its allowed, I would put up a nice tall privacy fence. Maybe the other one can be saved to use elsewhere on your property.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 4:49PM
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OH, what a miserable discovery. I'm sorry. I'd put up the fence that gives you the most privacy and that you find the most aesthetically pleasing, regardless of whether it matches fencing elsewhere on the property. Treat that area like a separate "room". I'd also look into purchasing some very large pots (I mean giant pots, like 3-4 feet tall) and planting a tree in each one. Strategically place them on your terrace to minimize the neighbor's views. A couple of grouping of pots, with a tree in one, a shrub in a slightly lower one, and a mix of plantings in a third slightly lower pot, would be aesthetically pleasing and give you a sense of being less on-stage.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 5:03PM
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I would probably make a bed all the way down the fence and plant a very fast growing tall evergreen plant like bamboo or arborvitae or whatever is like that and grows in your location. The dense plant material would not only block the view, but would help block sound also.

I'm sorry your dream home has been somewhat spoiled by thoughtless neighbors. Unless you surround yourself with acreage, there seems to be no way to ensure privacy these days.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 5:05PM
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Gosh. That almost sounds like something that should have been disclosed and that you should have recourse on if it wasn't. Probably just wishful thinking on my part. I'd be really upset if I were you. Such a shame.

I would take your question over to the garden forum, maybe even the landscape design forum, and see what ideas they might have over there. They will want good pictures of your house, yard, lot, etc. but they may be able to come up with some ways to help you screen out the house next door.

All I can think of is a tall privacy fence (find out how high you can go) and some tall, dense, trees/bushes to screen the neighbors out.

And if you think the AC units or something is out of code, I'd be calling the inspectors.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 5:41PM
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I knew a house was going to be built on the lot - the new house's address is on the street behind ours even though their front door faces the street mine faces. I just figured it was a very small lot, so cute little bungalow - like the other ones on that street. All cute Craftsmans. I suppose I have it bad, but their neighbors on the other side? Well, they *tower* over that house. If I had seen the plans I may very well have not made an offer since my yard is rather "land locked" if you know what I mean.

My seller was awful and my agent...well, let's just say I would not recommend her to an enemy.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 5:48PM
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All though our set backs are 15 and 20ft, when we put our pool in 6 years ago we had no privacy between our back neighbor's and side neighbor's yards. We put up privacy fences for the short term but it was the plantings that have made the difference. People who had been here in the first year and have since been back in the last three years ask us what we did with our neighbors for they have all but disappeared from our view unless we invite them which we often do cause they are all great. We used fast growing grasses that reach up to 10ft, lots of lilac bushes, forsythias, evergreens and others and in less than three years the issue was fixed. Now it is almost to overgrown:) You can see only a bit of the white fence behind the small copper table in top right corner of pic but the houses and other yard are now "gone". It will be ok but I am sorry this has happened to you. Good luck! Oh if the new neighbors are not nice and you do not want them to enjoy your new yard than a cheap fugly privacy fence is the way I might go:) as long as your side is concealed.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 5:50PM
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This happened to BIL and SIL in WA state. They have a lovely home on a lake. The empty lot next to them was purchased and the folks put in a MONSTER sized home that took every bit of the sq footage and made SIL and BIL's home feel like it was in the other person's house. All privacy gone and views ruined to that side and now have to whisper when you sit out on their terraces...front and back...which is where you want to sit to view the lake..sigh. It is horrible. Even worse the person in the house walks along the rear property line and gazes at SIL when she is sitting out there and comments...."oh you are smoking ? " in a derisive voice...also won't let SIL use her fountain ..." it's SO noisy "...

I couldn't stand it. I would put up the fence and make sure it is a product that has sound proofing...I can not tolerate a/c sounds outside. A good unit should have almost NO sound but still. What a bummer for you. Yep landscaping is your new friend. I agree about the pots too. I am so sorry this has happened . c

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 5:54PM
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Add a very tall fence -- plus plantings -- plus a large fountain -- and an umbrella or two (or an arbor) over your side .....

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 6:19PM
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oh gosh, I don't have any great ideas besides something very fast growing -I think Weeping Willows grow fast too.... but just wanted to offer some empathy. What a horrible discovery right after you move in.....

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 6:47PM
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Well if they were so stupid/inconsiderate to build right at the 4ft setback then all they are entitled to have as a view is the ugly side of your new privacy fence. The fence should be as tall as zoning will allow. I would do it as soon as possible before they get too used to the open views & light that your exposed yard provides. Don't waste one nanosecond worrying about them.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 7:07PM
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I'm really sorry.

I agree with Chispa. Do whatever you are entitled to do to make your space as private and lovely as possible. They certainly did not consider YOU when deisgning and siting their home and its utilities. So you should not consider THEM. Quick, before you even know them and you might feel guilty.

As far as I know, when of the fastest growing and cheapest trees is arborvitae. I always thought I hated these trees, remembered them as looking plastic and oddly yellow-green. But we planted some at our old house for privacy around an area of the pool, and they looked great. Iguess there are many kinds. I will post a photo if I can find it.

Talk with some one local about the best species for where you are. You will be shocked at how well they grow.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 10:08PM
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Your situation would have me hunting up my firearms. Okay, I don't really have firearms, but man, would I be mad!

If it helps, and if it grows in your region, I have had great success with pussy willow. Mine has a very upright form, has grown like crazy (both upward and developing dozens more branches) in the 1.5 years I have had it. Loses leaves in winter, but in summer, it makes a nice barrier that isn't as dense as arborvitae but cuts down on the "You looking at me?" factor between our yard and our neighbors'.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 11:38PM
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Lots of great advice above. If you can afford it, I would not hesitate to put in the tallest privacy fence allowable in your city. I have seen a good number of city lot back yards made very beautiful and private feeling with a fence and dense greenery.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 12:20AM
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Arborvitae makes a nice lush green backdrop en masse. It's fairly resilient and usually relatively inexpensive, too. Willows do tend to be fast-growing with interesting form and leaves, but the roots of some can be invasive. I'd check with local nursery folks to be sure any trees or shrubs you plant won't be a problem for your terrace or your water lines. Unfortunately, oftentimes the fast growers that might be a good solution in the short-term will be problematic in the long-term.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 12:22AM
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One word...bamboo...;-)


    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 1:20AM
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I would not do a privacy fence. I would do a taller aluminum fence like you currently have, and then plant a few strategic evergreens like arborvitae, but mostly plant some vines like Carolina Jessamine (spring bloomer) and the antique rose Awakening (summer blooming) Sweet Autumn Clematis (autumn bloomer) and pyracantha (red berries for winter) to use it as a trellis. It will be so much nicer to look at than wood, and most of those will be to the top of the fence by the third year if you set up a drip irrigation system for them.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 1:46AM
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Is the current fence on the property line? If not, I would put in a cheap wood privacy fence on the property line outside of the aluminum fence pictured. It does not have to be as nice as the fence you currently have. Then plant some fast growing trees and shrubs in that space between the two fences. You won't see the wooden one and won't need to do much to maintain it. When it is on its last legs your landscaping should be well established and you can just take down the fence.

BTW, I think your agent bears some responsibility for not letting you know about the larger than normal building envelope of the new construction. I would find out if a height or size variance was granted. If so, the realtor did not do his or her job and should be the one (or the broker) to remediate the situation by paying for the landscaping. If variances were not sought or grante d and you KNOW the house does not confirm to current zoning or neighborhood covenants it is the homeowners' or their builder or architect's responsibility to pay for the landscaping.

Have your house professionally appraised by a forensic appraiser who can tell you how much, if any, value your home will lose by the proximity and size of the neighbor's construction. It will cost some money but you will have evidence and hard numbers with which to negotiate.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 3:53AM
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I hate to say this, but I also agree with chipsa that you need to act quickly and decisively to preserve your yard and sense of space from them. I know sometimes zoning laws allow things (like 4' set backs) in an attempt to be flexible, but when people push every dang limit on those allowances you wind up with a very "selfish" house designer who ignores the impact on others.

I expect to be in a (much milder but slightly) similar situation to you in a few years. The neighbor on our left has abandoned their house (old man, in a nursing home) and its now at the point that when he passes away, the house will have to be razed and a new one built. I'm sure the new construction will involve clearing the lot of the falling down shed, inground pool (cracked, doesn't hold water very well), and countless other "treasures". It will be good for home values, but I have come to enjoy the lack of neighbor over there and wild, green, viney backdrop that yard has become.

We just finished a massive project on our house and I'm planning to use this winter to figure out what to plant in front of our fence to create privacy. Our fence is black chain link, so not much privacy from it by itself.

For summertime, I am looking at rose of Sharon plants (white flowering) and considering shorter evergreen shrubs under them. We have a lot of fence to cover, and need to be careful that we don't plant anything that grows sturdy limbs because our cat could use them to escape the yard (the cat fence extends 3' over the 5' chain link, but it's so thin it's almost invisible).

Your case is more spiteful than most I have heard of, so in your situation you need to think about what you need and ignore how it might look from their side of the fence. After all, if they cared about having a nice yard they would have allowed for more than 4' to their propert line!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 7:46AM
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Honestly in this situation I would immediately consult a professional landscape designer who has probably dealt with this many times before. With a house that close I would plant mostly evergreen shrubs and trees for year round privacy and then intersperse that with some ornamental trees and flowering shrubs.

You don't want to plant something that will be short lived or cause heartache in later years. For instance bamboo can be insidious- it grows non-stop, is invasive, difficult to eradicate and can take down concrete walls. There is a clumping variety but you must make sure it's appropriate for your area.

It appears that the hardscaping abuts your fence so you might have to decide if you want to remove some pavers to create a planting bed along the fence which in the long run is more permanent and perhaps easier to care for than potted material. However the pots would be beautiful sitting on the pavers in front of the bed.

A note of caution about a wood fence. In most towns the code requires you to put the prettier side facing the neighbor's lot. If you go with a wood fence there are fences where both sides are identical so it isn't an issue. Check the life span of the wood - your aluminum fence will last many years longer than a wood one and it won't block the sun and air circulation from your plantings. We have both in our yard and with careful planting you can completely block the view and still keep your aluminum fence.

I would immediately have the AC unit checked for compliance. You can ask your realtor or contact the zoning department of your township.

I am a Pollyanna and usually manage to find something positive in most situations - in this case your neighbors probably won't be able to landscape much in a 4' buffer zone - so now you can control what is planted and chose things that are pleasing to you. I just hope they don't decide to plant some stupid tree that grows 40' and then sheds stick, prickly things in your yard.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 7:51AM
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I'm stunned. My first instinct would be to move. ASAP. But I'm sure it would be hard to sell your house because of what the neighbors did.

Was this house being built before you bought your's? If so, I'd be livid and I'd probably take action.

Your best bet is to hire a professional landscaper who is knowledgable on privacy fences.

You need a sound barrier also, but I don't know if that's possible. I can't imagine having to whisper when I sat outside.

Get a very tall fence and paint THE ugliest polka dots on their side, then see how THEY like it. :)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 9:35AM
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I would be so upset. :( I agree with putting up as tall of a fence as you can, then planting flowering vines on your side - or any type of trees and flowering plants to give you more of the nature/garden feel that you'd lost.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 9:54AM
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I have another suggestion-contact your local zoning/building agency *NOW* to figure out if any of the neighbor's build is against code. Looks like it is still under construction, and it will be much easier to push to get things corrected than once the house is built. Sometimes that turns into 'mitigation' fines etc since the home will be finished, people living in it etc. And the money isn't going to fix any of YOUR problems.

I especially noted your comment about the AC. Outside AC air handlers can be very noisy and if it's against code NFW should you be doomed to listen to a grinding AC every single time you go outside for the duration of owning your house!

Good luck, the very good advice on planting is wonderful. But I would also do some checking on the zoning too, and soon.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 10:44AM
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Today I woke up to the sounds of construction - to discover that the plumbers have installed the drain clean out lines in clear view of my rear deck - and the dang things are sticking 3 ft out of the ground. They already have their caps on so are they going to bury them?!

As if the view of their garage - a ghastly open carport sort of thing - wasn't bad enough!

Our agent was *awful* (in fact, she never told us that this house had been on the market - all told - for 18 months before we bought it - so I doubt she would be much help to us now). I really feel like I got suckered. I used to live in New Orleans, so I know about living cheek to jowl, but our houses were designed so that our windows didn't peer into our neighbors, etc.

I doubt we'll ever be able to sell this house for what we bought it for unless the market picks up tremendously. I have to tell you that *every, single time* I am in my yard someone walking by offers me their sympathy. From the street scape, it's an optical illusion that the neighbors are closer than the legal set back because their lot is angled. Ours is too, but our house is built at street level along the wide part. The lot's a bit of a pie shape, I guess. So since their house is gigantic and angled, visually it looks like it runs into our house at the rear. And actually, it's farther away back there, but only because our house is built at the front of our lot. Our first floor is a 912 sq ft. rectangle to give perspective.

Thank you for the advice and sympathy. I sometimes think that I am being witchy, but I think that raising the fence line, lining it and then reworking the plantings along the fence line will be the best for us long term. We might have an ugly year while things fill in, but nowhere near as ugly as life will be long term if I don't ask *now*.

Perhaps I should ask their contractor what the final site plan is in terms of landscaping. But seriously, the house *consumes* the entire lot - I don't think they have room for a blade of grass.

I should take some streetscape shots and a shot from the rear deck.

Remember that thread about the "controversy" of infill? I think this house qualifies. Controversial. :-)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 10:53AM
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I think I should call code enforcement on Monday. First, I guess I need to know if a variance was granted to build and maybe I should even find out if my agent should have disclosed any of it to me. I really feel like such a sucker.

Luckily, the neighborhood is lovely otherwise and my daughter is blessed to be able to walk to the best middle school in town. So I try to cling to that :-)

I'm also going to call a fence company Monday. Aluminum fencing isn't expensive and since the attachment posts have already been embedded in the retaining wall, it's just a matter of removing the 4ft sections and replacing them with 6ft ones. And since the retaining wall along the street is higher, the side fence will be the same height. The only difference will be privacy mesh along the shared line and I don't think anyone will fault me for that when they see that huge picture window deal-io looking into my garden.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 11:01AM
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I would have no regard for the neighbors as they obviously had no regard for you. On the other hand, being on good terms with the neighbors is always a good thing if possible.

I'd put up the highest fence that you are allowed and then landscape with whatever grows tall in your area. Non-invasive (clumping) bamboo might be the answer.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 11:09AM
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We have ground cover codes in my town. Only so much of a lot may be covered by structures, maybe you can ask if your area has any such codes and have it double checked if they are in violation. Good luck I know it stinks! It may never be ideal but one day soon it will be better, I promise.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 11:16AM
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You may indeed have a case against your agent and/or the seller if there are disclosure requirements that weren't satisfied.

A friend of ours had a similar situation, and sued for loss of property value. The settlement covered new fencing and landscaping, and the builders were fined and required to mitigate the worst offenses.

So although I'm someone who would do absolutely anything to avoid taking legal action, it might be worth at least an hour's consult with the best real estate attorney in your new town or county.

Meanwhile, please don't plant bamboo! It is monstrously invasive, incredibly difficult to control, popping up everywhere, and you'll be the neighbor everyone hates if you use it.

If you have room, you might want to plant something like a row of Leyland cypresses fairly close together, and then as they mature, take out every other one. They are short-lived, and weak in high winds, but they make a very fine fast tall screen for 10 or 20 years. Plant something more durable and slow growing in front of them, and as they grow, start to take out the cypresses.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 11:57AM
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I'm glad to hear you are starting by calling code enforcement. Monday MORNING! Hopefully that AC unit is illegally placed and will have to be moved.

Also, the advice to move fast before your new neighbors get used to what they think they have--like sunshine in those side windows (and unofficially a view of your garden)--and feel they have a right to fight for it, is very good. Please take it! What they've done so far is a very ominous indicator of their personalities.

Whether or not you end up doing anything with it, I also very strongly feel you should know if you have a case against your agent and/or the seller. An old bromide, in California anyway, is that if you don't want to disclose it, you probably have to. I imagine you have most or all nonverbal communications in a file and on your computer? If you do have a case, just the promise of a lawsuit is usually enough to persuade an insurance company to settle.

As for more skinny aluminum fence, good grief, no! Your problem isn't that someone want might want to climb over it, and whatever happens, that ugly side of a house isn't going anywhere. Plus, that noisy AC may well be staying right there. You need complete privacy over there, and possibly noise control, but don't start building anything quite yet.

Instead ABSOLUTELY follow your call to the code agency by consulting a GOOD landscape designer. There are so many design options and fixes a good designer has in his or her bag of tricks that most of us have no idea of. In any case, I've always loved garden design and promise your garden can still provide a beautiful view out and a charming, private place to relax in the sun--IF you make THOSE your goals. Please don't settle for less. You want to end up loving your home just as much as you expected to.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 12:58PM
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I can't plant anything with an aggressive or invasive root structure since we have a retaining wall that holds our property in and up. Plus, I want something that has a tidy, upright habit since part of the charm of this yard was that it required very minimal attention from us aside from the occasional tree and bush pruning. I don't want a garden I constantly have to be beating back.

We've met the neighbors - they really are lovely people - but you'd think as an architect he'd consider his neighbors' private enjoyment of their spaces in terms of his design!

Of course, I also assume that if the inspectors are coming by, *they'd* shut down anything in violation of zoning codes, etc. but maybe that's not the case.

I just don't know why I assumed that this house would be in scale with its neighbors on its street. All charming two story Craftmans - and then this. Honestly, the folks along their street aren't any happier since their street scape is a huge cinder block car port and eventually, a driveway. All the houses on that street are lovely and very well maintained.

Ugh. Just ugh. Maybe I will speak to an attorney. I surely don't mind dragging my real estate agent into anything. But I have learned my lesson about buying real estate long distance.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 12:59PM
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I understand your dismay. I would be so livid. However, just remember that you could have bought the same property, moved and lived in it for a year and then the house still could have been built in the same place (assuming there were no variances). It wasn't really the long distance deal, it is the lack of reasonable building code in your new location.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 1:08PM
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Our posts crossed. Grlwprls, judge your neighbors by their actions, not the public faces they showed you when you met. I promise you, if it were me who bought that infill lot I would NEVER have put those windows facing onto your patio or a noisy AC unit. An architect especially would be able to come up with many options, and I am very concerned he chose to do this to the neighboring property.

Just be very careful with them. Be charming right back--and tell them NOTHING. Information is power. Keep all of it to yourself. And while you are consulting an attorney to find out if you have a case, also find out what, if anything, you might need to do to protect yourself against the possibility that they could sue you. Including drastically limiting discussion with them. Lawsuits are very expensive, and some people use them, and threats of them, to push people around and get their way. Some people just use them because they want to.

I don't mean to sound more grim than necessary. Just do what you need to do to take care of yourselves and your investment and, in the process, get yourself in a position where, if they get angry and push, they meet a wall, not weakness to be exploited.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 1:28PM
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Ah, my dad's a lawyer. His response is always, "Let them sue you." His area of expertise isn't so much real estate, however.

I think part of the issue that is rubbing me the wrong way is that (good) landscaping is very costly, it's clear I have a very significant issue, and that it's going to be very dear to correct it. I can only go 6 feet high on my fence by code but I wonder if I could get a variance? All good questions!

I bought the house knowing that I was going to have to do major overhauls inside because of a bad 1990's renovation, but I never thought I would be spending 1,000's *outside* too.

I think the deck situation can be easily remediated by potted plants (but we are surely going to have to whisper out there!) but the upper and lower gardens might take some magic because of the retaining wall issues.

Thank you again for everything. You all have at least made me realize I'm not being crazy or petty to think this is a major issue.

Once their contractor leaves today I'm going to snap some other pictures ;-)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 2:12PM
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Sunbathe nude. Be as loud and crude as you possibly can in the backyard. They will learn pretty quick to keep their blinds closed.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 7:33PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Rosie is right. Be charming, but tell them nothing. Our new neighbors seemed delightful until they didn't quite get their way (they took down a fence on the property line without permission and planted trees on our property which I insisted they move-I mentioned that perhaps they didn't notice that their landscaper had planted the trees on our side of the line and could they please ask him to move them). We saw a whole other side to them and we barely speak now. I try to be nice, but unless others are around, they are quite unpleasant.

Definitely call your town/city re AC and variances for your fence. Also, I think you should talk to a real estate lawyer about your agent and the handling of the sale. She and her company should be required to make up the difference in value if they were aware of the plans/building next door.

Good luck. Please keep us posted.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 9:22PM
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As to the AC it very loud the entire time it runs, or is it extra loud when starting, then a more reasonable sound level when running?

If it is only very loud when starting, a hard start kit can be added to the unit if it does not have one. This would cost maybe $200 installed cost. This is an electrical capacitor that provides more power when the unit is cranking on. It also can extend the life of the compressor, and therefore is a good thing for the homeowner.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 9:58PM
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I'm new to this board and don't know the backstory about your move so I think I must be missing something.
You mentioned handling the transaction while out of state. Does that mean you didn't see the property in person? Or know there was a lot next door with a home being built on it? And if it's that far along, did they own their property before you owned yours?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 2:46AM
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juliekcmo - the AC isn't installed yet, but I can see where it's going in and the house right there is exactly on the 4' setback, so there's not an inch to install it without being in violation of setback.

cyn427 - ugh. I don't relish the idea of animosity since I can simply never escape them if I want to enjoy my outdoor spaces.

island - We came into town for a weekend several times while living out of state. We *knew* a house was going to be built there, but I had an odd expectation that it would be in scale with the rest of the neighborhood since this is an historic district. It's address is actually on the street *behind* mine, where the houses are simple two story Craftsmans. I guess there was a reason why the lot was never developed in the 1920's when all our houses were built. It's simply too steep and too narrow. But this modern house with its hulking cinder block foundation (like a raised basement) can do what a traditional Craftsman cannot.

Everywhere I've ever lived before, the rules are quite strict. Even here they are supposed to be. Educating myself about the rules - set backs, percentage of lot use, makes me think they had to get a variance to build and that I *do* think should have been disclosed because the plans would have to be on file with the Board of Adjustment here in town. Again, we all have small oddly shaped lots, but the original street scape allows for privacy since all the other houses are in scale to the others.

We've been here a couple of months, but the aesthetics of this house just get worse and worse in terms of our property - the AC vents, drain cleanouts, plumbing vents, and gas meter! If there's an ugly aspect of their house it is right up against mine.

We had about two months from signing our contract to closing (which we did from out of state and then we moved in a few weeks later). The house started going in, I'd imagine, from the time we signed the contract. I just can't believe that when they started on the gigantic cinder block foundation that my agent didn't even bother to mention it to me. Then again, she was awful (I seriously think she was angry because we bought a fairly modest house) and I already had issues with her since she let a perfect little cottage slip away because she said no one would put an offer in on it. I think, as clients, our taste in old houses was beneath her. :-) Although I'm not surprised that she didn't say anything since she failed to mention that this house was on the market for 18 months before we bought it (I wonder why, because the renovations needed aren't *that* bad - I'm just old house picky). It was really an awful transaction - and then this behemoth next door.

When I spoke to my dad last night, he said "Two words, girl, Leyland Cypress." So I guess that my first order of business will be clearing and planting that lower garden. The upper garden will take more thought.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 9:51AM
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You have mentioned several times about the length of time the house was on the market. I bet that folks that looked at it and the sellers knew something you didn't know.....they were locals and either definitely knew that something was going in next door or else did as I would have and run not walked to another house since I never would trust an empty lot to stay that way and am really skeptical as to neighbors and their "taste" .

My BIL and SIL were determined to buy a lot in NC and build on it. They went and signed papers that allowed them to change their mind with in something like 30 -60 days...can't remember. Anyway they stopped here to show us the pics of the area and the views. My first question to them was what was the area that encompassed the "view". BIL said oh it is a pasture and there isn't anything big ever going to go in there. Then he said the only development was an area about 1 1/2 miles up that road...a large shopping you don't think the person with that pretty pasture that gets him NO income might not be tempted to make it into a subdivision or sell to a developer ??? Right...needless to say they were not happy with me but they took advantage of the contingency and got out of the deal. Indeed now there is more and more development on that road...they were back up there last year.

I sure hope you can get some assistance with sure does stink to high more ways than one. c

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 12:28PM
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Oh, my. This guy is an architect?

I think any person building this house would realize that it would encroach on your privacy and negatively affect the neighborhood, but a trained architect knows much more than the average person! He has been educated to consider all of the issues that you're now confronting. He might be charming, but he is NOT NICE. Yes, he knew ahead of time that your trees would come down, that your privacy would be lost, and that your home value would be adversely affected. What a nice guy!


I would immediately contact an atorney and check into your local zoning laws, and I would sincerely look into whether or not your real estate agent had an obligation to disclose the monstrosity that is going up next to you. However, especially if you are in a small town, be aware that this architect may be a prominent man in the community who knows how to grease palms and bend the rules in his favor.

That doesn't mean you don't have legal recourse, though.

Please keep us informed, and I know I'm not the only one who is anxiously awaiting more pictures of this tacky invasion in your neighborhood.

Oh, and one more thing. I would definitely consider the drainage issues if this house is taking up so much of their lot. Where will the rainwater drain? How much rainfall is going to come off of that roof and spill into your lot?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 4:16PM
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Just wanted to mention that if your neighbors got any type of variance to the law, most communities would have required that neighbors be notified, including the then present owner of your house.

I feel sure that the previous owner would then have had a legal right to disclose this to you prior to the sale of the house since any variance will impact your property and property values. I wanted to mention this just in case you or any reader were unaware.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 4:38PM
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Duh - make that "previous owner would then have had a legal DUTY to disclose this..."

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 5:09PM
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grwprls (I always think of the Vermeer painting Girl with a Pearl Earring when I see your name) - I would google your neighbor's name and also their address separately. Many towns put minutes from zoning meetings and other matters online. You might be able to find your setback info online too. It's always good to be armed with as much information as possible in these situations.

I would also re read your real estate disclosure to see if there are any blatant lies.

Please keep us posted. You have every reason to be upset about this situation.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 5:10PM
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so sorry this is happening to you. It was not supposed to be this way. :(

At least you are keeping the positive things in mind. Nice to hear about your daughter and her school.

Now onto the evil planning, lol.... if the fence can be 6' high, where do they measure from? The dirt? Can you mound up the dirt and make a berm? Then put in the fence up on top of it along with plantings? The berm will also give you a hill to build that water feature into so that the waterfall will help drown out any noises.

Remember, fences make good neighbors. I do think you need to act quickly too, before they get in there. This way they don't think you did it because of them.

I think it's foolish to assume the inspector even saw the a/c unit and thought about any setback rules. After hearing about our electrical inspector who came here one day for final inspection....the front stairs were wet with stain. The back stairs weren't. He decided that he didn't need to go up if the front steps were wet...So, you should check on that yourself.

I'm sorry you were deceived by so many people. I hope things get better soon!


    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 5:32PM
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UGH I so feel your pain and I'm so sorry this is happening to you!!! My hope is they have violated some variance, homeowner or set back rules so you have some recourse.
Unfortunately if not, if you knew there was a home going in there and just assumed it would be like for like or had the same homeowners rules without asking further questions they you probably have no recourse. Every neighborhood and state is different. My guess your real estate agent only had to tell you the ajacent property was owned and there were plans to build on it. Anything more was probably up to you to ask about, but it's worth finding out for sure. I don't think they have to tell you how long the home is on the market unless yiu ask and it's usually public knowledge on listings. Maybe others asked and were put off by the plans next door or fear of the unknown.

Some owners are clueless or don't care how their property, landscaping, jungle gyms, etc affects their neighbors or the value of the neighborhood. If there is no rule against building a giant pink polka dot monstrosity to the very last inch of their property they paid for it and can do what they want. Sucks, but true. Why they want to do that is beyond me, but for some people square footage is the end all. Like you, I'd rather have a piece of privacy and solitude in my yard...until the neighbor from hell moves in.

We live in CA and land is a huge premium. McMansions with giant windows looking right into the windows of the McMansions next door are common in new neighborhoods. Old neighborhoods with charm, small california craftsmans, bungalows, beach or Victorian cottages without homeowners associations are really screwed when neighbors like yours move in and some places they can build to the lot line, block all the light and air and neighbors have no recourse. Then there are other communities that won't let you change your porch light without permission.

Fortunately I don't have either, but my 2 story 1980's track home on a corner lot is build as close as possible to a one story on the other side which is probably only 5' between the house and the fence on each side of the fence!

Like you their home is set back so the side of their home is next to our patio. Even though theirs is a one story they have more backyard privacy because of that set back. Fortunately his is a one story without major windows issues, but their kids room is just across from our patio. Can't see into it or their yard..from the first floor because we have a fence, but I can hear the kids taking crying, whatever and this neighbor (moved in 5 years ago)uses his side yard like his garage, storing tools there.

We do have a homeowners association that doesn't allow any structures above the fence but I still had to ask him to move a storage shed or at least take the gas can and other crap off the top so I couldn't see it from my side! Doesn't want to put it in his back yard because it's ugly, yet he thinks I want to see it from my yard?? I can still see it from my bedroom window and it bugs me...heck it bugs me just to hear him back and forth in that space when I'm on my patio or in the pool. I had to ask him to move a giant trampoline with a tall net around it away from the fence so we didn't see it. It was so close the kids could see into our yard without even jumping and I was afraid if they fell they'd land in our pool! Tried to keep the pool underwraps anyway. From my kitchen window it looked like a spaceship had landed. Wide open spaces on the other side of his yard, but I guess they wanted to squeeze into every inch of the perimiter. Fortunately it's gone now and the screamfest has ended thanks to high insurance rates if they kept it, but I'm always worried what's next.

Still fighting the invasive blackberry bushes he planted right next to the fence. Had to ask him to move those too (clueless that they were invasive), he didn't mind because it was too shady to grow...but not on our side!

Actually the neighbors are very nice, just soooo very clueless. Why do I have to ask; why can't they see it? I can't imagine what it's like when neighbors aren't nice! We're original owners and that home has changed hands a few times and for awhile it was a rental, new crying baby in that room every 6 months. This is the first neighbor who's lived so close to the lot line though. So even if you do know what you're getting into can always change. He recently told us they were considering adding a 2nd story, but it was too expensive. I almost had a panic attack! Which reminds me I should check if that's even allowed. :>)

Anyway...we recently put up a 6' fence for more privacy. Shared fence, but we paid for it because they were fine with the old ratty 5' one that needed to go anyway. Worth every penny and if I could have gone taller I would have. Training narrow vines on it and hopefully will get an additional foot of height with that.

My suggestion to you is to do the same. Just get a tall fence up soon as possible to regain some privacy and so you don't have to see what's over there because that will probably tick you off too, like my neighbors tool shed and wood pile! Then you have time to get some plants growing. There is a wide choice of boxwood and privet hedges that grow tall. Silver sheen pittisporum is very nice and I think fast growning. Don't know what works in your area, but pop on over to the gardening board for that. If you've got the space (unfortunately we don't) you could have a beautiful privacy wall of greenery like someone previously posted in this thread.
Yes landscaping can be expensive, but it will enhance your property and add to the value taken away by the home next door.
Also doesn't hurt to ask if they will split the cost of the fence.
Please keep us posted and good luck!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 7:34PM
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I hate this situation you're in, but please don't plant anything before you research invasive plants in your new area first! I saw a couple of suggestions (bamboo and privet being a couple) and sorta cringed. While there are some great bamboo varieties, it can be highly invasive so please proceed with caution before you plant. Arbovitae can be a great fast-growing screen but where I live it is not without its problems with disease and there can be some other, better choices just as good. Roarah has a beatuful backyard, full of evergreens, grasses, and other shrubs, so it can be planned and executed well. I don't know where you moved from and how familiar you might be with what will do well in your new area but do enlist a good nursery to guide you if you take this route. Sorry to get on a rant about plants but I see so many ill-advised plantings that are spread unknowingly that I just had to chime in.

Best of luck with getting some resolution and I'm sorry this happened with your new home.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 9:58PM
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Sorry forget privet, outsideplaying is right. The inspiration picture I'm thinking of is actually carolina cherry, but honestly I don't know if that's invasive or if it grows in your area. Just love the look of this hedge and it grows well here, but I needed a fast solution and put in a taller fence. Probably a lot of work to kep that hedge neat though

Here is a link that might be useful: Privacy hedge Sunset magazine

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 10:19PM
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So I guess that my first order of business will be clearing and planting that lower garden.

That is most decidedly not your first order of business. Do not make any changes yet that could affect your rights down the road. Your first and only order of business is to contact the best real estate litigation attorney in town.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 4:52PM
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I think I was just so emotionally drained when we were looking at husband was pushing me to list our house and since we'd been on three house hunting visits and had found nothing suitable, ugh. I did ask my real estate agent about the lot/house next door and she told me that the district was very strict. And coming from New Orleans, where it's a "you can't change a hinge outside without a series of committee meetings" historic district, I felt pretty confident that the house would blend. When it (must have) become obvious it *wasn't* going to blend, I was back in New Orleans, dumb and happy. I guess were I a real estate agent, I would have made some inquiries on my client's behalf since I was sitting in the damn living room watching this monstrosity being built while waiting for all the inspections my client scheduled (without her agent's input) from 500 miles away. My agent knew I was concerned about it, but I think her tiny commission from our modest home purchase was more important to her. I guess she didn't realize that I'm a serial homebuyer. My husband and I have bought, renovated, and sold four houses in our five year marriage.

I called the permit office re: the above raised questions, to ask about the proximity of the AC to my property line and to find out if I can get a variance for the fence height. My other neighbor has a fence *well* in excess of 6 feet so I'd love something similar. Of course, and again, it won't do me any good in the lower garden - that's going to have to be plant matter - but in the upper garden, just 8 feet would make a huge difference. My other neighbor also has a trellis along the top of his giganta fence (which is beautiful) so it's another 18" higher. But softened. And because of that, even when we are on the deck which is above his yard, we cannot see in there, nor can he see us. But I suspect that fence went in when my home's PO built their deck :-)

I have also been trying to track down the general contractor to find out what, if any, landscaping they are planning and where. Because I also don't want to pay for landscaping and then they install something that modifies the sun exposure, etc.

And, I guess I should call a lawyer if anything points to having a claim once all the information is in.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 10:19AM
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Marcolo is right of course, you do definitely need to address anything legal before you move an inch on any landscaping. But noticing your original post, they have indeed forced you to already alter your landscaping by removing a tree! If I didn't misunderstand, they trimmed YOUR tree for you, forcing you to remove it for fear of losing it. That would have really got me boiling mad right there, PO neglect or not. Who were the bozos who made the decision to top out the tree rather than trim it judiciously so you wouldn't lose it?

Good luck, especially with the easement claims. IMO they have definitely pushed the limits of the easement, and if they get any closer, nail 'em. Keep taking photos when no one is over there if you haven't already.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 11:28AM
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Please check out Leland Cypress trees before you plant any.
I just saw on a tree forum they grow 3-4 feet per year and reach heights of 70 to 100 ft. They also get wide as I saw them planted along the street in a former neighborhood, before they were taken out they were reaching out into the street. They have since been replaced with crepe myrtles.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 11:54AM
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Yes, outsideplaying, the construction workers hacked off the branches on the tree with what looked like not sharp saws and then *ripped* the branches down to get them off. Do you know what I mean? Like they hacked halfway through and then twisted and ripped them off. Yes, they had a right to *properly trim* the tree, but the way they did it compromised the tree's health. At least they didn't massacre the specimen red maple (although it's new full sun exposure did fry all the leaves on the one side. The tree folks tell me it will be fine when it leafs out next spring).

dorothy, it is definitely a tricky business - I need height, a compact habit, and non-invasive roots!

This morning, I had an appointment with a contractor to do a small drywall project to work on my partial DIY kitchen renovation. He knows the framers who worked on the house next door and he said, "they had to get a hell of a variance to build that thing." Ummm, arghhhh! Even he said the construction guys were like "good grief!" when they saw how close the plans had that house to mine. I am waiting patiently to find out what the process is to get a variance and to find out if I have any recourse. I'm sure all places are different, but to put a small extension on my house in New Orleans (that adjoined the street, not a neighbor's property) we had to notify all the "possibly impacted neighbors" and give them "reasonable notice" to attend the meeting. They could not have cared less so we got our variance without any fuss.

If I don't hear back by the end of the day today...maybe I'll drop down there in person. Seems to me that if they gave a variance for that monstrosity, they can give me one for a higher fence. Of course, it will be just my luck that my new neighbor would object! irony!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 1:15PM
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Look into Skypencil Holly. They are dense, tall and very narrow, as well as non-invasive. I planted one to block a neighbor's view into my patio and it is growing like a champ.

It is really on the other side that I need privacy -- between me and the house next door. Of course I knew the house was there when we bought this one, although at that time in my life I was looking for a nice family neighbor hood with good schools, and not so much peace, quiet and privacy.

When we bought this place there was a mulberry tree growing between the houses and that blocked the view into each others windows. It was such a dirty tree we had it taken down but ever since then I have almost no privacy from that house. It is so close I could easily stand on my patio and bounce a tennis ball off it!

I really feel your pain. I long for privacy and quiet and my house has almost none.

Here is a link that might be useful: sky pencil holly

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 1:25PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

If it were me, and I am a skilled gardener, I would do a high wooden privacy fence. Make the whole thing an enclosed garden feel, add a wall fountain perhaps, or espaliered camellias, but the best of shrubs will still take years to fill in and block out those windows. It could be very nice.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 1:49PM
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Just mt 2 cents, but I wouldn't go thru the expense of putting up a fence or doing plantings. What I *would* do is contact the city zoning board as others have suggested. There's a good possibility the owner/builder 'know's someone' and the whole thing is illegal. If it's a small town, many times it's about who you know. ;o)

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 2:03PM
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I feel certain that if the builders were granted a variance, your seller (and real estate agent) had a right to disclose this variance to you since it can and will impact your property values. This is where you have to best chance to obtain legal recourse, and, in the very least, receive compensation for the landscaping you are going to have to do.

Of course, if the builder didn't get permission for the variance (assuming he needed one), then your recourse will have to be with him and the city.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 2:49PM
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Had a "duty" to disclose; not a right!

What is wrong with me? :(

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 4:36PM
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There is a type of insurance that RE people have but for the life of me I cannot remember the letters, something about errors so part of it is E. DD told me about it when we bought our TH in NW AR because the brainless lazy agent used the sq. footage that the county used to base our taxes on. We should have pursued this as it turned out the sq footage was actually 300 less than county used when we hired a professional to measure and that is a lot of money difference. Make yourself known in places where you can figure out if this build is really legal. It is much easier to dismiss a phone call than a woman standing in their midst wanting information and answers. The county did adjust our sq footage but did not adjust our tax amount. We should have gone after them on that. New neighbors in the next unit doubted the size of their unit and they found they would be paying taxes on part of the next door unit!
I hope you come out of this on the winning side.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 6:26PM
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Oh, for heavens' sakes. Get answers. Take action. Be proactive. Make sure bad things can't happen. Has it occurred to you that these people may have gone looking and found your posts here already and are planning their own action? If your dad isn't licensed in your state, he can still give you some good advice. Take it. (If he isn't, it probably won't be "let them sue" or "sue" since you are not an attorney making money from it.)

I wish I weren't coming across as paranoid, because I never have been. Understanding that some people are trouble and recognizing them when they show up is just part of being a competent adult. Being victimized is not. These people may be nice and are just using their property to suit themselves without a shred of malice. It could be. Until you know, turning all discussions firmly to the weather and the aggravations of moving costs you nothing.

As for "I don't relish the idea of animosity since I can simply never escape them if I want to enjoy my outdoor spaces"? Nonsense. All good designs require privacy from even the best neighbors. Good news in your case: They are not going to be living on the side of the house with 4' between their wall and yours--the one that means their windows will never give them a view into your private living areas and that you will never see them no matter how often they walk through that unpleasant area.

Garden design/damage control. Again, don't plant or build anything yet. Don't even consider diagnosing and treating your own tumor. Get an expert. Just for instance, code probably does not exclude topping a 6' fence with another 4-8 feet of pleached evergreens--a potentially very handsome feature that would make a great background for your patio view. Or just untrimmed small trees of just the right type to be a wonderful contribution to your garden, as you have but carefully chosen and placed for beauty, and not incidentally making that roof just go away. Or another idea--if you have an important window now looking out at the new roof, what would a 3-8' pergola built over that window do for the view? What depth would, again, make the roof just go away when you're walking and when you're sitting down? What beautiful plants that can't take full sun could be planted under it? Those are just a couple of the sort of fixes a pro brings to the problem--fixes that integrated into a comprehensive design create a delightful garden.

(Whatever you do, don't even think of seeming quick, amateurish fixes. Like Leylands--They will grow for 3 years, do their job handsomely for 2 or 3, then become increasingly a total disaster on a small property. That 70' mentioned of towering evergreens--that would potentially be like a 7-story building standing there, requiring constant control. That's a LOT of trimming, and their depth would steal much of your garden from you, visually especially. Local zoning may even outlaw planting them in the first place (although they would be a good revenge on the neighbors--right up until they made you take them down, which no doubt would be after their trimming killed some of them and you had to live with that for a while. Same for lots of other "quick" shrub fixes.)

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 6:40PM
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Errors and Omissions, dorothy :-)

That's a good bit of information to tuck into my back pocket.

later today I had another contractor come by for a second bid and he said the same thing about how there was no way that was built without a variance. So, now to determine that at the permit office downtown. Because as you said, a phone call doesn't seem to be getting much attention.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 6:42PM
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Errors and Omissions, dorothy :-)

That's a good bit of information to tuck into my back pocket.

later today I had another contractor come by for a second bid and he said the same thing about how there was no way that was built without a variance. So, now to determine that at the permit office downtown. Because as you said, a phone call doesn't seem to be getting much attention.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 6:45PM
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Yes, do find out about the variance and code. Prepare a detailed but brief summary of all your complaints, and then call a litigator now. This is a big, big deal. If it were me, I'd be trying to void the deed entirely since it was a fraudulent transaction. Which is why I would also put off the kitchen work for a little bit.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 6:55PM
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Well, I pulled my disclosures form. You have to disclose any variances on *your* property and then there's this:

To your knowledge, are there any facts, circumstances or events on or around the Property which, if known to a potential buyer, could adversely affect in a material manner the value or desirability of the Property?

And right beside it is a big "NO". I would think that a giganta house I can touch if I lean out over my fence could "adversely affect in a material manner the value or desirability of the Property." But maybe I'm splitting hairs.

And honestly, what galls me more is that ugly thing that can be outside a house is in clear view of my house. That's what rubs. Seriously. A little farm of plumbing stacks. Ugh. They could be on the other side and no one would be able to see them! Well, and feeling like a zoo animal isn't the greatest. But no amount of fencing and landscaping will hide the vent farm, etc.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 7:08PM
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I agree, you need to talk to someone who specializes in real estate litigation in your local area since local and state laws vary. DH does this type of work and has litigated the disclosures where he won for the buyer. Sit down with the attorney for an hour consult, and he/she can tell you your case and your options.

The firm who handled your closing may have a litigation attorney on staff, or at the very least refer you to one they've worked with.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 8:46PM
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How confident are you that the property lines are correct? Was it surveyed recently or can you find the corners? I'd also look at that...being an architect you'd assume he'd be on top of that, but you'd also assume he had some aesthetic sense.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 8:53PM
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Agree with Rosie. Time to take action and get the FACTS.

Call the real estate agent, the dept that approved the variances, etc. Don't waste anymore time talking to their contractors or other neighbors about it. No proof they know what they're talking about anyway. Opinion, speculation, gossip, whatever. What does it offer other than fuel the feeling you've been wronged. You don't need any more of that and you won't know that for sure until you investigate. If they REALLY want to be helpful and really know that much about it then they should be able to tell you who to contact.

Can't believe you haven't called your real estate agent yet. I would have given her an earful and demanded answers by now. Yeah maybe she sucked, and that's more the reason to pick up the phone to talk to her and her boss!

Also gotta think about what you want from this. That house is not going anywhere, there is no undoing it. So if you could get out of it unscathed, would you want to undo the sale? Would approval and payment for a taller fence and landscaping do it? Sue for damages? What are you thinking?

And curious, what does your spouse think of the situation?

I'm sure right now all you can do is think about how much the whole thing ticks you off and maybe you're also ticked at yourself for not asking questions. You said it yourself, you're not a newbie at home buying. Painful truth is you can't expect the city, the real estate agent, and the owner building what he wants on his own property, to look out for you more than you did yourself. Can't pin all the blame until you know if it's justified. Well you can, but what's the point.
I don't mean that to sound harsh, we've all be in situations that we kick ourselves about it. Just encouraging you to get the facts so you can act ASAP. That would probably make you feel better too.

I don't see any need for covert operations, don't let then know what you strategy, plans, etc. Why? The proof is that house staring at you from the back yard. Can't hide THAT evidence!

Good luck and please keep us posted. Nothing would make me happier to know one or more of those parties is on the hook for this mess.

Again, good luck, we're rooting for you!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 9:20PM
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BTW is it a one story or 2 with the first floor below the level of your yard? Is the concrete foundation just foundation or is there living space on that level? Naaa can't be..or could it? What would the "view" be, a retaining wall only a few feet away?

Hard to believe they could build that close to the lot line if the grade is so different. From the picture it looks like a sharp drop. Was that preexisting when you bought or did they excavated a lot of soil from that area since then? Maybe it just looks closer than it is, but i would think they'd have to do some extensive geological studies before removing any soild that close to your property.

Can you back up and take another picture? I'm curious to see what it looks like from up by your house.

Would be useful to find out what your property would appraise for now compaired to when you bought next to an empty lot and to have that info before either of you put up a fence or barrier, especially if you're seeking compensation.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 9:36PM
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The appraisal is an excellent idea but ask the attorney first. I would definitely not contact the agent at all on your own--that's a job for the attorney or process server, if it comes to that.

I think voiding the deed is the ideal goal to pursue, if the lawyer says it's possible. It gives you the most options and puts you completely in the driver's seat.

Make sure he knows you purchased across state lines. There are federal protections that may or may not apply.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 9:03AM
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The one big thing I would be livid about is that AC unit! When I was building my home, I mentioned to my builder that the neighbors AC unit would be only 15-20 feet from my patio and my bedroom/family room windows.
He reassured me that by planting some evergreens I would never hear the AC.....
For the past 2 years the AC hasn't worked right, so it runs constantly. It drove me NUTS - I think w/the houses already being so close the sound just echoed and stayed between the houses. I was to the point that I could not even sit on my patio. I love quiet and that thing would shake rattle and roll.
I begged for the thing to break down - just give me one day of peace, please....Low and behold it broke down.
After the repair it now doesn't run as much and is slightly less noisy. But, it is still noise that I wish wasn't there at all.
You may want to address the AC issue right away - don't wait. If you use your patio that noise will drive you nuts and evergreens only help alittle bit. I was ready to pay my neighbor to get his moved to the other side of his house, that's how crazy it made me.
Since your house was there first, you should not have to put up with it being on your side.
Good Luck I certainly understand your concerns.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 9:51AM
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Well, I have since learned that they did NOT get a variance, but they had to excavate into the shale to install the footings for the house. So, I think I am screwed. ;-) And the city will not give me - or entertain - an increased variance on fence height. Yes, my other neighbor has an 8-10' fence along our shared property line, but when they told him to take it down or pay a $12K fine, he paid the fine.

So, I spoke to the project manager. A rather nasty gent. My gentle inquiry was what the site plan was for landscaping between our houses. I mentioned I was from New Orleans and he said that he couldn't believe that I would think it was a problem that the new house was sited it as it is on the lot. Ummm, I lived in the French Quarter for nearly a year and while my neighbors were certainly closer, the homes were built to respect the neighbors! And I didn't suggest it was a problem, I just wanted to make sure we each could enjoy a little privacy in our respective home/yard. Defensive, much? I wonder if other people have approached him about the house and landscaping? It's obvious it won't be landscaped like the other homes on the street since it's all hulking foundation.

The project manager went on to tell me that there will be no landscaping between our homes - because they have a French drain, their required sewer clean out and AC unit. Well, duh. But he did tell me that they are putting up a "wood and wire" rain screen across the opening to the carport that is seen from my house. And I felt like that woman in the State Farm commercial - I wanted to say, "Well, that sounds hideous!"

Project manager also went on to say that our lower retaining wall is 6 inches into the new neighbor's property...about 2' from the curb at the lower street and they could sue me to get it back. WTH?! All I asked him was to ask the owner if we could get together on the landscaping and he just unloads on me! He also told me that their windows were designed to cut down on property crime - when your neighbors can see you and you them, intruders are less likely to break in. Again, WTH?!

I don't want to void my deed or any other action. I just really wanted to be civilized with my neighbor to create some privacy and harmony between our two houses. I just didn't think that the entire expense should fall to me (and well, I can't believe that every ugly thing is on my side so the screening is essential) and I wanted to make sure that we weren't doubling up and/or potentially canceling out each other's landscaping plans, if you know what I mean. So, I guess I am back to being the responsible party.

As for the AC, it looks like they only have one unit for the entire house. I'm not sure if that will be good or bad. We have two units in our lower garden, behind a wooden screen, and they don't bother us on our deck or in our upper garden. But, they're behind a chimney, the sound is deadened by the screen...but we clearly aren't going to be that lucky with the new units next door. They don't have any way to screen them since they are on a steep hill. Yes. On a steep hill. They have a flat area around on the other side, but...that side is their "view" so of course they didn't put it there. Grumble.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 10:57AM
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Well of course the project manager is going to defend anything he has done to the death. He could be as wrong as 2 left feet but do you think he will tell you that or even hint there could be a problem on THEIR side? He is obviously deflecting any issues to you. As stated already, you need the LAW on your side. At this point, it sounds like you can forget trying to settle anything in a civilized manner with your neighbor. Have you even seen the neighbor yet who is supposed to move into this house?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 11:24AM
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How do you know the project manager was telling the truth? Wouldn't you have gotten a survey before your closing that would have made you aware of the retaining wall issue? The guys remark about windows is stupid, and it sounds as though somebody made it up to appease the homeowner--- who should be as unhappy with the proximity and window placement as you are. I would not be ready to roll over and play dead just yet.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 11:30AM
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I think you are at risk of putting a bandaid on an injury that may fester for years.

So here's what I would do.
Listen to Rosie. Say nothing. You don't need to be vindictive (which doesn't seem to be in your nature anyway).

Don't spend a dime. Don't plant, don't build. And don't accept this situation.

Call. A. Lawyer.
A real estate specialist. The best in town.

You may be able to force your agent to help you sell the house, and possibly to make up your loss.

And move. Find a house you can love and live in. It cannot be worse than having to live like this.

I know that sounds radical, but this problem is not going away, it is not going to get better, you will not recoup your losses on property value any other way, and after the initial horribleness, you have a chance at peace of mind.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 12:09PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

All this lawyer stuff sounds well and good, but we have had a real estate issue going on for the past ten years and found, when it came down to it, the way things are written is so fine line, so open to interpretation due to ONE single word, that at $400 an hour for a real estate lawyer, we gave up. It was just too expensive and risky. Yes, it MIGHT have gone in our direction but at what cost?

I'm only saying this to point out that sometimes you have to make lemonade.

Beautiful backyard, Roarah!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 12:35PM
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I don't understand most of the physical issues involved, one or two pictures don't give a picture and don't understand what their digging into shale means to you, but if you want to stay there, and it sounds as if there are good reasons so, you'll just have to fix the worst of this.

1. The AC sounds like the most serious issue. It must be addressed for you to have enjoyment of your property.
2. That "encroachment" of your wall on that property? Possibly grandfathered in long ago.
3. Privacy? Well, not enough pictures to understand why this can't be dealt with. Ideally, I'm thinking a nice old fashioned-looking masonry wall that someone else pays for, but it really seems like the AC noise would be the big thing. ??

Get a real estate attorney to deal with all the people who offered you stonewalling and even threats. Ideally he or she will be very well known in town and very well connected, and of course very knowledgeable.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 1:19PM
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I know spending money on a lawyer seems like a money pit, but think how much you spent on this house in the first place. It's an investment that you need to protect. We needed a legal consult for an issue we had not long ago. We paid $250 for the consult, which lasted more than 1 hour. We didn't need more, but that $250 helped us decide the best way to deal with a boundary issue. (Mentally ill son of long time neighbor was undermining our common bank one shovelful at a time to the tune of many, many cubic yards of soil removed over several years. He can't be reasoned with, Mom is getting old and infirm. We've be neighbors for almost 40 years. Complicated, but we did work out a solution.) I know you don't want to go all legal, but really, you should. Your house represents a major investment of your net worth and you owe it to yourselves to not let 1/4 of it (or more) piffle away because of this.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 1:57PM
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From the perspective of someone who has been paying lawyers for a year in my GC dispute, and someone who has been through undesirable next-door building two times (not in this house - yet - but that's another story).

1. I assume you know to listen to your Dad and not us.
2. You can buy a lot of fence and landscaping for what it will cost to have a laywer involved
3. Do not assume fairness in any part of the process

My favorite point in re #3. IN our last house, the house next door was ruined in a fire. A developer bought the multiacre lot and wanted to put 3 McMansions. The one closest to us violated the side setback. It was approved because our house was on such a big lot ( a double lot) and so our house was very far away from the new construction. WTF should OUR LOT have to do with it?!!

Last point.

4. It may not be so bad. Roll the clock forward a few years when you arent looking at Tyvek and dirt. To someone who never saw it "before", they make think nothing of it.

5. So far, IMHO it doesnt sound as though anyone did anything actionable. When she saw the house going up, assuming it was all to code and zoning, what did you want your agent to do? what would you have done?

6. I know it's upsetting, so I hope I don't sound unsympathetic because I totally get it.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 2:18PM
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So, you wrote that they didn't get a variance.

Does that mean that there are no laws that would have required them to get one? Are you sure you studied the actual laws?

Good luck with solving your problem to your satisfaction.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 3:13PM
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Go to your town office and talk to the Building Dept. Tell them you are considering building an addition to your house and it would be 4ft from the property line. Ask for all the building codes, variances, etc. Find out what the rules are ... then you can figure out if the neighbors followed said rules.

I would have been camped out at the Building Dept the minute I saw what the neighbors were doing. The longer you take to take action the more will be finished on the house and then it might be too late.

And I would NOT accept that I wouldn't get a variance for a taller fence. Hell no. That is why they have a zoning board of appeals or a process for special circumstances.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 3:36PM
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I have been thinking a lot about privacy and your thread (which makes me feel grateful my situation isn't as bad as yours). I live in a home with no window coverings and surrounded by greenery. Up until about 10 years ago I enjoyed a peekaboo view of the saltwater through the trees. My house was built on the high point of land which then slopes to the water, with one waterfront lot (unbuilt on until 10 years ago) between me and the water. Because of the slope, I never dreamed that any house there could ever affect my privacy until somebody with more money than god built a behemoth 3 story home there. I planted like a fool with the hope that eventually their house would disappear. Except from my second story, which is my bedroom (that they cannot see into) that worked- just this year, the plants finally got tall enough that they pretty much can't see in. Then, the last two weeks they added a FOURTH partial story with windows facing my house! I am NOT going to add blinds as I love looking at my gardens from the house, so I've been looking at alternatives. Because of the slope, even a 6 ft fence won't block their views. I found this, which I believe would work for both of us. It looks like a privacy screen built in front of a fence - I don't believe you would need any variance or building permit, especially if it is a "trellis" and not a fence. It also looks like it is built atop a deck, adding another foot or two to the height.

Sorry, long story, but here it is - there are lots more ideas in Houzz under outdoor privacy screens.

Asian Landscape design by Other Metros Design-build Hugh Johnson

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 4:36PM
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I don't have enough sun for bamboo and I know people are warning you against it, but I've been looking at it and people are planting it above ground in either plastic or metal stock watering containers, which can be disguised inside a wood planter box, and are impervious to escape by bamboo - you could choose clumping to be doubly safe. The nice thing about bamboo is that it has a lovely rustle that would help muffle any heat pump noise. I think this is beautiful!

Modern Landscape design by San Diego Landscape Architect Grounded - Richard Risner RLA, ASLA

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 5:10PM
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I think the more time taken in figuring out what to do, is wasting time.

The actual legal options should be clear before anything is done. And yes Lawyers do cost money but in one consultation you will know what you can do and can't. And you can move on so your health is not affected. Your wishes only extend to your fence.

The other guy (your neighbor) has his wishes up to the fence (the property line).

Good luck with your home and surrounding view, noise & space!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 6:41PM
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Well, I've contacted my architect to see if he has any suggestions for attorneys (oddly, our neighbor is one of his old interns). Yesterday, we had a terrible late afternoon rainstorm - so bad that the retaining wall across the street gave out and caused a tree to come down in the main street (I live on a main boulevard between the "suburbs" and downtown, but it's a peaceful main street). The French drain between our homes clearly can't keep up *at all* with the rains from a strong thunderstorm. It flooded their carport and storage area behind it with several inches of water and muck from the higher street level. It also destroyed the drywall that was delivered earlier in the day since the workers just left it in the carport.

I got my first landscaping quote - $15,486. WTH! Like marcolo said in a thread on the kitchen forum "Do I reek of money?" Especially because this wasn't a particularly *inspired* landscaping proposal. Burford hollies in the lower garden and camellias in large "commercial style" trough planters along the upper garden fence line. Honestly, that seems a little amateurish to me since I have zippo garden design experience and *I* could have come up with that on my own. So I can see I need to keep looking for answers on that front too.

That said, since I've confirmed with the city that they didn't have to get any variance, I don't think I have any sort of legal issue that can be resolved. I think that all I have is a privacy issue.

But since this is Home Decorating - on the interior, I ordered plantation shutters for all my windows that face their house. They aren't my favorite look, but I have tall floor to ceiling windows in my dining room that were designed to give diners a view of the garden (and now missing tree), but now all the windows give are a view of the stump and Icky House's AC unit. I think the shutters will actually be a lovely addition to the room, so that's making lemonade out of lemons, right? There isn't space there to do a traditional fabric window treatment and I certainly don't want to give up all my light with a traditional outside mount blind of some sort.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 11:00AM
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Fori is not pleased

Well that sucks.

Have you visited the Landscape Design forum on GW? The Buying and Selling Homes forum might also have some advice. The runoff issue might be a Big Deal and should be dealt with!

And I think plantation shutters can be wonderful--and are probably a very good choice for this issue.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:07PM
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I think, based on the furor of water that came down that hill yesterday and into their carport and storage area, they are really going to think twice about installing their AC unit on that incline. Seriously. I'd think that the water is just going to wash out the soil beneath it since the French drain can't keep up the water surging down the hill. It has to be installed on a concrete pad which will create a barrier than could create a dam that causes water to back up into the window they have in the basement that looks into my retaining wall (nice view, no?) My property is fine since we are above them. They are being drowned by their own water and the water from above them on the street. They also have a flush overhang on the side by our house, so I hope they are going to install gutters since their French drain need not also have to deal with the water from the roof!

This morning the carport is full of mud. I'm not sure a rain screen is going to help.

The plantation shutters seemed to me to be my only solution since I hate, hate, hate having to have the window coverings drawn all the time. With the shutters, I can still have the appearance of light and the louvers give me the ability to screen my view while letting me get airflow when the weather is nice and sunlight, even if it is slightly reduced. Plus, the windows will feel slightly dressed while I figure out the next layer of window treatments.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:23PM
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How is the view from your beautiful deck ?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:55PM
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I've watched this thread closely since I live just outside DC where this sort of drama is unfortunately all too common. I can't give you any real sharp advice, but I'd agree with those who suggested legal advice. It may not be worth pursuing, but you really ought to know what your options might be even if you decide not to exercise any of them.

One of the things to consider at some point would be having a professional survey done. We had an issue at closing on our house about the siting of the back fence, which appeared to be over the property line of the house behind us by about 1 foot. Our lawyer told us that if anyone wanted to make an issue of it, they would have to have something beyond the property line as per the plat on file - they would have to hire a professional surveyor to reconfirm all the precise coordinates. We banked on the expectation that no one would go to the time and trouble of doing that, and indeed the house has changed hands twice without anyone raising the issue. What I'm getting at is that your neighbors also may not have precisely accurate information about the property lines, and might have inadvertently come closer than they should. Four feet is an incredibly small margin (here it is 8 feet, and even that seems unbearably close in a lot of places.) If they happened to go over just a couple of inches inadvertently, that would give you a lot of leverage.

Secondly, just because the new build did not require a variance does not mean that the issues you are facing (particularly water runoff) don't require action on their part to address. You should have the right to file a complaint with appropriate authorities which would at least prompt an inquiry. I'm not suggesting that is the first thing you want to do, but even hinting that you are considering such action might prompt a more cooperative attitude from the builders. Our neighbors who are two doors down filed a complaint with the local water/sanitation commission over the construction of a deck off the house that sits between us; the inspector ruled that there were no significant runoff issues, but the deck-building neighbor got into trouble for initiating the construction without going through the proper permitting process.

Finally, you might also take some time for some internet research. There have been so many cases involving these kinds of issues around DC and in close-in suburbs like ours, that I imagine that there must be a cottage industry of lawyers, real estate specialists, landscapers and others who have some expertise in this sort of thing. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:59PM
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Here are some other pictures:

That's the view from the deck when they started framing up.

This is the view from the deck now. Those windows are a kid's bedroom and their Jack & Jill bathroom. Down a bit - and non symmetrically in a "it looks like you mis-measured sort of way, I might add - is the other kid's bedroom window.

That's the rear of the house. Eventually, this will be mostly driveway since they have to make a turn into the carport, they're going to need a pad that is sufficient enough to be able to back out of the carport. The Tyvex is still covering two large banks of windows that are oddly shaped like the one that overlooks my upper garden.

You can sort of see how this house blends in with a street full of Craftsman bungalows. I'm not sure if they are doing something to the cinderblock foundation since the glass blocks are flush with the cement blocks.

And you can see that I have privacy issues *everywhere*. I've stopped drinking my coffee out there lately. It's just off putting to be so on display. Until my plantation shutter arrive, I feel like I have no choice but to hunker down in my living room with the cheap blinds drawn all the time. :-(

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 3:21PM
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Fori is not pleased

woah--that's a dog. Even a McMansion can be elegant but that one missed.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 3:33PM
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Wow...and all that pavement is not permeable to water...unless they are going with something the water problem is going to increase substantially with that. I pity whoever is at the bottom of the rear hill.

This view from your deck is pretty much what SIL and BIL now have thanks to the build next to them. I can't think how you can fix your patio except with the pots of trees and plants and trellis. I have seen trellis that are free-standing so you can do clematis and small climbing roses and the planters have wheels so you can move them.

I will link one below there are a lot of them out there and that is what I would do to make your coffee time pleasant again. c

Here is a link that might be useful: free-standing trellis/screen/planter

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 5:22PM
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That property was sold 9 months before you bought..
Then listed and taken off again in April.
The plans were in place.
Without reading all the post again(sorry)were you not aware
the the lot was to be built on ?
I'm soooo sorry for you .To buy something and have the
whole feel of what you though was to be change as much..

On the deck maybe something like this~

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 5:31PM
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We had bamboo in our previous house and were having some difficulties with it spreading. On the advice of our landscaper, we dug a trench 18" deep around the bamboo and filled it with concrete. It's roots only go down so deep so that kept it contained to the area where we wanted it. It is much easier to tame than something like privet where birds spread the seeds and volunteers come up everywhere.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 5:41PM
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For heaven's sake, please get the advice of a real estate litigation attorney NOW. Don't want to see you back here in the future with a "wish we had" kicking yourselves post, when it's too late to do anything. The majority of posts recommend at least a consultation to see what your options are. Keep in mind that there could very well be a statute of limitations as to a timeline to act. Please take heed and set your mind at ease as to your options.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 6:17PM
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I haven't read all the posts so forgive me if I am repeating advice already given. Did you get a surveyer to come out to find out the actual boundaries of your property? If they are accurate as is, you've receieved a lot of great suggestions here on privacy screens, plantings, etc. Good luck, I can't imagine your headache.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 6:55PM
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Again, I did know the lot was going to be built on - I was just led to believe by everyone that it was going to be a home in keeping with the neighborhood's historic flavor and scale. I have no issue having a neighbor (I used to live in the French Quarter of New Orleans!) but it's just how this home has nearly swallowed mine (and again, I feel sorry for the folks in the small Craftsman must feel if I feel put upon and I'm actually above their house).

My agent wasn't exactly setting the world on fire in terms of being helpful or informative of local customs, etc. And every question I asked her about almost anything was blown off - so much so that even our 12 year old noticed it. But we were stuck with her since she was the agent for the practice my husband joined.

Buying a house and having neighbors build a house you don't find aesthetically pleasing isn't really legally actionable according to my father. And having a house built beside you in an urban neighborhood isn't really something that should diminish your property value. I suppose he's playing devil's advocate, but as someone up thread pointed out, things are written to be interpreted however suits your client's interests best, but do I really want to pay for that over the long haul? Granted, that doesn't keep me from paying for an hour's consultation. But my dad says he'd put his money and energy into reworking the yard and deck areas and just suck it up (as long as they are not encroaching over any set backs). That said, the very last 17" of my lower retaining wall *is* over their property line, but it's been like that for years and years apparently.

Honestly, I love the house we bought - it was really the best house on the market for me and my family (and it still is; I'm an obsessive MLS watcher). I'm mostly just annoyed that my gardens have been somewhat diminished by the new build. I want to restore my privacy without being uncivil and ugly about it - and now that I know they have no plans and no ability to do anything along our mutual property line...I guess I'm going to be the one who pays to enhance their view and minimize their view of me!

The privacy screens that people have posted are definitely something to look into - I may have to remove some pavers to sink something into the ground and away from the retaining wall. That said, I am *not* going with the company that furnished this first bid. It's really amateurish and I don't think it will serve me well in the long term. I think the deck will likely be an easy fix with large pots come spring and perhaps a privacy screen of some sort.

Like I said, I bought the house knowing that I'd be spending money inside to restore the 1920's charm, but I thought the gardens were pretty well handled. Now I just need to budget to have money for them, too. Sigh.

Still looking to talk to an attorney - other than my dad - for an hour, but I'm thinking not much will come of it with no variance, etc. Having a crappy real estate agent isn't my neighbor's fault either. And, my neighbors are really very pleasant and outside of some egregious *something* it doesn't seem to me that we'd be well served by creating animosity with them. Our kids are the same ages, generally, and it would be nice to have a pleasant relationship with them. (I am so not a confrontational person, have you gotten that sense yet? My original concern was offending *them* by putting black mesh in my aluminum fence, remember?)

I just hope it looks generally better (at least to me) when it's done. I've looked at the plans on site and I can't figure out what the exterior finishes are for the life of me.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 7:12PM
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My neighbor just put in some "clumping bamboo" it is not supposed to become invasive. Check your local garden center for it.
Also, some of my neighbors how's houses sit on a slope have their AC units put up on a platform. So they could still keep it on your side and really that's BS and rude. Oh, they dont want to hear it when they are sitting out, but it's ok for you to hear it!!
Also, do you have any skylights? When I was building on a small lot, close neighbors, I had in my plans for 2 skylights in my FR. Before they got put in, the house next door was for sale, I went over and looked out thier upper windows and low and behold you could see right into my house. Needless to say, I nixed the skylights. I really wanted them, but I didn't want some kid looking into my house !

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 8:13PM
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grlwprls, I am so sorry this is happening to you. While there may not be anything you can do, it might be worth an hour of an attorney's time to give you peace of mind so you can go on with your life there.

I read an article in a gardening magazine recently (sorry I can't remember which one, it was at the doctor's office) where the homeowners had a similar problem with height restriction. They got around it by building an "arbor" inside the fence. It looked great and gave them the privacy they needed.

I hope your kids and theirs can be friends. Having children the same ages on our street was a blessing when they were friends, and misery when they weren't.

roarah, what kind of fast growing tall grass did you get?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 8:41PM
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Yikes I'd be worried if their contractor is right, that your retaining wall is actually encroaching on THEIR property! Just because it's preexisting and no one had a problem with it before doesn't mean that will always be the case with these or future neighbors. I think it was smaloney up thread who said she has a similar concern??

So agree you should get the accurate assessment of the property boundaries. His rain water situation will probably be taken care of by the time his construction is complete. If not, that's his problem...unless your alleged encroaching retaining wall is contruibuting to it. Then it is your problem.

Could be worse, that last picture could be your view, but fortunately it's not.

Agree with the others that raised planters filled with tall fast growing plants would be a good solution at your back patio. Also how big is your patio? Does that table have to be that close to the fence?

That landscaping quote is ridiculously high if it's only addressing screening that side. Maybe taking advantage of what they sense is a desperate situation? Get a few more quotes for sure.

Olychick. Even those with "More money than God" have their issues with neighbors obstructing their views. Have you heard of the battle Larry Ellison's was having with his down hill neighbor allowing his trees to grow high enough to peak above his balcony and "block" his view of SF Bay? I think he even offered to buy the other person's property, but they didn't budge. He ended up buying another property down the block. Can't remember all the details, but here are a few posts you might find amusing.

Scroll down to the one that's titled "Just in, Birds Gotta Sing...." for the first of about 5 posts with pics on this nasty neighbor war.

This looks like a summary and maybe links to the above.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 11:02PM
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Marti8a, I have used a few different ones in different areas of my yard with success. They are pretty easy to maintain but after they reach 10' by 3' I do thin them out so the middles can get sun again. My three favorites are Miscanthus Grecillinus, silberpfeil, and zebrinus.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 11:08PM
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I'm sorry you have to deal with that privacy invasion, unfortunately for you it seems the gardens that were done was counting on no house in that area.

I would use tall trellises in every area where they have a window and make it wide enough so they can't see around it.

I'd plant something like star jasmine on it. Nice dense evergreen in Zones 8-11. If a different zone I'm sure you can find something similar. It grows fast and spreads but isn't invasive. Had it at my old house and had no issues removing it when redoing that flower bed.

How about something like this on the deck

Here is a link that might be useful: Star jasmine images

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 12:19AM
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Good lord I feel for you. Do the type of trellis Oily pictured, I think it has the best privacy. Then add those planter boxes in lyfia's photo immediately in case someone calls the trellis a fence. Good decoy. :)

This winter do all the research you can on fast growing vines. I get very cold weather and I keep a Clematis vine in a large pot outside, not in the ground, and it comes up every spring.

That is just awful. You will enjoy the shutters though, they're great to keep sound, heat and cold out of the room.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 8:40AM
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Don't forget that you could use shutters outside on your deck, too, until the plants grow high enough to hide the view of the neighbor. They will work the same way, letting the breeze through while allowing you to decide how much of the house next door you want to see. You can watch for used shutters on Craigslist for this purpose.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 12:51PM
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People complain about the strict land use laws in Oregon...but there is a good reason for them! Precisely what you're up against.

Privacy aside, I'd be concerned foremost at this point with the erosion and water flow. The french drain abutting your property that can't handle the flow?? PROBLEM.

I can't believe your community code doesn't require a variance for building but your neighbors could be fined for a fence? Have you spoken directly with the building codes/planning department? You might need to camp out at their office. ALL records pertaining to the property are public record, so you can see site plans that are filed and you'll know what has been approved. I'd be on the contractors like white on rice if I saw any variation of that plan without notification from the local government.

I would also hold off on any major landscaping plans until next summer. The winter rains will give you a good idea of what you're going to be up against, and you don't want to put in a ton of money only to find that your yard becomes awash in mud.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 3:33PM
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"the person in the house walks along the rear property line and gazes at SIL when she is sitting out there and comments...."oh you are smoking ? " in a derisive voice...also won't let SIL use her fountain ..." it's SO noisy "..."

at that point I'd have yelled back 'oh yeah, I chain smoke. so does dh - does MJ bother you?'

and I'd use my fountain. drown out the fountain noise with some music...

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 12:47AM
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i think the fast growing bamboo in containers is a good idea, along with the trellis idea. At least while waiting for other fast growing trees to get tall enough. Do some research online - it'll tell you how fast things will grow. I've checked into some desert trees for here - to bar the view of a few neighbors. I thank God that they are at least an acre away! Just the same I've been here a long time before these places showed up and I feel invaded.

maybe a telescope on your deck and they'll decide to put a barrier up on their side.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 1:33AM
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Fori is not pleased

I like the telescope idea!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 10:26AM
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I'd only need a spyglass - at most - to see them :-) Too bad they have nowhere to put up a barrier and, with the 6' height limit, it would look like a LEGO wall or a matchstick fence. Seriously, they would just peer right over it like giants.

That said, I started doing some research and I found a lovely hinged, premade 84" high red cedar trellis. I think I could install two of those with some pots behind them with climbers, etc. Then, where we lost the tree, we could install a Little Gem magnolia in a gigantic pot. It will take many years for it to reach its full height - if it even could in a pot - but it should help screen that corner and provide the maple some shade (they don't care for intense morning sun which is what they have now that the third tree came out).

We have a small pergola over our dining room atrium door that extends into the front planting bed and I think that next spring I might enclose that with trellis material on two sides and then hang outdoor drapes on the open end that faces their house.

We planned to rebuild the deck - because we noted that the rear support beam is rotted (how did that get missed by the home inspector?) and the deck boards have clearly been pressure washed inappropriately one time too many. When we do rebuild the deck, I'll probably do a similar treatment there too with the screen and the pots. The deck is not vast, but I think a hinged trellis with some significant plants in pots should make that livable and not take out too much of our living space.

As for the lower garden...well, that's going to be more of an issue because of the close proximity of the retaining wall, the height needed, and the struggle to find something that will not have roots that will push through the wall. Right now there is just a tangle of feral roses down there. Sadly, even a 7' privacy trellis won't do too much there. That may be a job for plantation shutters! :-)

Does this sound like it would grow in in a way that would be pleasing to us? That's my goal. Retain my low maintenance, park like atmosphere while restoring privacy. I think it is also smart to start this project in the spring - after their house is finished - so I can see what the real issues are upon completion. I can hope that they will screen their AC units in a manner that is similar to ours (low wooden screen) since it makes things more attractive and deflects the noise (although our units are pretty quiet).

Thanks again, everyone. All your suggestions really helped me start to formulate a plan. And realize that I'm not really overreacting about the proximity of this house to mine. The LR Zoo is down the street - not on my street :-)

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 10:52AM
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Grlwprls, I think your ideas sound great, as does your proposed timing. I'm sorry this happened, I know you were shocked and disappointed, but it sounds like you are fully committed to making this work, and I know you will! Maybe you'll actually end up liking your outdoor spaces even better than you would have if this hadn't never know! You have an excellent sense of proportion, scale and design, and everything will pull together over time. (Btw, I'd love to see pics of YOUR house...sounds adorable.)

I have a geography question. Where is AR? I know you lived in New Orleans previously, in a darling place that was at one time a grocery store, (if I recall correctly!).

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 11:11AM
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Don't wait and hope that they will screen their AC compressor. I would bring this up directly to them and ask if they could please screen it as it seems like it will directly affect you.

Since they haven't thought about how they are affecting others so far I wouldn't count on them doing this unless it is pointed out to them.

I know I wouldn't be offended if somebody brought it up and I just hadn't thought about it, if mentioned nicely.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 11:16AM
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Grl, maybe you could try sitting in your favorite spot in your living room, looking out at that house, then placing your hand, palm down in front of your forehead. Then move it up and down, and closer and away, until you figure out where the bottom branches of a tree at different points would be to create a view out onto the patio below but have evergreen foliage hide everything above it. If you like the potential, plan for your landscape design to include trees that do this for you. The closer to your windows they are, the shorter they can be; there are a lot of excellent large shrubs that can be limbed up for this purpose, as well as small trees. The closer to the other house they are, the taller trees or bamboo will have to be. In addition to hiding your windows from the ground and upper stories, the shade trees close to your windows cast would provide privacy all hours of daylight even if someone was hanging over the fence trying to see in.

BTW, bamboo comes in clumping and spreading types. It also comes in varieties from 1' to 100'. I once appraised a property where a long-established large spreading bamboo in the back yard had marched across the yard and came through the detached garage's floor and roof (old lady, husband died 3 years before and stopped mowing, son lived 3000 miles away), totally destroying it. It had been kept out of the house--so far, but the back door couldn't be opened, and it went under and through the back yard retaining walls (destroying them) to invade adjacent properties up hill. That said, bamboo is truly lovely and can take very little horizontal space to create a...lovely screen. Think clumping varieties, though. :)

At the risk of being tedious again, make them fight to keep their AC on your side of their house. Everything else they've done stays on their property and can be mitigated, but the AC's noise will be a permanent invasion. It will come over and join you not only in your garden but in your house. You do not know enough to decide there's nothing to do but seal your windows and install wood shutters. At this point, neighbors and city know you're clueless and are hoping a little stonewalling will just make you go away.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 5:04PM
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I don't post very often anymore but just wanted to say I hate your having to deal with this. I was sad to see that your family left NOLA and the remarkable corner grocery house. After hearing of you moving to LR, I hoped that you had moved into my favorite area of LR. By reading your description (didn't want to mention the area by name as you had not), you definately did and I was so happy that I could live vicariously through someone I don't know other than their screenname on a home website! I hope that you are able to find a solution and peace in your new surroundings.


    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 5:44PM
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Someone upthread asked what the house looks like - here's a YouTube of the real estate listing. I suggest turning down the volume (the music is awful).

I will say that it photographs better than it functions. And, since we've lived here two kitchen cabinet doors have completely fallen off their hinges and all the pantry roll outs disintegrated and/or fell apart. You would think we are a conquering army as much as we've taken out since we moved in!

We'd like to restore some of the interior charm - but you can also see the yard in this video. It was a bit more leafed out when we did our tour.

Here is a link that might be useful: Real Estate Video

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 12:16PM
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Grlwprls, your house is lovely but I am worried that you have given away alot of your privacy by sharing the video. It has your address on it. Is there a way you can pull this link? Sorry, just concerned.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 1:42PM
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Wow, such an adorable house, Grl! Very charming, and it looks quite well maintained. Congratulations! So, AR is Arkansas! (I thought so, but wasn't sure, lol.) What took you to AR?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 2:36PM
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It's a public record that I bought the house, so I don't sweat it too much. You could find me through a pretty simple internet search, unfortunately. That's just the modern world.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 2:42PM
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Oh my lordy, small, small world! After reading all of your posts regarding your LR house, I tried to imagine all of the houses that I could remember being for sale within the last year or two up there and this is one that I could remember. I am so glad someone who will love it and take good care of it bought it. I loved this house from the street and on the realtor sites. I really liked the way it sits in relation to the street and other homes. Just to let you know, I AM NOT A STALKER! I am just someone who spends time in other cities for various reasons and while in each city I explore and learn about the great neighborhoods. The last time I was in LR was last June for several days of Football U so you can understand why and how I spend my time. Now I am really sorry about the neighbor situation!


    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 4:46PM
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I'm a little confused on the concept of them suing you for YOUR retaining wall encroaching on their property. Assuming you didn't build it, if it's on their property, doesn't that make it THEIR retaining wall? Just make sure you don't plant anything or even run the lawn mower over that last 17" of yard. If they want the retaining wall gone or moved back, they will have to do it -- you have no obligation. And I believe any changes they make cannot adversely affect your property. So this argument of their property manager is just bullying.

It's the same as if a previous owner had built a fence over the property line onto a neighbor's property -- that neighbor has the right to tear it down and the PO or NO has no obligation to maintain it.

But I'm not a lawyer. Better ask your dad.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 5:11PM
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What a charming house. I hope you are not having buyer's remorse, which I think we all get to some degree. I think you will be able to solve the privacy problems with new plantings.

I agree, it sounds like the retaining wall is their headache, not yours.

Do try to relax and enjoy your pretty new home.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 5:44PM
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My parents lived in a suburb of Pittsburgh and everyone had to deal with a steep slope. They discovered after moving in that the retaining walls of both neighbors on either side had been erected over the property lines and were actually on my parents' lot. They did consult an attorney and he informed them that the walls were indeed theirs. Unfortunately when one of the dry laid stone walls toppled after a heavy rain my folks had the expense of repairing it - or watching their side yard erode.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 7:28PM
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I thought that I would update to tell you all that after our Christmas Day snow, the snow pack came rocketing off the neighbor's metal rib roof, taking out our fence and doing significant damage to our retaining wall. Thank god no one - human or canine - was in the yard when it happened, because it was scary enough to watch it from the comfort of our living room.

Also we reworked the hard scape along the fence line - just a week or so before the snowstorm - and planted camellias that should grow into a solid hedge over time. Some were damaged when the fence was toppled. The maple was spared, though.

Sigh. We also have major water intrusion under our house - right at the point where their lower gutter dumps out. They are very nice people, but it surely is not fun dealing with all these issues.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 11:37PM
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I would shoot myself. What a nightmare. It ought to be illegal. That's the good thing about having HOAs or strict, annoying local regulations.

On a lighter note, there are lots of houses built very close to each other. I was admiring some old homes today but thought to myself that I could never live with my neighbor's windows 6-10 feet away from mine. So, a lot of people might actually be used to those situations and not mind it, if you choose to move at some point.

I have only had time to read a portion at this point. Just wanted to sympathize. Very heartbreaking.

The snow thing is obviously a very serious issue and should give you a lot of leverage. Whoever is responsible for designing that monstrosity should be in deep trouble ... and they have no heart or conscience.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 12:23AM
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I'm so glad you posted again because I was wondering how things have worked out for you. So sorry to hear about the snow damage. What did your neighbors say when they found out?

Your neighbor needs to install snow guards to prevent avalanching snow. Many areas have regulations that prevent a home owner from directing water from their roof onto a neighbor's property. Perhaps they need to extend the downspout to direct the runoff toward the street. My neighbors dug 2 dry wells to handle the water from one of their downspouts. Unfortunately our soil is heavy clay and the dry wells are inadequate in a heavy rain and the water still flows onto my property.

Here is a link that might be useful: snow guards

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 7:36AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Thanks for the update, but I wish it was better news....the water intrusion issue sounds like a nightmare! At least with time the plants will continue to grow....

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 8:32AM
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I too am glad you posted again with an update, but so sorry for the terrible news. This is an absolute nightmare no homeowner should ever have to endure. It's bad enough when your own home has problems. When the neighbor's house causes your issues, it's discouraging, at best. At least they are nice. Time will tell how nice they really are in terms of long-term, permanent solutions to this mess.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 9:36AM
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Oh, no! I hope that there are regulations in place in your area that will make the neighbors have to pay for the repairs, and to mitigate further water damage.

My dad's back yard always had water puddles after a rain, because the yards of the houses on either side ran downhill into his yard. But the basement was never wet.

Then one neighbor asked for a zoning variance to build a huge three car garage and extend his driveway and create a turn around pad in his tiny back yard--which, in an old urban neighborhood like Dad's, meant that the garage would cover 90% of the tiny back yard. Dad went to the zoning meeting and spoke about his concerns about drainage.

The city sent out a surveyor, and the final outcome was that the huge garage could be built, but the neighbor would have to pay to remediate any water damage that occurred on Dad's property. The neighbor was "urged" to take that into consideration when building.

He did not do so. Cue Dad's basement flooding twice in one month, when it hadn't had any water in it for the 30 years Dad lived there. The neighbor had to spend $30,000 to install drains and fix the landscaping to prevent the flooding. It would have been much cheaper if he had done this while the construction work was going on.

He was furious with Dad and never spoke to him again.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 9:41AM
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My neighbors may be nice, but their project manager is a class A you know what that starts with an "a". I stepped outside this morning to advise him (nicely) that my insurance company recommended against having him repair the fence/wall (as did my father, who is an attorney, since their contractor doesn't work for me, I have no recourse if I am not satisfied with the repair) and he went off on me. One of our tree tops snapped off during the storm and we were advised by the city to put it on the right of way for collection. Which we did; however, at the bottom of our property their ROW and our ROW are pretty darn close, so he starts telling me how he has to clean up my branch that is on his client's property. And then he starts yelling at me about how "he could be a good neighbor" if I wasn't so rude every time he has to talk to me. First of all, I'm never rude. Direct, yes. Rude, no. And he also isn't my neighbor. He is the employee of my neighbors. He says there is nothing wrong with my retaining wall and fence, so it will be interesting to see if he lets his crew set their ladders up on it in its current state so that they can replace all the gutters that ripped off in the snowstorm.

My insurance agent gave me quite an earful the other day about the proximity of this house and its impact on my house. Sigh.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 11:18AM
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Too bad you don't have a recorder going when this class A arse goes off on you!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 1:35PM
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It sounds like you are handling things very well. But even if you did have an attitude, how could they blame you? Really, what would they be expecting?

I'd let my lawyer handle everything, including all communications, if possible.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 1:38PM
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I'm not going to give me response, because you know what it would be, and I know what yours would be in turn.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 2:11PM
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Yes. I know, marcolo. But, since the house went in and they put a ton of concrete out, we've had water in our basement. There was a damp spot high up in the far corner of the basement when we bought the house, but we remedied that. Now we have significant standing water on the side we share with their house. It's changed my perspective. We contacted an attorney after the snow damaged our house and retaining wall. Before, there was no variance, so we had nothing. Until that snowpack came crashing into our yard, that is. And if their contractor's position is that our fence is "fine" why was he asked to fix it? Because "fine" would suggest it is normal to have a fence nearly flat against the ground, right? ::cough:: I am actually looking forward to having my lawyer and insurer do my dirty work. Because they are nice. Really. :-)

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 4:03PM
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In my experience - there are men that do not know how to deal with a direct woman. They automatically think we are B@@ches! Let a man be direct and it's ok..LOL
Anyway, just wanted to chime in and say I'm sorry that you are going through all this and have damage to your home over thier home being built practically on top of you.
If this contractor had his you know what together - he would not have built so close, he would have recommended his client downsize alittle or something.
Your neighbor may be "nice" - but what where they thinking when they saw how close they would be to you??

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 6:47PM
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I'm glad you have some pros involved. It sounds like you could be in for a long haul. I hope the right people do the right things and I will be wrong.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 10:28PM
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"And then he starts yelling at me about how "he could be a good neighbor" if I wasn't so rude every time he has to talk to me."

And I'd like to add. What could be more rude and un-neighborly than building a house on top of another person's home like that.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 10:40PM
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Just wanted to say that I was in your old neighborhood a few weeks back. Had a poboy at Domilese's. I wish you well in this endeavor!!!!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 11:35PM
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I've read your tale with great interest and sympathy, heightened by the fact that a 60,000 foot nursing home is going up directly behind me (yes, I knew it was coming.) What I have to keep telling myself is, it's not my family, it's not my body, it's not any of the really important stuff. Basically it boils down to money. Sometimes things don't break your way and you lose money-- it happens.

I think you are quite right in determining that the PM is an a*** and a defensive a***. This is not a popular project and he is feeling attacked, but that's not your problem. I would not waste your breath second-guessing his hostility towards you. I am a great consensus builder and seeker myself, and it is very hard for me to be at odds with people, but sometimes I have to recognize that just because they feel strongly about something doesn't mean they're right.

Re the water issues, in our area you are technically not allowed to increase water flow onto another property with your building activities. Presumably you've also checked the setback requirements for your area. While my own situation is by no means decided, I do find that attending meetings and jumping up and down (in a rational, consensus seeking manner ) can make a difference. Originally the project was three stories and it was changed to one story-- I don't know if my (genteel) shrieks helped, but they may have. The engineer did tell me that my pictures of flooding in the retention pond did affect his drainage plans. If you had great pictures and documentation about the water damage, at the least you might get a variance to improve the landscaping between lots. In time good landscaping can cure almost any sin, but of course time is the deciding factor.

I feel for you. Right now I am basically surrounded by a commercial building project after six years of bluebirds and peace. We bought a lot in the middle of town because we wanted to be within walking distance of everything. We knew the large lot behind us would be developed, and hoped that it would be tolerable when done. Tolerable remains to be seen-- every morning I wake to a rising tide of dirt behind me as they raise the grade behind us. There's going to be an eight foot plateau a few feet beyond my six foot fence. Landscaping is supposed to cure all these ills, but it's hard to see how at the moment. After talking to the silver tongued developer, I'm thinking briefly, "It's okay! It's going to be fine!" Half an hour later the spell wears off. But-- at the end of the day, it's not my husband, not my kids, not my body. The other stuff I can recover from, and you can too :)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 9:17AM
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A living fence, if you choose the right privets and cedars, cypress, etc, can be totally established in 3 years. If you should have a water issue, you can hide a well in the privets and the tax collector guy will never see it. Don't ask me how I know this but I once had 500 roses and a lot of shrubs and trees.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 9:37AM
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Gwprls, any updates? New plans with spring?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 9:20AM
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Thanks for asking. We modified our flower bed along the fence line late in December and planted some camellias that should, in time, fill in and fill up the space between our houses.

I actually feel like we need a softening layer between the edge border of annuals and bulbs - maybe hostas since we don't get a ton of sun over there. There's no way we can completely block our view, but at least we can minimize it. We just don't have space to really pack the area with plants without redoing the entire yard - which is an expense we don't want. We already had to repair our fence when the Christmas snow came barreling off their metal roof.

Gotta love a $1000 insurance deductible! (not) And, we had to have the basement encapsulated to deal with the standing water and resulting fungus on our floor joists. To say this has been a difficult neighbor relationship would be an understatement, but not one professional - from the structural guy, to the guy who first dealt with a small water intrusion issue before we moved in, to the exterminator who has treated the house for *years* will stick their neck out and claim that the new house is causing us water issues. I am beyond frustrated.

Thank goodness that i just love this house and the inside updates have been very fulfilling. In fact this morning I am working on my foyer accent wall. And the kitchen is *perfect* in all ways. I couldn't be happier with the result. Now, we just need to layer in accessories and the first floor living spaces will be exactly where I want them. Trouble is, you really can't rush that step of decorating. Takes time to find the right doo-dads.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 11:14AM
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robo (z6a)

Your gardening looks great!!

For a few of our problematic windows that look directly into neighbors, I applied privacy film to about halfway up. I know I can take it down when we move and for now I never worry about closing the blinds for privacy and get all the light I need. I see this being used more and more in cities and I don't think it looks too bad from the outside. From the inside I don't even notice it, just enjoy the blue sky without worrying about being spied on by the lady next door.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 12:53PM
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Your landscaping is lovely. :)

I so understand your frustration with losing privacy. We bought this home, on a hill, beautiful view out back ... until 2 yrs later, when a gas drilling company bought the 7 wooded acres behind us. They have zero rules/regulations, and can put their industrial site anywhere they want, with no special zoning. Now we have no trees back there, a noisy compressor station that runs 24/7 ( sounds like a freight train), 12 huge gas storage tanks that spew emissions, and semis that load up 24/7, all on a flat, 7 acre gravel pad. It's a nightmare for me and my neighbors.

Anyway, I hope things will improve for you, I understand how discouraging it can be.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 1:25PM
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So here's the end result. Well fed, well watered, and well-tended. Sadly, our maple really got stressed last year with the full sun and the drought and then, I suspect, it took on some damage from the Christmas snow storm. But we're babying it and hoping it recovers fully.

Our roses look *gorgeous* this year. They are just loaded with buds and I think I finally got ahead of our whitefly problem.

My next job is trying to strip the paint off the fieldstone arch around the front door. I don't anticipate that being an easy or fun job. But I still can't understand why anyone would paint those stones. They look like Disney stones since they are a weird blue grey.

That house still is homely, though.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 11:19AM
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How pretty and charming. I love seeing your house -- kitchen, foyer, etc.

Too bad the nearby house is such a discordant style.I don't remember all the details of the story anymore, but I would just go put in a line of arborvitae. Even if you have to give up some patio space. And a fence too. Why suffer?

BTW I always hated arborvitae for its DrSuess-ish yellow-green color. But we put a few in in our old house and I dont recall the species but they were so much nicer than the ones we grew up with!

In urban areas, they create backyards with incredible privacy, inches away. Luckily the house next door is not so tall. I really think you can make it disappear.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 12:09PM
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Garden looks beautiful and I think your camellias will be fabulous when they grow up and fill in. So glad the inside is going well :)

Here's mine. We just had some grading done and 12' trees installed. Personally still going through the dialectic of learning to live with that giant building behind me!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 2:27PM
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Just a thought - Studying your photo of the pergola area and thinking of your plan to cover/close-in the pergola, (for obvious reasons!), a much more expensive option (!) if the area gets enough sun would be to pull up the walkway, replace with arborvitae, and place the walkway where the plants are, as the real estate taken by the walkway opens your property to the neighbor rather than function as a privacy barrier. You would then have private use of a little more of your yard. Should your lovely maple not make it, and If the current pretty plantings ultimately not provide sufficient blockage, I would - like another poster suggested, put arborvitae there also. sigh...I feel your pain. Have been following - hope you continue keeping us updated when this thread tops out.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 7:45PM
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These pictures make me thankful to have twelve acres, even with all the upkeep! The house next door to yours is just awful looking, at least from the back.

One thing about the snow--- in many municipalities people with metal roofs are required to put snow stops on the roofs several feet up from the eave edge. The purpose is to prevent a big amount of snow from sliding off and killing someone. The stops are sized and spaced according to code. If your neighbors won't install them I would start looking for a sturdier fence, because yours will be flattened again under the same conditions.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 10:12PM
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You have a beautiful home and garden but that really is close! I probably missed it but why couldn't you put in a board on board privacy fence on that side? You could raise it at the bottom for extra height.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 9:02AM
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Since the snow was quite the novelty to my child and my dogs I was so incredibly grateful that none of my loved ones were frolicking in the yard when that snow came down. The sound of it was pretty terrifying. I heard it creaking and then, with a loud *whoosh!* it all came barreling down and smashed that fence flat in an instant.

After the event, the A**hole Contractor said that "they" were going to "handle it" and figure out something that would keep the snow from ripping their gutters off again. Just last month, the A Contractor came back and reinstalled the gutters in the exact same manner - and nothing that will keep that snow from rocketing off the roof should we get snow again.

My neighbor is the architect of the house as well. So you would think he would know about the snow stops. All my Canadian friends were *shocked* that there weren't any on his roof.

I guess it's a design statement, but they never did anything to finish the cement blocks that form the foundation. And the red windows and the brown paint just remind me of a Tootsie Roll pop. And not in a good way.

Sadly, there's really no point to spending the money to build a 1.5" higher privacy fence. The city won't give me a height variance and my fence is 4.5" feet tall on that side. I could go to 6' - but it won't make much of a difference.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 4:56PM
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