Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Because We Apparently Can't Get Enough Of The Neighbor Drama

Nope, it's not even the same neighbor as last time. Let me see if I can break this latest episode of Rural Soap Opera down for you. We own 5 acres. The property is basically rectangular, plus a long driveway from our main, fenced lot to the public street. It looks like this:

property lines

The large rectangle on the bottom represents our fenceline. We have a 6' chain-link around that entire perimeter. Our property line actually lies outside the fenceline, anywhere from several inches to a foot and a half. The upper, smaller rectangle in the picture indicates our driveway, which is part of our deeded property. The houses on both sides of the drive have access from the public road, and the driveway leads ONLY to our house. Seems simple, no?

Just to the right of the lower portion of that upper rectangle, there is a double-wide mobile home. It's a nice one, and well-kept, and we understand that it belongs to the property-owners' son (the property owners' house is up closer to the street), who lives there with his wife or girlfriend, and has custody of his kids every other weekend or so. We knew when we moved in that there might be some confusion over just whose driveway that is, because the previous owners of our house had allowed the neighborhood kids to ride skateboards down the driveway, and generally just include it in their play area. The skateboard thing scared me to death, because I didn't want a child cracking his skull open on my property if I could help it. We began keeping the large drive-gate close, which kept stray kids and dogs out of the fenced area, but they kept using our driveway. But, no harm, no foul, and we want to be good neighbors, so for two years we haven't said anything.

Cut to this past Saturday, noon, and a knock on our door, which reveals Angry Neighbor Dude, demanding to speak to Alex. When Alex went outside, he was greeted with the guy feeling the hood of Alex's truck, and saying, "THIS THING IS STILL WARM!" Alex had been out in the wee, WEE hours of the morning to check his game cameras before the opening of turkey season, but his truck had been parked for a couple of hours at that point--in fact, he'd been sound asleep for all that time, happily napping. In response to Alex's blank stare, Angry Neighbor Dude essentially accused Alex of running over and killing his small dog.

Have I ever mentioned that we are, literally, the ONLY people on this entire street who do NOT let our dogs run loose, ever? I'm sure I have. And sadly, there's not even a leash law out here, so we can't even call the county animal control officer unless we caught a dog doing some sort of damage on our property. This particular family has had a succession of small Jack-Rat looking dogs, who charge us, barking, whenever we drive or walk up and down our own driveway every single day. As a matter of fact, this same guy suspected us of having SHOT one of his little dogs soon after we moved in. Shooting a pet dog--dead! Us! Can you imagine? We can't. We told him at the time that we are dog lovers, and would never, ever do something like that. I don't know if he ever really believed it, but it made me sick that anyone would even think such a thing.

As near as we can figure, Angry Neighbor Dude came outside around noon that day to find one of his little dogs lying dead next to his porch, and the first place he came was down to our house to FEEL OUR TRUCK. Which, by virtue of us not owning a garage, sits out in the sun all the time, so doesn't really have a lot of opportunity to feel COOL. That "warm" truck was all the evidence he needed, and he laid into Alex. In the ensuing discussion, Angry Neighbor Dude talked about how his dogs chase cars all the time, and revealed that, just days before, his OTHER dog had been run over (but survived) when it "ran up under the school bus." I don't know about you, but at some point in this process, I'd have to start questioning my animal husbandry techniques.

But no, he wasn't taking any responsibility for his unfenced, unleashed, car-chasing dogs, he was looking for someone to be ticked off at. And he never did believe anything that Alex said, but eventually went away saying that Alex had probably hit his dog without realizing it, because he was probably driving too fast and not paying attention. It was during this diatribe that Alex noticed him referring to our driveway as "that easement." Alex could tell that there was no use arguing or nit-picking with the guy at the time, so just told him he was sorry about his dog, but had not seen the animal at all that morning (though he HAD seen the bus-runner, who is apparently a really slow learner).

The talk of the "easement" really got to bothering us, because our driveway just isn't an "easement." It's our driveway. Yes, it's been convenient for these people to use our driveway as their own, and we hadn't really minded, but we thought everyone understood that it IS ours. The two houses on either side of our drive have their OWN driveways with access to the public street, in front. There are no drives or paths of any kind leading off our driveway. Our driveway leads ONLY to our house. The only potential I see for confusion is that our driveway is asphalt, like the main public road, so might, to a casual observer, look like another road. Except for the fact that there is no street sign on it, just our mailbox. And, starting now, a "PRIVATE DRIVE" sign. It's certainly never been an issue for UPS, Fed-Ex, or the US Postal Service.

So Alex wrote Angry Neighbor Dude a nice, polite note, explaining to him that as "dog people," with 6 dogs of our own living here, we have extreme compassion for our pets and those of others, which is why we KEEP OUR DOGS AT HOME, and that if we HAD hit his dog as it ran up under our truck as it did every single day, we'd have certainly had the decency to knock on his door and inform him of the fact, and make sure to shield his children from the incident if they happened to be there at the time. He also explained, in what I thought were non-confrontational terms, that our driveway is not, in fact, an "easement" of any kind, but our own personal, private property, and attached copies of our deed, legal description, and survey to illustrate the fact. I hope that will resolve some confusion and not add fuel to any grudge.

So now, that's neighbors on TWO sides of us who dispute what actually belongs to us and what doesn't (the people on the other side of us think that OUR fence is "shared property," when in fact it is a good foot to a foot and a half WITHIN our property line). And the sad thing is, they're all wrong, and we have the paperwork, all publicly recorded, to prove it. Hopefully that will be enough, and we won't have to build a moat.


  1. Holy hell honey.
    Doesn't seem too difficult to me, but you never know about some people.
    Sounds like y'all are dealing with it the only way you can without causing some serious neighbor issues.
    I would post some really hard to miss PRIVATE PROPERTY type signs and hope for the best.
    I'll be thinkin' of ya!

  2. Geez, surrounded by morons, apparently. I don't understand people that let their dogs run all over creation. Infuriating. Then they have the nerve to bitch when something happens?!

  3. I can't tell you how many times we have fantasized about a mote. Swear to god, if we ever win the lottery we will have an 8 foot tall brick and mortar fence with razor wire across the top. Or a mote stocked with crocodiles.

    Neighbors suck.

  4. This is what has always scared me about buying a place - NEIGHBORS.

    Eeek. :(

  5. Rachel--totally on the agenda.

    Karl--not morons, but just stuck in this "country" mindset. Bear in mind that a LOT of people move out to rural areas like this BECAUSE they're wanting to escape the confines (and rules and ettiquette) of city living.

    sleeping mommy--A moat sounds better all the time.

    slackmistress--and in this economy, you're pretty much stuck with 'em, unless you can just afford to buy a second house and move. Because I don't think we'll be convincing anyone to pay what we did to live this close to the goat farm up the road.

  6. And yet I've lived in a townhouse with a shared wall and had no problems (outside of the guy who likes to blare his base in his car when he comes home at midnight) for six years.

    My experience, via my parents, is that folks who decide to live out a "fur piece" in the country do so because a) they have animals and need the room; or b) they can't get along with other folks. You guys seem to be the former and your neighbors are the latter...and unfortunately, I doubt that's going to change any time soon.

    May the Force be with you and Alex.

  7. Wow, Belinda...it's almost like an echo in here. ;-P

  8. My parents have had their share of fence line arguements over the years. Me, I would close off my drive with a chained and locked gate, especially if they have other access to their property. I would definitely settle legally with neighbor #1 about the fence and have it ended once and for all. A little survey and showing of the proper markers would end that, which is what my parents had to do when one of their neighbors got mad about the tearing down of the old fence and placement of the new fence. Old fence had been in the ground since the house was built in the '60s!! Good luck and I hope it settles down with your neighbors.

  9. Could be worse. Your neighbors could be your in laws. They don't even knock.

  10. Send a registered letter to each of your neighbors, with a copy sent to the county, that describes (in very nice terms) the property lines and says in very specific terms that that fence is 1 to 2 feet within the property lines, but you consider the outside two feet yours as well, and that the driveway and x feet on either side are your property, as well. With the plat and survey.

    You do *not* want to get into a scene about "adverse possession". Make sure this is very clear.

  11. I have absolutely no advice to offer, so I will just say that those people are obviously MADE OF SUCK.
    And I will be happy to come and tell them so, although I will pretend not to be doing it on your behalf.
    I can make something up. I used to be really good at that sort of thing. :)


  12. Oy. This is bringing back bad memories of living in L.A....

    Hope it's better soon!

  13. Yeah, I've got nothing in the way of advice. Just sympathy. Neighbours can either be delightful, or an enormous giant pain in the ass.

    We were afraid we'd need a moat when we moved a year ago, because the house had been unoccupied for so long that the neighbourhood teenagers were using the front lawn as a throughfare and the back lawn as a drinkin' pit. We did put up a fence (a couple of feet inside the line) and made a point of going out and saying hello whenever someone stepped onto our "patch". After some early hazing (including one drunk punk throwing a rock through our window, which was NOT fun) things settled down and 99% of our neighbours are lovely people.

    Sending you luck. And wishing canker sores on your asshat neighbour.

  14. Oh Belinda, how frustrating. Even more so because you, Alex and Bela care soooo much for animals, and to be accused of killing a little dog is disgusting.

    Hopefully the letter does the trick. That is, if Angry Neighbor Dude bothers to read it. He doesn't sound very bright.

  15. Jesus Mary and Joseph. Did you happen to get your place for an *extremely* reasonable price perchance?

  16. Oh my gosh, I would be ready to hurt someone in your shoes! GAH! I say you electrify the gate and see what happens.

  17. Private Property signs and/or Private Drive signs -- definitely. You'd hate to end up with trouble because of prior misconceptions that this was, indeed, an easement. Good luck.

  18. It's my considered advice that a nice electrified fence oughta add fuel to the fire. No, wait, that's not what I meant. What sheer jackassery.

    Hmm. No Tresspassing signs? Dunno. Sux. Sorry.

  19. Devra (stubborndev)March 26, 2008 at 2:01 PM

    One of my worst fears is that the land next to us will be developed one day and we'll have to deal with sh*t like this. Our fence rambles on either side of our property line and so we'll have to redo it one day, I'm sure. Maybe we'll be lucky enough to move (to a bigger piece of land) before then. Lots of no trespessing signs. Especially the ones that say "trespassers will be shot. and survivors will be shot again." Heh.

  20. Oh Man.
    I once had a neighbor who had two pit bulls that they left outside all day in the backyard. The yard was fenced, but the dogs could look on to our property... and BARK ALL DAY LONG at us, especially when we were outside. At one point, one of the dogs tried to JUMP the fence.... and that was enough for me to call the Humane Society.

    We are not in rural land.. we are pretty much suburbia, right outside of SF. The dogs wanted attention and their owners were at work all day.... so the attention they got was barking at us.

    I cursed these neighbors out MANY times.... and then finally moved. I just couldn't take it anymore.

    Fighting with neighbors is exhausting... good luck.

  21. Holy hell, you have feral neighbors, too? I think your neighbors are a few cards short of a full deck. What sane person would immediately jump to the conclusion that you killed his dog when the dog chases any car it can find?

    It's good you have all of the legal paperwork to back up your claims to your property. We had feral neighbors next to us who let their kids run wild in our side yard. They had a postage stamp sized lot, while we have a large lot, so the neighbors adopted our yard as theirs. The kids destroyed our yard, broke our fence, damaged our tree, etc.

    When we'd tell the kids to stop kicking their ball against our house, or stop climbing our fence, their parents would come out and scream obscenities at us. They even said at one point that they had a right to use our yard because their four kids had nowhere to play and we had so much yard. (!!)

    Thankfully, they were foreclosed on and have vanished. But we're looking at several hundred dollars in repairs now that they're gone.

    I hope that the letter solves your problems once and for all, but from the description of your neighbors, this might be only the beginning. I'm sorry you have to deal with people like that.

  22. oh dear! what a nightmare. keep the shotgun handy.

  23. Keep track of every altercation; document everything.

    If you feel threatened then call the Sheriff.

    On the dog front I would call Animal Control. Take pictures or video if you can and let them know that Red Neck Psycho is breaking leash laws and that his dogs are nuisance.

    That's where I'd start...and maybe get a new survey of your land to further drive home where your property starts and stops.

  24. Oy. You do have my sympathies. And my curse to your dear, darling neighbors:

    "May the fleas of a thousand camels nest in your crotch. And may your arms be too short to reach and scratch there."

    -Barb 'n Yogi