Saturday, April 16, 2016

Ten Minute Resolution?

A few weeks ago I was visiting with my parents. One of the things we talked about was how I finally settled with my title company. I had filed the complaint at the end of July 2014; I can't believe that took almost two years. And in reality, nothing was settled other than they admitted negligence and "paid me off" - they took the value of my property minus the value of the portion my neighbors are encroaching on and called it good. After going through a lot of meetings, emails, lawyer consultation, lawyer involvement to a small degree, a survey, an appraisal, fencing estimates, ad nauseam, I knew that the sum they offered me a few weeks ago was going to be as far as I was going to get with them, and I took it. So that part is finally over. Unfortunately, it didn't garner me any more of my property. That's up to us.

The conversation then turned to moving our fence so that we can gain as much back as possible. Despite knowing how horrible my neighbors (Mr. and Mrs. Nasty) have acted toward us, my parents advised me to "take the high road." Ariel suggested that part of that might mean we send them a letter to let them know we're going to be moving the fence, as well as asking them if the current fence was one they put up. You know, in case they "wanted it back."

A few days later Ariel and I decided to go upstairs to the rooftop deck to scope out where we might move the fence to. Despite wanting to take back as much of our land as possible, there are really only two places where it makes sense and, for the rest of it, even though the fence is not on the property line, we are going to leave it where it is. For instance, for a good number of linear feet, there is a retaining wall. It only makes sense for us to put a new fence on the retaining wall, not on the other side of it where we might have to worry about erosion, the fence falling onto their house, and there also being a big tree in the way.

As we headed up the stairs, I noticed the neighbor, who I'll call Ron, sitting outside. Just being really frustrated at this whole thing, I thought, "To heck with it," and called out to him, "Hey, did you guys put this fence up?"

He responded, "No, the previous owners of your house did."

"Well," I said, "we're going to move it."

His wife came flying out of the house yelling, "See, Ron, I told you this wasn't over!"

What ensued was a highly errant (and therefore, slightly entertaining) "conversation." (I put that in quotes, because I've yet to see these people have a real civil give-and-take conversation. Kind of like my fiance's ex, but I digress).

I proceeded to tell her that, since it's our property, we are going to move the fence. She asked me (make sure that you read her parts in your head with a nasty yell) where we were going to move it to, making sure to inform me that we couldn't put it in front of their door because that would be against city code.

"Actually," I said, "We could. I have an email from the city planner saying their are no set-backs."

"Oh, that fatty from Oklahoma you told a bunch of lies to?" she spat.

We're not sure what lies she's referring to; we went in there with a survey.

"However," Ariel said, trying to negotiate smoothly, "we aren't going to do that."

"Well, then where are you going to put it?" Ron asked (you can read his part with an angry voice, but he didn't yell quite so much).

"What would work for you?" Ariel asked.

"If you would f-n move!" she yelled (except she used the whole word, not just f-n).

"Well, that's not going to happen," I responded as Ariel and Ron went about discussing where we were probably going to end up putting a fence post. Ron scratched an X into the rock with a stick, and said, "And once that happens, I don't want to ever hear another word about this!"

"But if you put it there, we won't be able to get into our yard," Ron's wife yelled (let's call her Carrie).

"Yes, you're going to have to cut a new gate into your wire fencing," I told her. "But, we aren't going to ask you do anything with your A/C unit."

"You can't do anything about that, anyway!" Carrie cried.

"Actually, it's over the property line. We could have you move that. But we'll let you leave it." (Their A/C unit, that they put in a couple summers ago, is on the other side of the retaining wall - part of the yard we aren't going to worry about fencing because it would just be unusable space for us due to the retaining wall). 

Then Ron said something about consulting lawyers and having been to court (huh? for what?) about this whole issue. It was evidently a scare-tactic (maybe they were hoping it would make us back off?), because what would the point be of bringing that up? If any lawyer had told them they had a leg to stand on, Ron would never have marked an X anywhere in agreement to us putting a fence post anywhere on what he considers their property. The only other way they could try to refute anything is to have their own survey done, which will never happen. First of all, surveys are thousands of dollars. We never would have had one done if we'd had to pay for it ourselves. Secondly, any survey company they called out would just use the lines already set by the company that did ours. They'd be SOL no matter what.

Then Carrie spat at me, "I've been paying taxes on this portion of land for 20 years!"

I had to correct her again. "Actually, because that land belongs to this house, I and the previous owners have been paying taxes on it. You've been using it for free."

Of course, there was more said, all of it in fairly loud tones. They screamed the whole time, and we had to do some of that back in order to get a word in. But in the end, we told them what we were planning to do, and that they might want to move the stuff they have on our property soon.

A couple days ago we submitted plans to the city, so hopefully the permit will be approved soon and we will have a new fence. A high one.

So I'm not getting ALL my property back, but I think we'll be taking back as much as what's usable. And, as Ariel pointed out, we resolved in a 10 minute shouting match what we've been trying to do for a year and a half. At least we hope so. It's not completely over until the new fence is up and I've written them a variance for the property they'll be retaining due to their house being over the line, and I'm not doing that until I need it. I'm not doing them any favors. I'll take the high road, but only so far.

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