February 15, 2019 at 2:29 PM #22665
Hola. I have a neighbor who is involved in a major construction project that attempted to encroach and who has been very unresponsive to requests to stop damaging my property during said construction project. The construction likely (but not certainly) caused a belly in our shared sewer line. The county and city agree that it is likely their issue but think the only way I can get them to fix is to sue. As jerky as they have been, I have no desire to sue anyone. I think they are trying to flip the house, so I tried to have the sewer line video recorded into the property record for any potential buyers to be aware of but was told that I can’t do that. Anyone have any non aggressive ways to alert potential buyers that they may have a costly sewer fix on their hands or will a general property inspection reveal that? I will try to send a certified letter to the current owners to advise of the issue but they have not responded to any of my polite messages thus far.February 15, 2019 at 2:38 PM #811811FlyerInHiGuest
Send a certified letter to the selling broker. If they know about an issue, they must disclose.
Keep a copy of the letter you sent to the current owner.
Provide all the info to the next owner and let them do with it what they want.
Or if you see people coming over to look at the house, go talk to them.February 15, 2019 at 4:03 PM #811812gzzParticipant
If they are damaging your property and not fixing it, sounds like they are being the aggressive ones.February 15, 2019 at 9:37 PM #811816
Thank you. Very sound advice. And, they are being the aggressive ones, but I want to live here in peace for a long time. They are probably flipping as it would not be smart to be this jerky when you live super close and share a sewer line. I love my neighborhood and most of my neighbors.February 16, 2019 at 11:11 AM #811819HobieParticipant
Time to get your ducks in a row. Get a plumber to document the damage. Get pics showing how construction is causing damage. Get letters from city/county (long shot). Have lawyer send letter as now they are on notice. Plus, filing a lawsuit will cloud title and may provide incentive for them to be more cooperative and fix problems.February 17, 2019 at 6:33 AM #811823
Ugh, but thank you very much.
I already have video of the line from a plumber and a second opinion from another plumber plus the input from the city and county. I also have the first certified letter I sent to the owner and general contractor covering the encroachment, damage to my property and aggressive behavior of the contractor (actually claimed I was not allowed to talk to the owner of the property?!?), all of the emails to the project manager at the city and the code violation reports. I am sure I can find a way to save the terrible texts from the general contractor and have all of this ready.
It’s a little late for this, but I still don’t understand why a neighbor would not alert another neighbor of a major construction project and try to work with them throughout so as to avoid this kind of conflict. Nor, do I understand why a general contractor would be this jerky. I would think word of mouth would be pretty important?
Thanks again for the help.May 10, 2020 at 8:54 PM #817152
Epilogue: Sadly, you were all correct.
At the time of the original post, I had already sent the first certified letter (attempted encroachment, damage to my property and contractor who dropped the F bomb every time I politely but firmly asked him to stop damaging my property).
In early March 2019, a second certified letter was sent detailing the plumbing issues outlined above and the likely cause (their major construction). They sent a response essentially saying too bad and lied about the encroachment. I limped along barely being able to use my plumbing but still not pulling the trigger on the lawsuit. I just could not see me suing anyone.
Nov 2019 — had a more significant sewer back-up. Alerted neighbors immediately. Response? More “not it”. After several days of having to shower at the gym and use local businesses for their restrooms over the Thanksgiving holiday, I walked a plumber over to their home to explain in a patient and detailed way the probable impact to their home by not working with me to fix the damage they caused. They would not budge except to hint that they might pay half of the emergency fix. (Meanwhile, they told the plumber to charge me 75 percent and them 25 percent?). At this point, I start to get more firm that we need to work on this. Their response? Have an attorney friend of their Dad’s write me what I can only call an “attempted bullying” letter —along the lines of “don’t mess with me, I am a very good lawyer” but then used the a very strange argument as to why his “client” should not have to fix the sewer. That was, “my client should not have to pay because he did not know he bought a house with a shared sewer”. Weird. And, at this point, I do file a small claims lawsuit. They promptly file for an extension of the court date to 11/2020.
Spring 2020 — I back-up again, but I just wait it out this time. (At this point, I know they are prone to lying and was pretty sure they were backing up every time I did). About 3 weeks later, I notice plumbing work being done on their home. I send a photo of this to them asking for an explanation as i have provided them with copies of all of the work I have had done and what the plumbers were suggesting we needed to do. I see no plumbing trick in the vicinity when work was happening. I do know they forced the contractor to fix (demonstrating that the issue was indeed due to their construction). They refuse to provide the details on any of the work done. (I suspect they did the bare minimum which is going to hurt both of us).
So, as of now, I have not had full use of my sewer for 1.5 years and counting. Could not list my house last Summer without taking a big loss because of this and am still having to do laundry at a laundromat during a pandemic.
I’d love any additional ideas, but I am mostly posting this in case someone else is considering being nice and trying to help educate neighbors while postponing your own use and enjoyment of your property. Small claims was very easy to file and was the only thing that started to get their attention. Makes me sad to say thins as I never wanted to sue anyone.
Hope you all are safe and well and thank you for all of the good guidance.May 11, 2020 at 9:58 AM #817166barnaby33Participant
Substitue HOA for neighbor and my experience last October was not dissimilar. Only difference is it is almost impossible to sue your HOA and win.
JoshMay 11, 2020 at 8:52 PM #817176
I am so sorry you had a similar experience. I can’t imagine putting another person in that situation.
The only scenario I have had where I could have caused a problem for a neighbor is when a tree of mine decided to self prune and sent a large limb to the ground. First thing I did after making sure no one was hurt was to alert the closest neighbor who was not home so they could make plans to come home and investigate versus returning to a nasty surprise. Next thing I did was to ask permission to start clearing the tree at 6am so we could both be sure there was no damage to her home. She immediately agreed and I took action at 6am and cleared the majority of debris in one day. And, now I try to trim the tree at the first sign of too much growth.
Grateful that I have at least one good neighbor.
P.S. Sent another request to the neighbor that caused the sewer issues last night requesting that they have compassion. As you might have guessed, I received no response.May 13, 2020 at 7:34 PM #817241HobieParticipant
JC: I’ve been holding off commenting further but I really have to.
If taking a shower causes a main line sewer to back up, that is a sanitary/plumbing emergency.
Given the time elapsed doesn’t help your case noting the urgency of this problem.
Sounds like the guy is basing the small claims extension date to after he sells. Might be tougher to prove and (find and serve)if he is gone.
You need to come to grips that if he goes you will have to pay for all of the repair yourself.
Get the cost to make the repair and compare it to the legal fee to file against neighbor. This might give you some insight as to what to do now.
Trying to get a new owner to pay will not be easy as he will balk and claim nothing was disclosed and since the problem appears to show up on your property —its your problem alone.
Sounds like you have a bunch a good evidence. Sit down with a real estate atty or two for the free consult.
That will give you clarity on the case and remember if you win the neighbor will pay fees. Might be interesting to find out of you could actually lien his property for the repair costs given the shared sewer. Dunno..
Good Luck.May 17, 2020 at 7:04 AM #817346
Thanks for taking the time to provide your thoughts on this. Much appreciated.
Complete back-ups would happen with just normal use, so I have had to have extreme minimal use to minimize these for 1.5 years and counting. So, showering is ok if I do nothing else – no laundry and nothing down any drains. (Note: I live in a old home so I was pretty darn careful even before all of this).
I did all of the work for this neighbor – consulted many plumbers, got quotes on the fix and a plan for how to maintain the line to minimize future issues. I even walked a plumber over to their home to patiently explain the risk to their home and mine. If they had addressed when notified 1) probably zero cost as they forced their contractor to address recently 2) cost way less than the small claims case if they had just paid out of pocket — about 3k for the fix/10k for small claims.
The extension of the court date was given as my neighbor is in the military. I was sort of shocked to find that this person was in the military after all of this bad behavior. My experience with individuals in the military in the past has always been fair if not perfect which seems reasonable to me.
I am still awaiting some sort of proof of the fix which I think is very unlikely. They are also claiming they don’t know my costs even though it was detailed in the paper work they were served with.
I did price out putting my own line in, but the cost starts at like 20k and sounds like it is quite hard to get approval for and that folks often run into huge time delays and increased costs.
I hope my situation is unusual…. Interesting point about the lien. Their property is impacted too. Pretty sure that is what finally motivated them — when the last back-up hit, I just waited it out instead of calling a plumber immediately. (I was pretty sure they were just using me to do all of the fixes). Sure enough, about a week or two later, I saw work being done at their home.
I would be excited if they actually fixed the problems caused by the construction, but their refusal to provide the paperwork and the pattern of evasion and lying means it is very unlikely.
Thanks again.May 17, 2020 at 9:46 AM #817348FlyerInHiGuest
Very sorry to hear about your issues.
I don’t think a belly in the pipe would cause a backup like this.
Sounds like the contractors got construction material down the sewer pipe. I have seen it happen. Some contractors are quite careless. I have heard of plumbers breaking their snakes and leaving them in the pipe.
Are you sure the neighbor has the same problems you are experiencing?
Of course, the neighbor is not going to provide any paperwork. My guess is that when they go to court, they will claim that it’s a shared line and that you caused the problem. Construction was just coincidental.May 17, 2020 at 6:58 PM #817352
Thank you for commenting. I had a camera inspection of the line and had at least 3 plumbers provide opinions. The first backup happened at the very end of the neighbor’s large construction project and the plumbers I consulted (some viewed the video — some did not) were all in agreement that is was certainly the construction that caused the back-up. The line is old, but the belly was new and there were some areas where the connection did not look right under my neighbors property that looked new. There ARE other issues with the sewer (roots, corrosion) that are probably more related to age and I was not asking the neighbor to address those immediately. I asked that they fix the damage caused by their construction and that we work on a plan to mutually address the issues with the age of the line. (Plumbers suggested a yearly maintenance plan for now that seemed very reasonable and seemed to be in both of our interests as it should prolong the amount of time between the immediate necessary fix and any other intervention).
I do not know for sure that the neighbor had the same issue as me. It would just fit with the timing and their pattern of evasion and lying over the past 2 years (I proactively shared info with them before I knew for sure that it was their construction that caused the issues because it is the right thing to do — I feel confident that most people would not want to put a neighbor through this even if their motivation was not to be a decent human and just to minimize the amount of exposure they would have).
I am sure you are right that they will try to blame me when we go to court. Fortunately, I saved every piece of documentation — their attempted encroachment (prior to plumbing issue), other damage and safety issues during construction, all of the plumbing issues and consultations with plumbers and of 7 months of ago — I had all of my interactions with plumbers looping them in. Including their lie to the last plumber that I had agreed to pay 75% for the back-up caused by them.
I know this probably seems impossible that a neighbor would be this nervy. I am still shocked that they would do this. Our proprieties are almost on top of each other. If I wanted to, I could make their lives very unpleasant, but I really don’t want to be like them.
I really hope that this is an unusual occurrence. They have been so awful, that I wanted to sell my home last year, but I couldn’t without taking a bit hit on price assuming someone would even want to buy my place with this issue. (I, for one, would not touch a property with this kind of issue).
Thanks again, I appreciate all of the input.May 19, 2020 at 6:04 AM #817376FlyerInHiGuest
JC, you don’t have a lot of time to explain yourself in small claims court.
Keep it short and relevant for the judge. You need to prove exactly what is causing the clog in the common drain and that the obstruction was caused by the neighbor. Affidavits from plumbers and photos will do. The judge does not have time for long videos.
Better if you can have the plumbers come testify in court with you.
Avoid talking about what the neighbor did to his house, etc… the judge won’t care about the major renovation to the neighbor’s house. He will focus on the common part of the pipe that is servicing both units.September 6, 2020 at 12:14 PM #819555
Update time and a question for military members on next steps:
•Neighbor attempted to encroach in 2018 during a major construction project (after much effort got that to stop)
•Neighbor broke the sewer line in early 2019 toward the end of their construction causing back-up into my home.
•I notified neighbor of break/back-up via certified letter (they moved out during construction). I indicated urgency to fix. (Clean out is on their property so needed cooperation)
•They replied with a “not it” response and denied the encroachment and other items establishing a pattern of shady behavior. They stopped responding after that.
•2nd back-up occurred a few months later – they were warned this would happen if we did not address. They lied and said they did not back-up when I did and tried to hide in their house when I came to notify them.
•I walked a very nice plumber over to their house to help them understand the risk to their home and mine. They acted like they were going to cooperate, but lied to the plumber and told him to charge me for the clearing of the line and refused to discuss the actual fix of the line.
•Then, they had a lawyer send me a threatening letter to tell me to put in my own sewer line as they were not aware they purchased a home with a shared sewer line??!? (I had tracked down all of the estimates for them on the fix, contacted my insurance company for ideas on how they could get help on paying for the fix). The idea to approach their contractor worked.
•At this point, I filed a small claims suit
•They push out the court day as far as they can and then Covid hits.
*Several months later, I see someone working on the sewer line. The neighbors only confirm this is happening after multiple requests and FINALLY admit that their construction broke the line. However, they refuse to provide the kind of proof that would allow me to rent a room, refinance or sell my home without taking a big hit.
•I engage the mediator to help on our dispute. They have another attorney send me a threatening letter saying I am harassing them by asking them politely to provide proof of fix. (It took me months to find a reputable plumber that would fix for 3k versus the initial 10k quote). The neighbors somehow did a fix for $600. I’d love to believe this was an actual fix, but with all of the shady behavior, it seems very unlikely.
•After I set the neighbor’s attorney straight on who has done what and that I am not trying to hurt his clients, the neighbors start acting like they were work with the mediator, but have gone dark again.
If you are still with me, the question I have is related to next steps. 2 former military members have advised me to go to the CO of the neighbor. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s employment. They have assured me that this would not hurt the neighbor’s employment and that this will get the fastest response, but I’d like to hear from other military members first to be sure.
Thank you if you read all of this. And, thank you even more if you have some ideas on this.
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