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Money Moral Dilemma: Should I get my fence fixed and bill my neighbour after he messed it up?

MSE_Kelvin Posts: 351 MSE Staff
First Anniversary Photogenic First Post Name Dropper
This week's MoneySaver who wants advice asks...

 I had my garden fence repaired and stained, and it looked great. Then my neighbour spray-painted his side, and it came through and went all over my side as well as my path, shed and some of my plant pots. I was devastated as I'd spent a lot of money on that fence. I spoke to my neighbour, who said he'd fix it, but did nothing. I chased over several weeks, but still nothing. I've considered getting it fixed and sending him a bill, or should I just let it go and sort it myself?

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  • CliveOfIndia
    CliveOfIndia Posts: 1,630 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    A bit of clarification is needed.  Is it actually your fence?  Is it on your side of the boundary, or else marked on the deeds as belonging to you?  If so, then the neighbour had no right to paint it without asking you.
    Aside from that, do you get on with your neighbour, and do you want to continue to do so?  If yes, then the first step has got to be an amicable chat.
    If he can't or won't rectify things, then it's down to you for all practical purposes.  Yes, you could send him a bill, but what if he doesn't pay - would you try to start some sort of small claims proceeding?  Or he might pay but argue that the bill is excessive, which would sour relationships.
    Most fence paint tends to be water-based, it should be easy enough to re-coat the bits on your side that have come through and just scrub it off the plant pots.

  • badmemory
    badmemory Posts: 8,055 Forumite
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Post
    I was guilty of doing the same to my neighbours new fence, only he hadn't painted it.  My solution was to give him the paint to paint his side.  Would that sort of solution work for you.  The problem with those fences is that it doen't matter which side paints it the other side gets some of it.  I could see where some of the painting he did came through onto my side but it didn't matter because it was the same colour.  The fence that is mine I do both sides several times before I instal it.
  • twopenny
    twopenny Posts: 5,911 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary Photogenic
    My neighbour took down my fence before I moved in and replaced with cheap panels.
    The blew down in the first storm. She wasn't seen to help for 3 weeks and didn't help when she did. She said she would pay half if I fixed it. I colaborated with her on style and price.
    Once done she decided she shouldn't have to pay..........................
    You can take a horse to water etc.

    viral kindness .....kindness is contageous pass it on

    The only normal people you know are the ones you don’t know very well

  • Southendormargate
    Southendormargate Posts: 11 Forumite
    First Post
    You can send him a bill but he won't pay it. If it is your fence he has no right to spray it. Sue him for damages in the small claims court.
  • Glads
    Glads Posts: 5 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    Your neighbour allowed (regardless of his/her intention) something un-natural to escape from his property which damaged your property. Your neighbour may well be liable in accordance with Rylands v Fletcher. Look it up and depending on the value of putting right the damage, you may have a clear small claim in court. This assumes your neighbour does not put things right and hopes you go away. And it depends on whether you want to recover from him/her.
  • noideapleasehelp
    noideapleasehelp Posts: 22 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    Hi MSE_Kelvin
    In case it helps, just sharing my experience of fences and I'm going to suggest that if you suck-up the costs and you can afford them. If you have a difficult neighbour, it'll cost you less stress although more money.
    Did you actually replace the fence at your expense or just have some of the panels repaired?  Did you get agreement from the neighbour ahead of time?  Were they aware that you were paying yourself for this work to be done? Was it really your responsibility to get the fence repaired?
    Another poster has mentioned what I'm about to say: in the deeds for all the properties on my road is that fences and walls adjoining properties are joint responsibility.  
    Properties either side of me are rented out by Landlords who have both experienced tenants failing to pay for periods of time and leaving their properties in a bad state and have said they have little money to replace fences, etc.
    When I moved in there was a huge oak tree growing the other side of the fence on my neighbours side. Nothing was highligted to me in my full survey done etc.
    I assumed the tree was their's and their responsibility, then I discovered that the land registry documents don't clearly identify the area where the huge oak tree had grown over time, and because the deeds say joint responsibility, I reached out to the new Landlord, explaining we needed to deal with this together.  He had no money, I needed the tree down to prevent subsidence issues for both our properties, and a new fence.  I sucked up the costs and paid and was around £2.5k including taking the 80 foot tree down, taking out the stump, putting up new fence.  Not an insubstantial amount of money but was it worth it?  Yes, I stopped having nightmares about it causing subsidence long-term and having to clear up all the leaves and the worry that it would suddenly fall on to my house as it was in shallow ground. Longer-term I'll have to do as Land registry have suggested and get solicitors involved to establish where the real boundary lies.  As they said it could cost up to £30k and I don't have that money, it's on a back-burner for now.

    Fast forward to the storms earlier this year, and the fence adjoining the other Landlord neighbour, came down on my side.  As it was old, it couldn't be repaired so needed to be replaced. I sent emails, we agreed to do 50/50 as it's in our registry details and I shared all info before and when doing it, and we got it done, and paid 50/50.

    I thought all my fence issues were over and that I would never need spend money again on this issue.  New tenants moved in on first landlord side, have decided to use the fence (and the wall) as a washing line for their carpets.  The fence is now keeling over because of the weight of their carpets and when I asked nicely could they stop doing this they said it's their property and they can do what they like as the fence is theirs.  There is a common misconception (even amongst knowledgeable tenants) that if the bad side is your side, it's your fence.  When I pointed out the land registry agreement, I didn't get a nice response.  And now it's been damaged by their kids using it as a football goal, so panels have now been destroyed, and it's only a matter of time before it completely gives way.  When that happens, I won't be sucking up costs because sometimes you need to fight battles, and that will be my chosen one.  I'm not sure about how one takes this type of issue to small claims court, or whether it would be appropriate in your case, but when my time comes, I'll be definitely taking that route if it's possible.

    At the end of the day for me it came down to cost vs stress and chosing the right battle to fight. I made sure I had everything in writing including that the tree side Landlord accepted I had agreed to pay for the work as a gesture of goodwill but that I was not accepting responsibility and the issue of the boundary is still under dispute.

    Hope this helps you and any others who find themselves in this situation. 

    All the best. 

  • KenWDen
    KenWDen Posts: 4 Newbie
    First Anniversary First Post
    Write him a letter with a deadline for fixing it, and give him an estimate for fixing it if you can. Now the tricky bit is who does own it, if it's yourself you are safe and can sue him, if not gets tricky. Marking of pots etc yes. If he owns it, should you have asked before you painted your side and what do the deeds say about it?

  • Matt8888
    Matt8888 Posts: 70 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post
    Invite him over for a drink or BBQ or whatever on a nice evening. Get him in your garden on good terms. Then show him the damage without antagonising him and ask what he thinks is the best way forward. Would he like to sort it out (as he agreed) and if so, book a time. Or would he like to get a contractor in to do it? Or if he is too busy to arrange that, would he be happy for you to get a contractor in if he pays the bill (up front)? Give him options.

    Basically it is not worth falling out over. If you show him the fence whilst entertaining him he will probably be shamed into doing something. If he still does nothing after that, you probably don't have a hope of seeing any action whatever you do. In that case, you may as well buy some paint and touch it up yourself.
  • MarriedtoFinn
    MarriedtoFinn Posts: 10 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary
    Oh dear!  We had similar problems to this when we lived on a housing estate.  B&Q et al decided it was time for Great Britain to be spray painted.  And they had a massive ad. campaign selling their "marvellous" high powered fence spraying monstrosities.  The neighbours to our back and those to our right hand side both got taken in, and went for it.  Unfortunately, never having done much of anything practical in their lives, they never realised that a fence is only about 50% wood, and the other 50% is space!  Thus, within the space of about a week we ended up with brown paint stripes all across the rear lawn and plants, and my car on the front drive got done too.  We decided to leave it with the people at the back, and just waited for it all to grow and get mown off etc.  The car was another matter, and I asked the offending neighbour there to clean it off.  She was lucky it WAS water soluble, and COULD be simply washed off otherwise she'd have been looking at quite a re-spray bill.  No shame though!  On the summer evening she was tackling it, I came out to walk round to the corner shop, and there she was with bucket and sponge, and remarked to me in very offended tones, that she had better things to do than wash my car for me!
    We live in the country now with hardly anyone near us.
    I think these devices need to be sold with VERY CLEAR warnings about how to use them safely. and considerately.  So much trouble could be avoided.
    As it could if people got into the habit of thinking things through first.
    Maybe I'm getting old, "In my young day..."
  • statistician
    If the fence is yours then this is criminal damage. 
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