Good Neighbors

“Good fences make good neighbors.” – from “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost

During the long, hot days of summer there’s more time to work and play outside and more opportunity to interact with neighbors. Mostly our lives are enhanced by this close contact. Sometimes, however, this interaction isn’t always so neighborly. Sharing fences can cause stress and total exasperation.

Over the years I’ve watched this play out in my own life and in my clients’ lives. As we know all too well, disputes and bad feelings can arise from the smallest of incidents. These things fester and, if allowed to grow, create large and foreboding walls between neighbors (not the fence Frost wrote about).

Imagine these scenarios:

• You get a letter from your neighbor’s lawyer about a problem your neighbor never even talked to you about.
• Unbeknownst to you, your neighbor hires a surveyor. Metal pins and orange and pink painted lines appear on the property line.
• The fence is falling down and your neighbor’s bamboo shoots up all over your yard. When you attempt to talk to the neighbors they say: “Not my problem – do whatever you have to do.”
• You and your neighbor have historically shared the backyard without a fence. Over time the property line has become unclear. Suddenly, the property is sold and the new neighbors build a fence that appears to be on your property.
• You share a long gravel driveway with your neighbors. Their teenager drives too fast, damaging the road and creating dust clouds. The parents don’t seem to care.
• Your neighbors’ large tree is leaning toward your house. They are certain that the tree is fine. “No problem,” they say.
• The new neighbor won’t talk to you but stares at you in your backyard, adds two feet to the top of his fence and parks his RV on the street in front of your house.

Most of us want to be good neighbors. We embrace a sense of community and goodwill in our neighborhood. We also long for a sense of our own space, and preciously guard our privacy. We are willing to bend a little but noise, dust, smells and rude behavior can send us over the edge.

When a dispute deteriorates to the point that you consult a lawyer, you are at your wit’s end. You want legal remedies that bring justice and discipline the wayward. Fortunately the law provides real remedies. Property lines can be corrected, fences built to specification, trees trimmed properly, smells and noise abated and limitations observed. Rules, like fences, can help foster neighborliness.

If you come to me with a neighbor problem, I will always advocate for you. Sometimes, advocacy requires immediate corrective measures that judges and courts provide. Other times it requires compromise and honest and straightforward communication between neighbors. I will assist you to make certain that your neighbors observe the law and I can also help facilitate communication, compromise and mediation.

Robert (Bob) Good has practiced law in Jackson County for over twenty years, specializing in family law, estate planning and business law. Contact him at his Ashland office at (541) 482-3763.