Sunday, February 24, 2013
I actually, believe it or not, had a feud with some neighbors. It was an unspoken feud, though. The neighbors became aware of the feud through some actions of mine, over a period of time.
It started this way. In some towns in the Midwest, houses built between, say, 1900 and 1935 were fairly close together, although the lots could be fairly deep. In this one town, each of the lots were about 35 feet wide and 180 feet deep. Pretty good, so long as the house was not very wide! Well, we bought a house on one of those lots. The problem was that between our lot and the lot to the north, both houses being built at la 1925, was a “joint” driveway, covered in rock. There was, technically, just exactly enough space to park two cars side-by-side, if each was parked dangerously near its own house. The original layout was a single lane back along the lots to just behind each house, where the trail split, and each house had its own trail back to its own barn. The barn was also accessible from the alley.
Anyway, in our situation, the “driveway” was mostly on our side of the property line, and the neighbor parked smack dab in the middle of that driveway, 24 hours a day. They had two cars parked there, nose to end, most of the time. This, effectively, eliminated the possibility that we could use the driveway, even though it was mostly on our side of the property line. I did not like that. At all. I fumed about it.
Oh, and because the barn for our house had fallen/burned down long before we bought the land, the neighborhood kids, and sometimes adults, used our “driveway” as a thru way to the alley behind. There were no fences to ward off intruders. There was a common understanding, via years and years of our house having been a rental, that it was A-Okay to use that driveway that way.
Well, I would have none of that. But what to do? I set out to mark our property line, inch by inch. First, I planted some small plants on our side of the property line in the driveway. The plants did not live very long because of the decades of rock crushing that had occurred. So, I decided to build a garage on the back of the lot, just five feet from the property line (per the building code). So, we hired a company to come out and do that, AFTER we had a surveyor come out and mark the property line. You would have thought that we were stealing someone’s inheritance or something. We had the proper survey, proper permits, and had all the proper inspections lined up. The neighbors wanted to file a suit to stop the construction. They actually hired an attorney to deal with it. But the attorney, after coming out and speaking with the construction crew, and looking at the permits and survey, decided to counsel his clients to drop the issue. It did not stop there. The neighbors decided that they would park, after the garage was built, right on the back of the garage, clearly on our side of the property line, and well to the south of their own barn and driveway. Gadzooks! I did not have money for a fence of any kind at all, so I decided to plant . . . WHEAT! I tilled up the ground up rocks, amended the soil with clay soil from the rest of the lot, marked the 4 x 20 row with sticks and twine, and planted winter wheat. I even put little red flags on the sticks to make them more easily seen.
Well, the neighbors, for once, observed that I had done something to preserve our rights (actually the successive prior owners had allowed this nonsense to happen, and my actions occurred long after the law, effectively, gave everyone the right to do what they were doing). I did not care. We were paying taxes on that land, and I intended to use it. Period.
It took about two years, but eventually, the neighbor moved his fence over to the property line, and thus created a private driveway of his own (from the back of his house to the barn). If only he had done that before I had to get nasty! Our relationship was a bit chilly, and I knew it. Since we were not only newcomers to town, but we were from California, it was a little difficult living in this town. Not impossible. Actually, most everyone was very nice, helpful, and accommodating during the years we lived there.
My girls and husband though I had gone too far, and that is possibly true. But today, with the house now as a rental, our renters have full use of the entire property, most of it is fenced off, and their children and dogs (!) are safe from neighborhood folks just traipsing through the property on their way to the alley.
And no, this was NEVER a public easement. We see those in the Midwest, too. There are a lot of public easements between houses. Traditionally, the house owners on both sides of the easement pay the taxes on that land. In the case where the city abandons the easement (happens a lot these days), the owners are given notice and the first one who bids, or the one who bids the most, gets that land annexed to their existing property.
Anyway, since our land was never an easement, I took action. I was sort of mean. And we got the full use of our property back. Oh, my! I had no idea I could do that. I hope to never have to do it anywhere else.