Need Advice on a Serious Personal Problem Involving Neighbors


#1

I would sincerely appreciate any input. I have put my problem into the form of a “Dear Abby” letter.

Dear Abby,

I have a serious problem. A couple of years ago, I sold some of my land to a couple. They seemed really nice at first, and I told them they were welcome to take walks on my property if they wished.

Well, it turned out they weren’t as nice as I thought. The woman became intrusive and controlling, and angry and confrontational when I refused to answer her very personal questions. I discovered she held philosophical views that were opposed to mine. She said some very insulting things to me. Needless to say, our relationship is strained. I try to be polite and neighborly, while keeping my distance. This couple and I will never be close friends.

My problem arises because these people, relying on my earlier statements, feel free to roam about my property at will. I do not want them there. I am uncomfortable with the idea of anyone being on my property unless I know about it. I fear that if I put up a gate and post a “No trespassing” sign, they will either ignore it or request a key.

In short, I feel manipulated. The woman has mentioned in passing that she and her husband have been on my land, and I feel this is a test to see if I will object. I have not objected because I want to keep peace. I feel that if I I am honest and tell them I don’t want them on my property they will become angry and say mean things about me. I would never dream of wandering about their property, and am sure they wouldn’t be happy about that, as they are very concerned that their property boundaries be acknowledged and respected.

Abby, I want things to be as happy as they can be. But I am not going to be coerced into giving access to my land. I am angry that I have allowed myself to be backed into a corner where exercising my rights is likely to put me in a difficult situation. What should I do to extricate myself from this situation?


#2

If I were in your situation, I would seek advice from a lawyer. Luckily for me, my godfather is an attorney and I can always turn to him when I have sticky situations in life like you’re experiencing now. Do you have such a relative or close family friend? If not, you may want to consider talking to an attorney for a fee to learn how to handle this situation without things turning ugly.


#3

Ditto. Talk to a real estate lawyer, specifically. Sooner, rather than later. I don’t understand how they work, or if it applies at all in your situation, but I believe it is possible to unintentionally grant legal right to your land to someone else by allowing them unfettered use.

Please, nobody yell at me if I’m wrong, but I could swear I read something about that in a real estate book recently.

While you’re looking for a lawyer, also check out “Neighbor Law” from Nolo Press, which is probably available at your local library.

Margaret


#4

You gave them permission to take walks on your land.

Are they doing more than that? Are they using your land for things like planting a garden or storing things? If they are, you do need to inform them by letter that they are using your land, but their use of it does not imply a transfer of ownership. An attorney would be able to help you to do this.

You could amend the offer to take walks. Tell them that they are allowed access for walks while you are at home. They should clean up after their dogs, if they have any. You can slowly add enough conditions that they may decide to stay away.

Here is a trick I used to keep my neighbor’s dog off of my property, which kept the neighbor away. And, yes, it is so passive aggressive, but he didn’t listen when I asked him face to face. I put some all purpose flour in a plain brown bag. I sprinkled the flour on my flower beds, and it looked like bug poison. It worked, and he kept the dog away. (I thought that I was so creative, but it turns out that, when I re-read a book from when I was a child, the woman in the book did the same thing. The idea was “in storage” for 30 years!)

These neighbor issues can be so sticky, because you don’t really know what kind of people you are dealing with. Good luck.


#5

It may be difficult but what about just telling the couple straight forward and face-to-face? I’d keep it short and sweet and not over explain myself. I know, its easier said that done and direct addressing of the issue is not fun, however, when you just say it, you have gotten your point across, avoided all the passive aggressive non-sense, and are the bigger person for actually talking and getting the problem solved. And its DONE and everyone knows where you stand on the issue, none of this “oh we had no idea, we were given permission when we first moved in” business. Just my :twocents:.

God bless you and prayers for guidance as to what to do!


#6

I vote for this, although I must admit I would be very uncomfortable doing it myself. You could say that you regret allowing them use of your land because you didn’t realize how much you valued your privacy, or something to that effect. It is true, just maybe a nicer way to say it.


#7

Put up a fence. Or, the next time they’re walking on your property go out with a shotgun and some blank shells and shoot a bunch off. That’ll scare them off.


#8

I’d advise one of two solutions. One, put up a fence and post signs, inform them that you will no longer allow access to the property. If they talk bad about you, they will talk bad about you. If the fact that they take walks on the property bothers you that much, then, kick them off.

Or, take the more gentle side - Does it harm you or your property for these people to take a walk? Are they doing anything illegal on during these walks or just walking to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation? If they are, consider that none of us really own land, God simply asks us to care for it.


#9

Try and keep this simple and neighborly as long as possible. This is not a matter of rights, fights and lawyers–at least not yet. Despite the legal property lines, YOU verbally granted these folks an open-ended licence or freedom to access your property. You can’t expect them to be mind-readers. If there is something in the way they are using the permission you gave them that doesn’t now please you, YOU need to communicate this to them–even if it is uncomfortable or you perceive them as difficult. You can do it in a face-to-face conversation, over the phone or even in a letter.

I would decide exactly what you are comfortable with first. No tresspassing at all, limiting them to roads/paths, whatever, etc. Communicate this clearly and without any emotion, accusation or getting personal about their behaviour. Blame it on your recently becoming aware of your own liability should they or guests they invite ever be injured on your property. (yes, that is a real risk you have taken on by virtue of your permission)

If they are reasonable, they will understand and comply~maybe with a question or two for clarification. If they fight you or object in any way, be firm, acknowledge the change and perhaps even the discomfort, but do not be apologetic: “I can see that this change disappoints you, Mary, but I’m sure you understand that this is something I have to do at this time…”

If they are so bold as to ignore your request and continue to come onto your property, I would send a written notice (a copy of which you keep) in which you reference your conversation/letter asking them to stop and that you consider their continued presence on your land to be trespassing. Any further problems or hostility may require the intervention of legal help or the authorities.


#10

I would suck it up and say as politely as possible that you changed your mind about thier access to your property. and start that way before you get into legal discussions. I would also be wary becuase if you dont trust these people I would be concearned about them getting hurt on your property and then trying to sue you (when I was a kid our neighbor was climbing our fence, fell off and broke his arm. His parents very seriously considered sueing us) either way I would avoid legal involvement as much as possible.


#11

Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Very Sound Advice


#12

lol… That’s hilarious :smiley: More so because it sounds like something I would do. But that’s just me, I’m cheeky like that.

I would probably do 2 things… Speak with the couple together (and with your spouse if you are married) and let them know that for reasons (a), (b) and © (come up with some good ones, that sound reasonable) that you have decided to, as of that date, revoke any previous verbal permission given to them to use your land in any way, shape or form at any time in the future (worded nicely of course)… Then send them a letter (dated the same day) reiterating the point (as per our conversation today, I/we have informed you blah blah blah) and keep a copy of the letter and send it CMRRR so you will have proof of delivery.

This solves any legal problems that may arise. You cannot legally grant a right of way to your property by a casual verbal permission. If you allow someone to live on your property, yes, you could have problems. But saying you can walk here, no. Just in case they get any bright ideas, that’s where the proof of the letter comes in. You may also consider have a third party present at the time of the conversation so that things won’t become heated… Someone impartial to either party, but on your side. Someone like another neighbor you have known for a long time and her mother, for example, who the couple will feel intimidated enough by not knowing them to not act a fool.

Just my 2 cents.


#13

Thank you, everyone, for your responses! Amazingly enough, I am an attorney. I can’t believe I’ve gotten myself into this situation, and am still uncertain what to do.

I am very uncomfortable about the liability issues, especially since I don’t trust this couple any more. They are very solicitous of their own boundaries, but want to be more “casual” about mine.

I have a good local attorney who will handle this for me if I ask him to, and I’m inclined to let him. But I dread the anger and gossip which will result. I guess I just need to suck it up and accept that I did something very stupid and have to live with the consequences.

Let this be a warning to all good-intentioned people – be careful of granting privileges or concessions to people you don’t know well!

There is an alternative – I can put up a gate near my house and let them continue to have access to the other areas. But I fear that they may see this as weakness on my part and result in them taking other liberties in the future.

Oy, what a mess! Again, thanks for your responses!


#14

Hopefully a year from know youll be wondering to yourself why you were so upset about them and things will be resolved quickly.


#15

they’ll say mean things? so what?

Tell them you are no longer comfortable with them crossing your property. If they violate your wishes, compose a letter on your letterhead, and send it certified mail, notifying them that you have revoked permission for them to be on your property. If they violate it again, charge them with trespassing. These people have never respected you… why do you wish to cater to them so? So they won’t be mean to you? They already have! Did your being nice or non-confrontational stop them from being mean? No. So why would it stop them in the future?

If they say mean things, it says more about them than you. You already know they are horrible, so if they get mean, it’s not a surprise.

You are a lawyer, but you’ll buckle under the threat of them saying mean things? How do you handle opposing counsel in court then?


#16

Thanks, Dusky Jewel, for the perspective. That’s pretty much how I see it, too. However, as you can tell from the responses to this post, there is wide variation in how people believe this situation should be handled – all the way from “why don’t you want to share God’s beauty with them” to “Sue them now!”

As to opponents in Court, there is the understanding that no matter how vigorously you pursue your client’s rights, it will not be taken personally. AND, you don’t have to live next to opposing counsel for the rest of your life! AND, arguments in court have to be rational. Dealing with sharks in court is a whole lot easier than dealing with immature people who believe they are entitled to what they want regardless of law or custom. It’s sort of like dealing with a five year old who is having a tantrum. You are right, and the five year old is going to lose, but the yelling, screaming and shin kicking is still something none of us relish. LOL!


#17

Ah, yes… all very true! :wink:

Seriously, I hope you can get some peace. Do you ever wonder how some people live with themselves?


#18

You could put wireless speakers in the brush and the trees where they walk and play ghost sounds through them when they’re out there. THen they’ll think the land is haunted and stay away.


#19

Thomasf, I LOVE that idea! I think it is probably the most practical suggestion yet. When dealing with the irrational, sometimes the more creative solutions are the most effective! Maybe even strange barking dog sounds…


#20

Dear LandOwner:

My salutation says it all. You are the land owner. While you may have offered these neighbors the courtesy of taking walks on your property, as the land owner you also have the right to rescind that offer provided it does not interfere with access to their own property. You MOST CERTAINLY CAN put up a fence, gate or barrier - and are absolutely not required to give them a key. But protect yourself first - by checking local ordinances, having a surveyor do a proper survey and keeping all things legal, so as to avoid headaches later. You should reserve the right to your privacy - and under the circumstances you’ve described, it sounds like you might be best to guard that privacy jealously.

Simply proceed with putting up the appropriate barrier that you feel will work for you, advise your neighbor that you’re making some changes to your property and that access is no longer available. Case closed. Be sure to check any property sale agreements you entered into with them to make sure that access was not listed on paper. Unless you’ve signed something with them that stipulates access, you don’t owe them anything but courtesy - and good fences, which according to the old adage - make good neighbors.
Keep writing,
Abby’s Stand-in


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