Neighbor painted “my” trees, wants court

94 Replies

Hi BP,

So it's time to put up a fence for our soon to be completed flip. My wife wanted to start working on it, but there's a bunch of nasty bush/ trees blockin the property line and the existing fence only runs half way down the 75' lot. I figured I'd do some branch clearing, pull a sting line and put a fence. Almost all the pathetic overgrown trees are growing from our supposed side of the existing fence, and leaning slightly to the neighbors side. Got the chain saw out and cut one little tree and heard the neighbor (live in landscaper not owner) yell and tell me to stop. I asked if they intended to redefine the existing fence line and he said not to touch another branch. Since in my mind the trees are mine, I told him ok, but thought I could smooth the discussion out with a string line for when the real home owner got home, so I cut one 2" branch that was in the way. He came out yelling etc and said I better not touch any more. He had said he was going to run the string line that day, but I figured it would be better I did, buy a branch was in the way of following the top of the fence. It's very overgrown and was hard to find a way through with a string line. So I apologize and say I thought I was helping him out by running the string line since he's handicapped and not given much time to live (approx 40yrs old). He is a live in landscaper, though married to another woman, he's moved in with his new love and thy argue they'll be there forever, so I better get a survey if I want to touch the trees. Earlier that day he said he might get kicked out and was already sleeping upstairs. When I cut the branch he calls friend and says "oh no, I'm not going to have a place to sleep this winter" to further dramatize. Homeowner gets off work and I see an opportunity to smooth this over since I don't care about the trees or where the property line is. I just want fence and sale. He gets his phone out and starts saying I've been cutting branches on their side and that I'm going to be sued if I touch another branch. He also gave me his lawyers number and said I had caused his health to be upset or whatever. Now this whole time I'm not being tough or anything, just trying to smooth things over and communicate I'm not going to touch any branches at the moment. So now I'm stuck with having to get a survey which they tell me is going to cost $900. Called a couple places and that's pretty accurate. Feeling the tension on my poor pregnant wife, I call a surveyor and schedule immediately and text the neighbor live in landscaper that I'm sorry if I've offended and that it's scheduled asap . He responds with a legal response threatening court and with his lawyers #. Up until this point he's always been friendly, though they moved into this house only 2 months ago. Now it seems they are living for the dispute and I'm concerned he's trying to hook me into court somehow. Today, my wife texts me and says they're out there doing something at the property line (4 days later). He came on our perceived side of the fence and painted big blue paint on all the trees on our side. (I'm guessing it's not permanent). I go out and ask why he would do something so offensive and he responds because I cut branches and he doesn't want to talk anymore. By the way, the homeowner has told him she doesn't want to talk to me, even though I've never really met her. One more complicating factor is that the property in back cuts over 5' so the lines aren't straight, but according to the deed the measurements show me the trees are mine. Surveyor is supposed to show next week. I thought about calling the cops since he kind of graffiti'd on our trees, but I don't know for sure if they're ours and I wonder if these guys know something I don't about the property line. The logical thing is to wait for the surveyor and then make the fence accordingly. If the paint is permanent and the trees are mine, what should I do? I'd like to file a police report, but I'm concerned this guy is looking for a way to take our $. What kind of things should I watch out for with a sue happy guy like this? Are most people like this full of hot air?

Yep, all just being miserable with life on their part.  Just wait for the survey, than have at it.  Of source they have no say on limbs hanging over the line, if the tree trunk is on your side.....carry on!  You should probably get a permit, assuming it is required, since they’ll probably call the city/county and complain.

@Wayne Brooks ok, yeah thanks. I think they’re projecting their problems on us and I’m trying to stay out of it as much as possible. We’re working with the local building inspector and have permits for light remodel and roof. I think we’ll be ok, and I’ve already got the lowdown on fence requirements from planning. Thanks for the input

@Account Closed

I would get the survey and have a landscaper or fence company take care of it. They also have insurance and can deal with the neighbor. 

Wait for the official survey ad do not engage them in ANY way until then....... Make sure the survey marks the property line very distinctly and I would make sure I am there when they do, and/or video would be good too. You can count on them making a stink no matter what the survey says...... just be prepared

@Account Closed , Interesting post you've made.  A WA/OR lawyer, Darrin Class, has provided these helpful (for me) summaries of WA law on matters of trees, roots, branches and "Spite Fences" (like painting trees blue).  You might find his one page summaries worth a look

@Account Closed   You didn't help things when he asked you to stop and you cut a few more branches.  

Wait for the survey.  If the trees are small, tell him; he can dig them out and plant them on his side of the property line.  find out if you need permits and talk to a company about cost to install a fence.  If the base of the trees are in his side, put up the fence and use the fence boards to push the branches back onto his side of the property without cutting them.

You need to get aggressive and threaten him with your own legal action. He's nothing but a bully, and he'll crawl into a corner when someone stands up to him. 

So crazy...  Hopefully you'll get it squared away soon.  Sucks that you have to spend $900 for someone to come out to prove you are right just because an idiot is next door...  If I ever move I plan to knock on the neighbor's door and meet them prior.  I don't want to move into a problem house!  Might start doing that with rentals too!

@Theresa Harris that’s right, but it was a darned if I did, darned if I didn’t. It was literally only one branch like 2 hours later and somehow he was spying on me and popped up. This branch was on the tree that’s touching the existing fence on our side. We don’t know exactly what they’re thinking with this paint but they clearly had to walk all over our side of the trees to slap it in there.

@Heath M. Yeah, it’s crazy. I thought I was being a good neighbor when they first moved in by shooting the crap with him and lending him my tools, but I guess that blew over when he was in the fringes of getting kicked out. This house was bank owned for sale when we bought this. We’d love to avoid the drama, and will as much as possible, but sometimes it’s unavoidable and you just try to make it quick I guess. Never had more motivation to finish construction quick since we are living in the house while flipping. I think I should have read this guys potential to be bad and kept my distance. Sometimes when you’re friendly people then think you’re safe to screw with.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Greer:

@Michael King you’re probably right. I hate this stuff because I like to be nice and friendly, but some people only understand mean.

Jonathan I'm sorry I was more of a knee jerk reaction, emphasis on jerk. I'm like you, easy to get along with and try to be the nice guy all the time. I'm sorry your wife has to deal with this, preggers and all. I used to be a police officer and would see this BS from time to time.

Maybe a subtle message like a human silhouette used at the gun range peppered with a half dozen head shots hanging in the window facing his house might get him thinking about your capabilities? Your avatar looks pretty tough and I wouldn't mess with you!

Good luck!

@Michael King haha! Good idea! Seriously, when stuff like this comes up I just start thinking about the next flip and how I can get to it quicker. I don’t care if I have to slap a fence 6” back from the line, but I’m not giving these guys 4’ if I don’t have to..

Im confused....The miserable guy doesn't own the house but hes complaining and telling you what you can and can not do??

Are you not able to get in touch w thenactual owner?

@Erik B. she lives there, but he’s like her sub attorney. She’s trying to get the trees even though they may not be hers and they didn’t want to be reasonable and draw a line and be civil. Her gofer (live in landscaper tweaker) said she does not want to talk to me. When someone wants more land, they can’t be be rational about it I guess.

@Jonathan Greer. Don’t let him push you around. Once that starts you’ll be the guy he can push don’t let him bully you. Get the survey and after your property line and his are defined nothing he can do about it. I’m very territorial so when my neighbors wanted to put in a new fence they didn’t know that I my lot was slightly bigger than there’s. So they threatened me with legal action I let them do it.. take me to court because you didn’t look at your house you bought. They said how is that possible. I said before you sue someone know where your property line is. They thought just because their concrete was there that they owned it doesn’t work that way if I wanted to be an a-hole I’d dig there concrete up and and move my fence.

@Jonathan Greer

There is a zero percent chance of him hiring a lawyer. Unfortunate about the cost of the survey, but it is what it is. I would also hire a landscape or fencing company and that’s it. Really not worth the aggravation of dealing with that.

@Nick Goodwin that’s what everyone is saying about hiring a fence company.. sounds like probably what I should do, but it’s so easy for me to build it, that I might just do it really quick.

@Nick Goodwin you say there’s zero percent chance of him hiring a lawyer. Ok, I think I understand that a lawyer would look at the case and say “no”, but can’t anyone sue anyone in the US? Small claims just to hassle someone? (I’m talking about them suing me)