Problem with neighbor

17 Replies

I just finish rehab single family and renters are moving today! So, far so good but when I went to the house to give keys to my tenant in the morning, we found one small paper note was stick at the front door of the house. It was like this - call us when you get this note and phone# with the name. So, we called that phone# and left the message. After couple of hours they called us and we find out that he was neighbor next door. He told us that his water bill came too high since my contractor used water from his water connection! 

I seen my times, contractor was using water from tap outside which belongs to our house and other side of this neighbor's house. I told him that it is not possible that my contractor used water from his yard. He told me that he is calling police and will complain. 

I don't know what to do now.. Any idea or advise for this situation.

Sounds like there was no reason to use the neighbor's water. I would let him call the police. You can then explain this to them. I doubt anything will come of it. The neighbor obviously has no proof. If he actually saw someone using his water, he would have said something at the time, not later when he got his bill.

He'll have to prove it. If it's a manageable dollar amount you may see if you can help chip in. Hopefully he can't prove a big spike in water us usage during your rehab.

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Like six weeks ago, he asked us that his sister in law want to rent our house and we mentioned that she can email us the details but for her the rent was high... So, maybe he is trying to give us a hard time. 

Ahh, the fun situations we all run into while trying to honestly improve a neighborhood and, make earned money for your work and creativity and at time save a degrading house that helps turn in into a home - don't worry, it happens to us all at times.  It won't be your first such quiz-legal situation, or 'miserable neighbor you'll run into in the business.  Point being: don't let it get to you.

So, on to the specifics.  The police (if called) 'should consider it a civil matter and suggest bot of you to take it up with he court.  But even if the police are overzealous and (like some) feel they know everything about everything and try to look into his crystal ball to find all laws and who the suspects are at this big scene of the crime - keep your cool.  Let in run off your back.

Do your own research about whose meter that tap is gauged from and pay attention to the location of the tap (whose property line it's on - the plot could thicken with such answers.  Collect all the facts you can in a civil gentlemanly type manner.  But don't be a ush over.

Where is the tap (whose actual property does it sit it)?  If it's improperly placed - who put it there..?  What meter gauges the usage from that tap...?  Collect your records.  Request (nicely for a copy of his).  Don't be afraid to call the county/city is something isn't sitting right; they may help get the bill in question corrected if it's a mistake and may get equipment relocated to keep future confusion down.

I'd even get the actual plans of the irrigation systems; as the city/county for assistance so you know what is where and if it's properly placed/coded.  (it's their job).

Go where the evidence leads you.  You got into this business because you are motivated and want to learn and you want to improve your financial situation, as well as the world around you.  Keep your head about you.

In the end, write him a letter of your findings.  Ask for a mutual and reasonable compromise - even if he's at fault and even if he's an ***.  The same if your contractor made an honest mistake but did so because the spout was misplaced years ago (as an example).

Stay in a position where the facts you find support YOUR position and argument; adjust accordingly.  If push comes to shove, take him to court.  I am assuming we aren't talking 10's of thousands here.  It also soinds like this will be a learning experience for you that will serve you in the future.

Keep a level head.  Dig out your own facts.  Use the various resources available to you (water company/city/county/plans/work past owners may have done. etc.).  Do your research.  Don't sweat the cops - they actually have no authority in this type of situation (even if they think they do).  Last, don't let this get you down. 

Strange things will pop up in this business.  Stay true to yourself.  Stick to the fundamentals.  There is an answer here.  Up to you to find it.

Up front, ask the neighbor (by letter) to give you 30 - 60 days to look into it.  This will let him believe you are taking him seriously (which means a lot  - you are not ignoring his concern).  Use that time to get all the info you can about the spicket, local/recent rules, meters, talked to a contractor or two for opinions, get the layout of property lines and what lies underneath who's property.  This may all become important.

Sorry I went on and on.  But we have to stick together.  You are not alone.  Good luck my friend.  And don't stop what you are doing in the business.  We all go through stressful times and situations.  If you are a 'doer' and not a talker - these things will happen.  Keep a cool head.

Sounds like he should have an issue with your contractor not you.  Let him call the police and see how far that gets him.

Tell him you'll talk to him about it once he sends you the picture/video showing your contractor using his spigot. You'll probably never hear from him again. If he actually complains he doesn't have a picture/video of that ask him why not, since everyone has cameras on their cell phones these days and if your contractor was using that much water there should have been plenty of time to get pictures/video of it. Burden of proof is on him. I wouldn't worry about it; in landlording there are much stickier situations than this that you'll have to deal with. Perhaps he sees you as the rich landlord and wants his water bill paid for, who knows.

We paid $55 to 58 water bill for last three month each and all these months, plumbing was not done. That means contractor only use water from outside tap. And he did  tiles for entire house. How much water needed for tile job? Neighbor is saying that his water bill is $220 and otherwise it is $60 per month. Here in FL, during summer everyone pays more water bill during simmer. 

Response....Kim H and Bob E.  Good advice.  But in the spirit of good minds debating and coming up with solutions to issues, I have a couple of cross angles here.  Nothing but the best of thoughts to the bother of you.

Here goes: bob, of course depending on the local (some rules get crazy), whatever spicket the contractor may have used, mistakenly or not, the responsibility will fall with the 'owner.'  If it's in his property, and especially if the owner hired him - the owner would be responsible...unless some above mentioned information pops up that no one know of yet.  (Line and spicket placement as an example).  However if the contractor did cause the neighbors spike in usage/bill, it will be passed along to the owner who hired him, and he was working for.  I guess the owner could sue his own contractor at that point for re-imbursement...but that's tricky.  The contractor needs the water from somewhere.  You'd think the owner would understand that.

Him hi), I agree cops have nothing to do wit it, whatever they say.  It's civil - not theft.  But, although it would be great if he had a video, not so sure the case would hinges on that.  Everyone agrees the contractor used water.  Even the owner seems to know which spicket was used.  That would be preponderance (pictures not needed).  This issue would be whether or not the type of work needed a lot of water (cement, soil irrigation, etc).  The water came from somewhere.  The neighbor's bill rose at the same time.  Coincidence?  I'd thing the threshold issue is, whose spicket is, did the work cause more than usual usage (therefore higher bill) and who should pay for it.

We are not clear if this is a condo/apartment complex or duplex/triplex setup, where there may be other folk's usage that needs to be examined during the work period.  Sometimes several dwellings have one meter.

This is why I suggested the owner, if he wants to do the right thing, should get all his own facts.........

On it's face, the way described, if the contractor did use the neighbor independent water - that neighbor should not pay for the extra costs.

A fact finding mission, including where lines are and what meters gauge what is the crux of the case and could produce unknown facts.  If the neighbor has a much larger bill, and the property owner (even here) admits he hired folks who used water from a particular spicket for construction - he has homework to do.  If I were the neighbor - I wouldn't eat extra costs on my bills for someone else's work - would you? 

No different that electricity or TV channels - folks are billed by usage.  And I would NOT pay for someone else's usage, or their 'guests' extra usage.'  And I am responsible for people I hire to work on MY property.  I suppose, in this case, they could have arranged for the water to be hauled in with water trucks.

Lots we don't know here.  But some we do and the owner admits to.

Again - in good spirit..  Good day.

Honestly I am torn. I agree with all the others as this is a civil matter not criminal. However, is a few dollars worth a possible disgruntled neighbor to a rental? I know I have read and seen how valuable a good neighbor can be next to a rental. Personally, I'd ask him how much it increased and if it is a reasonable amount I would verify his normal bill and pay the difference to get the situation resolved and hopefully build a quality relationship in case it is ever needed.

Just my two cents.

Another two cents, on top of the quarter tips above.

Ryan is right, if it's a few reasonable bucks, a couple hundred shouldn't kill you.  Small price for good will and a good neighbor.  If a couple hundred does kill you - I'd be freighted if I were you if a couple hundred on a water bill was a big deal - just waiting for that first inevitable call by your tenant in the middle of the night with a $1000+ emergency repair.

It will happen.  Are you ready?

Still pursue what you think is right on the water deal.  Do what's right.  I see several angles to look into.

But low cash reserves is a very scary proposition in real estate investing and being a landlord.  Bad debt can build up VERY fast.  Not trying to scare you out of the business, we need folks doing this.....but you have to protect yourself and your family.  That's priority # 1.  Don't play with fire,

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@Kimberly H. I agree and by no means meant just assume the neighbor is telling the truth. I meant I would ask to see previous water bills then speak with my contractor and see if there was even a remote possibility. If there was then I would do the right thing. Again goodwill and a good neighbor go a long way.

It is not a matter that Can I afford to pay neighbor's water bill or not. If he provide me the proof, I am ready to pay him some money but this guy is just trying to scare me and that's why I am not agree with him.

This guy is trying to take advantage of you.  If you let him get money our of you now it will never end.  I always try to have good relations with the neighbors of my properties but some people are just takers and this guy sound like one of them.  

Stand your ground, firmly but nicely.

If you feel he is being unreasonable and or trying ti intimidate you stop communication with him. I would just explain that I spoke with my contractor and he assured me it was my water he used. Anything else can be settled in civil court. That may or may not work but doesn't appear to be any alternative.

Yesterday, I went to my property and I seen my neighbors and they did not said anything. So, I am just waiting to hear back if they really want to get resolve this issue. I will let you know when something happens.