Extremely Petty Neigbor during Renovation - what to do?!

14 Replies

So, wow.

A neighbor next door, let's call her Jewel-EE - seems to be on a mission of sorts.  That mission so far as I can tell is to be as silly and petty as she possibly can be during the process of us renovating the house.  Most of the items so far have been related to property line disputes, and a 'stay the F off my property' was muttered (from her). This is after in good faith early in the project I've offered use of my bucket truck, and free tree trimming, among other things.  Now I feel like threats are more apt after some of her behavior.

In addition to needlessly 'chatting up' my workers, she seems to be obsessed with things of little consequence such as limbs falling slightly on her property line during the process of us doing tree work.  In all but one occasion the actual consequences of these actions have resulted in slim to no actual effects.  

Today when bringing up the fact that the renovation of the 5 year vacant adjacent property (our project) was increasing her property value by north of $10,000, that was met with a predictable 'Don't act like you are doing us any favors!'.

I am of the opinion that this Jewel-EE has some sort of a complex that has resulted from growing up with a silver spoon in her mouth coupled with the realization at some point that her silver spoon in her mouth has no ability to help her deal with actual reality.

Has anyone dealt with busy-body neighbors during a rehab?  How do I properly ignore and tune her out (or is this the right thing to do)?  I'm seriously considering trimming a tree on our property just on our side (limbs encroaching our house) and leaving the rest of the limbs that are encroaching on hers simply to signal that we don't HAVE to help her and I'm feeling awfully... unfriendly right now.

yes have run into busybody neighbors

At first I was pleasant and helpful as you have been.  Then after so much trouble in went into a new mode

When they came over attempting to talk I would yell a big HI! 

Sorry too busy to talk maybe another day.    Put my head down and pulled my hearing protection over my ears and went back to work. 

Took about 4 times until they got the idea and stopped trying to talk. 

I have had busy body neighbors, my last house had one on each side, and the two didn't like each other. Luckily neither made any problems.

With that said, I honestly would entertain a fence along her side. If there is room for it this is the route I would take. Some people don't look at the big picture (an ugly eye sore getting spruced up and improving the neighborhood) and instead look at the short term (a branch fell in my yard today).

@Jim Goebel ,

I'm going to be a bit harsher than some. My suggestion is to stay off her property and keep your work off her property. If one of those limbs fell on one of your guys while on her property she could be held liable. I know you feel you are doing her great favors but in reality let her do her thing and you do yours. Stop encroaching on her land and she won't have much to complain about. Instruct your guys that if she comes to the property line they can say "HI" but that you are not paying them to chat with her. If she does grab one then yell over "Hey John, I told you to get that header replaced upstairs, That needs to be done now". Disengage from her every time. If she comes on the property let her know it is a work site and your insurance does not cover her so she has to step back over.

Good Luck

The thing that caught my eye in your post was " in all but one instance little to no actual effect". What was the one incident? What were the other little to no effect instances?

Perception is reality. You may feel that limbs falling onto property is no big deal. That same situation might scare the neighbor. 

What are your plans for the house? If it is a flip, I wouldn't stay up nights worrying about it. If it is a rental, I would try to make nice so that the place was viable and the neighbors weren't making life miserable for future tenants.

You need to work on developing a ignore switch for these situations. You need to be able to hear what they are saying and then immediately ignore and put it out of your mind. They are insignificant provided you respect their space. At some point if they interfere with your workers you may be forced to tell them to stay off of your property. Make sure you are finished working near the property line before you tell them to stay off your property. 

Do the job, ignore the neighbours, move on.

You will not be there long enough to care assuming you are doing a flip.

The tone of your post comes across as condescending. Saying "increasing her property value by north of $10,000" comes across as "yeah, I'm going to cause you some trouble by being on your property and dropping limbs on your property without your permission, but I'm really helping you out."  There's nothing good going to come out of making a statement like that.  Did she ask for you to trim her trees?  Personally, I'd be offended if you offered "use of my bucket truck, and free tree trimming" and laid a finger on my trees.  That comes across as "your trees look like crap and are hurting the value of my property."  In most jurisdictions, you are allowed to trim anything that goes offer the property line.  But even then, it can make for bad neighbor to neighbor situations.  If you were wanting her to trim trees on her side, then, frankly in her shoes I'd have told you want you can do with your bucket truck.  As far as the tree on your property that encroaches on hers that you're considering giving a spite trimming, maybe she likes it just fine just the way it is.   Its on your property and is your responsibility to trim, but even doing that may make her unhappy.

@Jim Goebel ,

I was in your shoes 6 months ago... flabbergasted that a neighbor wasn't friendly, was very aggressive with us, and not  excited at the fact we were renovating an ugly house and clearly making the street better!  We had an issue with the driveway, first we had some really bad talks with him, complete crapshoot with trying to be nice..  got a survey, talked to a lawyer, and what's crazy--- when we got a tenant in there, the tenant and the A$$hole neighbors are friends! Point being, all this stress may be for nothing. 

After all that stress, I'm 100% with @Thomas S. .    If I were you, i'd get a survey done, mark the lines, build a fence,  post multiple "No trespassing signs"   and 100% ignore her.    If she comes at you aggressively, tell her to get off your property or you'll call the cops,  and yes-- call the cops!   You guys won't be friends, it's clear she doesn't like you, and won't like you regardless of all the logical reasons she should..   People are afraid of change,  and you are change... so just realize, you aren't here to be friends with her, and you won't be.. go about your business on your property, and completely ignore her.  

Stop crossing her property line. If she doesn't want your work falling onto her property that seems completely reasonable. It might be petty, but whatever it's her property so respect her wishes. If the house has been vacant there is likely a history of problems related to it. Having a bunch of folks over there working on it and dropping things in her yard probably aren't making it better in the short term. That is even more true if you've damaged something on her property. Beyond that if you're planning to rent it it's not really a benefit to her long term either as not everyone likes living near rentals.

Tell her you'll do your best to stay off of her property if she engages you again. Let your guys know to stay off of her property, politely ask her to leave your property/work site if she is on it, and to ignore her if she isn't. As suggested earlier a fence might be nice. What is the old saying High fences make great neighbors or something like that?

If you think she is a pain now wait till you start installing a fence. Fences may make for good neighbours but installing fences is a warning shot across their bow. Keep your lawyer on speed dial.

To clarify the 'request for information' regarding my statement in all but one instance little to no actual effect - this was the one instance in which I could see a measurable effect, and I've since apologized.  She had to go to a visitation or some sort of a funeral related event and I had started doing some tree trimming at roughly 10AM on a Sunday.  Some limbs had fallen on her driveway and when she came out I was apologetic and took about 10 minutes to get them off her driveway so that she could pull out and go to her event.  The issues didn't arise all 'after' that event but it certainly didn't help.  She chose to confront the situation and remind me later that it was absolutely not OK for that to happen.  I understood, did my best to move on - but it was only after numerous occasions where it was clear she was operating in such a way to wait until I was gone and then get into 'busy body' mode by chatting up my workers in very unhelpful ways.

These folks I was paying by the hour, and I've since transitioned over to paying people more 'by the job.'  Believe it or not she has been able to command an illogical negative impact on productivity.  I felt a lot of passive aggressive under-currents and finally decided to confront her and call out the conflict in the open.  That was when things completely deteriorated.  I didn't see or hear from her for about 3 weeks which was great.

There's maybe 2 more relevant items here.  Before it seems the relationship went 'south' I had offered the services with the bucket truck.  She's not much of a 'construction' or 'handy' person and disclosed that she grew up in a perceived well-to-do area around here.  I'm not sure why she disclosed that, but I thought maybe she thought that was supposed to impress me or something.   Anyways, she also disclosed that she was looking to sell their place and actually offered it for sale (to me).  I declined partially because of our current financing situation but also because I felt I didn't want to have an adversarial relationship with the neighbor!  Haha!  She also disclosed a few things about her house, including a leak that is causing lath/plaster issues in an upstairs bedroom.  I have been up in my bucket truck a lot and noticed someone caulked the old roof (yes, white caulk) so there's a lot of deferred maintenance and band-aids.  I again was trying to help in offering my opinion that she needed to think/budget for a new roof, and sent her down pictures of how someone had used the wrong product to silicon/caulk her roof shingles...  But after talking with her it became clear to me that she doesn't have much experience with handling issues around the house and appears to have the expectation that if she's going to pay retail prices for things like tree services, then everyone will!

 Ironically in one of the conversations she stated that she thought I bit off more than I could chew!

Looking back I don't think it was the most considerate thing to tell her about her roof (the messenger has been shot) given her expressed timeline to sell the place.

Oh and the question was asked about what our plans are for the property... We have planned to live in it when it's ready - it's a ways out though as it's a complete gut job.  Not sure how long we'll live there though.  The neighbors don't help but the house, the lot, and the location are really special.  We're family of 3 with one on the way.

Especially compared to our current neighbors which are super friendly and cool, this one neighbor definitely detracts..  However, if they are truly selling then perhaps we have a chance to turn a new leaf.

Jon to answer your question - yes we had discussed specific services that she was game for with regards to her trees getting trimmed, and not just the ones that were close to the property line.  I offered what she would probably pay more than $1000 for if I had to guess.  She was game, however priorities took over and when she asked for a specific timeline I was non-committal on when I could get to 'that' work.

I understand that mentioning the upside of what we're doing is not helpful for her in her current mindset.  I don't mind the conflict with her, I'm thinking more about perceptions of others if any disputes became more public or more impactful - and it's hard for me to imagine a judge or other body not working to understand the context and I am confident that I spoke the truth.  We're not Good Samaritans in fixing up the property, but having a fixed up property next to yours is a lot better than having a run down vacant nasty, un-safe place next door.  I guess I just have a hard time understanding how someone couldn't see that.

We have averaged probably 3-5 other neighbors per day, from around the area that drop by and have nothing but good things to say about the work and are excited to see the place get rehabbed.  It's just so strange that it's the next door neighbor here.

She's pointed out that I appear smug when talking to her.  I try but really can't help it.  I almost feel sorry for her, that this is her life.  

I think the harsh feedback is what I need to hear though.  I need to keep my negative thoughts to myself when it comes to sharing things with workers.  It just muddies the water.  Even my tree guy now seems to be mired down and afraid to work over there!

Kill her with kindness. Find out the one thing you can connect with her on (Win Friends and Influence People). Give, give, and give some more (without spending too much) and she'll return the favor sooner or later. I'd be willing to bet she has huge personal problems. But if you can connect with these types of people, you'll have a friend for life.

@Jim Goebel Adding 10k value to her property? Says who? And what's the point in that? They're not selling, who cares if the value goes up 10k, your neighbor has no plans to sell or refi, frankly you're NOT really doing her a favor. If it were me, I'd tell you to leave the limbs as they are, don't put any leaf on my yard, don't spray paint on any of my things, if you think a branch or even a wood chip would fall on my ground, find a way to catch it before it hits MY ground and MY airspace, I don't need you to fix anything, nor do i need the increase in value. But, that's just me.