Neighborly Courtesy

by admin on January 2, 2013

I have always respected the conclusions of the administrators of this site. The recent post about the girls on the bus has shown me that my initial reaction to a situation is not always the right one and that I still have much to learn about situational etiquette. With that in mind, I would very much like some perspective about a minor incident that happened earlier this year and whether there was any etiquette breach by either party.

My husband and owned a house in a relatively compact neighborhood. The general pattern is that each house has a two-car garage off-centered on the lot. This means that each house effectively has a yard on one side and a driveway with a smaller patch of yard on the other. Our plot was situated such that our yard-half met our neighbor’s yard-half and the driveway-half met the other neighbor’s driveway-half.

During this time, I was between jobs, my husband was in school, my dad was between jobs, and my mom was a fulltime homemaker (as a follow-up, we’ve all landed excellent jobs since then). Given the amount of free time we had among us, we decided to take a week and build a privacy fence along the two remaining sides of our house. During the day the setup would be as follows: my car would stay in the garage, the second-half of the garage and the driveway would be filled with the building materials and tools, and my parents’ truck and/or mid-size SUV would park in the street along the yard-side of our house. They would either bring one or two cars depending on our needs for that day.

This meant that my husband, who still had to come and go for classes, sometimes had to park in the street along the driveway-side of our house. The curb here was just long enough that a single car could park without blocking a mailbox or a driveway. If you followed the property line, the car was about 2/3rds in front of our yard and the rest in front of our neighbor’s. When the weekend came, my husband was no longer coming and going, so the car stayed in this space for about 2-3 straight days after that.

It was on the third day then that we found a note on his car from our driveway neighbor. It stated, in what I could only read as a very passive aggressive tone, that our car had been illegally parked in front of her house for over a week, she was tired of looking at it, and we needed to move it immediately.

As a little background, my previous interactions with this woman are limited to one single occasion where our overly friendly Labrador wandered over to her yard while she was spraying weeds. We grabbed him immediately and apologized for letting him get away from us. She literally said nothing, simply glared at us, so we left it at that and went back to our business. It was a very strange interaction.

Back to the note, I believe this woman was wrong in several ways:

1) It was factually incorrect that the car had been there for a week. Whenever possible we would his car on the other side, but I do admit we would not relocate the car if one of those spaces became available.

2) The street space does not belong to any individual house. While it is convenient and courteous to only park in front of one’s own house, it does not cross any legal lines to park anywhere along the street so long as it does not block a driveway. (For what it’s worth, plenty of people regularly park in the street in our neighborhood, but I’ve always observed that everyone follows these courtesy guidelines. Even during a crowded party, no one ever blocks anyone else’s driveway and the street is always cleared the next day.)

3) We were clearly only using the space for a very limited purpose. A reasonable individual would be able to assess the situation and understand the car would not likely stay there after our work was complete.

4) The manner in which she relayed her request left a very bitter taste in my mouth. If she had come to our door or simply caught us outside and politely asked if we could move it, I certainly would have. A note simply felt rude and passive-aggressive.

Ultimately, I just rolled my eyes and moved the car because we had the space on the other side at that time and I really didn’t want to find that our car had been keyed or something. (I don’t have any reason to believe this is something she’d do, but I was not interested in tempting fate).

But let’s say I had chosen to stand my ground, would I be within my etiquette rights doing so? Am I wrong about the rudeness of her behavior? Was there fault on both sides? Should I have preemptively spoken to her and all my other neighbors with baked goods and apologized in advance for inconvenience we may cause them while we worked?

Again, this was a minor incident that was easily handled, but I can’t help but feel there is something to learn from the situation. I humbly acknowledge that my perspective is limited and probably skewed by time. I will submit to whatever judgments are placed upon me.  1227-12

I am a big fan of forthright communication and not making presumptions, to the best of my humanly ability.   I would have communicated to the neighbors the plans to add the fence which will result in your car being on the street for a few days during construction with the added hope that this will not inconvenience anyone.   It alerts the neighbors to what is happening and gives them a time frame for when the project will end and everything on the street resumes its normal status.   It’s just being courteous.

Basically you assumed the goodwill of your neighbors based on your understanding of the unspoken, unwritten “courtesy guidelines” of the neighborhood.    Your neighbor probably has her own interpretation of the neighbor guidelines and when both parties presume to know it and therefore enforce it, misunderstandings and conflicts arise.  I believe if you take the initiative to be a good neighbor (or co-worker or employee or in-law), the onus then falls to others to be responsible for their own part to play.   You can then sleep at night knowing you behaved to the best of your abilities.   As we’ve said here before many times, you cannot control how other people will act but if you do the best you can, that’s really what etiquette and manners is all about.

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Margo January 2, 2013 at 5:32 am

OP, I don’t think you did anything wrong regarding the parking, however, I do think it would have been courteous to have told the neighbours in advance about the fence work, so they knew what you were doing and roughly how long it would take (this would also allow you to ask whether they minded you coming onto their driveway / yard if you needed to when doing the fencing!)

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Lychii January 2, 2013 at 6:14 am

There’s a difference between what the law allows, and what’s courteous toward your neighbors.

As far as the neighbor knew, you’ve decided to park the car there indefinitely. Yes, you should have talked to her beforehand if you wanted to avoid the eventual unpleasantness. She’s right, too, it’s annoying.

How would you like someone with a perfectly usable parking space, parking under YOUR house for days?

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Merrilee January 2, 2013 at 6:36 am

I have to say I disagree with Miss Jeanne slightly on this issue. Yes, it would have been nice to notify the neighbor beforehand regarding the parking of the car in the street due to the fencing issues. However, it’s parking on the street, which is publicly owned property. It belongs to no one home, and I believe this neighbor does not have a leg to stand on. If the neighbor perhaps needed that space, she could have asked the OP to move the car but that should have been done directly and verbally rather than leaving OP a nasty note about it. As long as the OP is not blocking the neighbor’s driveway or doing anything illegal, she is fully within her rights to park in the street.

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Ellie January 2, 2013 at 6:59 am

Or…perhaps this neighbor just felt she was entitled to the street space in front of her house. My mother once had a next door neighbor who complained when someone parked in front of – not her house – but my mother’s house! We were supposed to leave that spot clear in case her son visited. Perhaps it was safer to move the car since the neighbor appears to have had some strange sense of “I’m special” entitlement, but there was no other reason to move it, legally, or for etiquette.

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Carol January 2, 2013 at 7:05 am

I see the admin’s point about informing the neighbours about the renovation work. I admit it wouldn’t occur to me to do that, so I am filing that away for future use! However, I think NOT doing it is a minor transgression that could have been rectified if the Annoyed Neighbour had just come over to you and said ‘how long is the work going on?’ You could have told her; she could have asked could you please try not to park in front of my house, and you wouldn’t have been left with a bitter taste in your mouth.

I hate notes like that because it leaves the receiver feeling rather helpless. You don’t have the chance to defend yourself or apologise; you’re just left feeling surprised and frustrated. She’s lucky you’re a good person, and not someone who fights passive-aggressiveness with more passive-aggressiveness. For example leaving TWO cars in front of her house.

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Rose January 2, 2013 at 7:57 am

I imagine some neighborhoods are a bit more casual about this sort of thing. However, in my neighborhood, and the last couple I have lived in, parking a car in front of someone else’s house is just not done. That area is for the use of the members of that house, their visitors, and delivery vehicles. This lady waited several days to make her request, most likely because she wasn’t comfortable speaking to you in person about it; let’s face it, there are few things more uncomfortable than calling another person on bad behavior. I can’t help but think, also, that you certainly got off on the wrong foot with the dog incident, so she might not look so kindly on your family to begin with.
Perhaps you could talk to her, explain that you hadn’t realized how your actions were effecting her, and sincerely apologize for all the bother. While the dog incident and the car incident are, by themselves, fairly minor, it would be a shame to have a bunch of little things pile up to the point that you can no longer be on friendly, or even civil, terms with this neighbor.

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Chelle January 2, 2013 at 8:08 am

I think OP was right in noting that no one owns the street – there are no legal owners of street parking spaces. (I once lived on a busy street in a college town and often had to park a block or 2 from my house. Its par for the course – sometimes you got the good spot; sometimes another person got it.)

It’s unreasonable for the neighbor to expect to “not have to look at” someone else’s car in front of their house, nor did she have any right to demand that it be moved. Writing a note is a cowardly way of dealing with it; she could have come to your door.

Perhaps it might have been nice to warn her ahead of time (and give a time frame, like admin suggests) but your failure to issue a nice gesture isn’t necessarily an ettiquette faux pas.

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The Elf January 2, 2013 at 8:13 am

A little fore-warning can go a long way. If the street-parking-space in front of the houses truly doesn’t belong to anyone, then your neighbor has no legal leg to stand on. However, it is generally considered polite to leave the parking space in front of your neighbor’s house for your neighbor.

When I’ve had times when I’ve needed to use street parking space for extended periods of time (lots of guests, construction work, etc), I drop my neighbors a note. You can just tuck something in the mailbox or on the door if you can’t talk to them personally. I state the reason and apologize for the inconvience. I’ve never had a neighbor then tell me that I can’t, probably because they know they don’t have a legal right to it. But, as the admin states, giving notice tells them that this is a temporary situation. They probably should have guessed from the work going on at your place, but it’s still nice to say it.

I don’t think the OP did anything wrong, and that the neighbor overreacted, but next time the OP should be pre-emptive.

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Dominic January 2, 2013 at 8:19 am

I definitely agree with the admin that informing the neighbors in advance of your plans and the possible disruptions in parking patterns could be a great way to head off problems. Funny, though, how there is something about parking that makes people terribly possessive. I can understand it where, in large cities, often there are no off-street parking spaces, and people rely on having “their” spots in front of their homes or apartments. We live in a neighborhood where few people have driveways or garages, and though some have alley parking, most of us park on the street. We are fortunate enough to have a large yard and street frontage, where most lots on our block might have room to park only two cars in front. Our neighborhood also has to deal with a no-parking requirement on two days of the week on alternating sides of the street for street cleaning. So, on some days, all cars must be off one side of the street from 8 a.m. to noon. Once, on an unusual occasion and being in a hurry, we returned home from a quick trip to the home improvement store to finish up a project, we left our car parked mostly in front of a neighbor’s house on the opposite side of the street overnight. Perhaps we’d intended to move it later, but we didn’t. At the time, the woman’s adult son was living there, and he was usually the only one parked out front (and of course, he parked in front of our property on the odd days when necessary). After that single incident, the next morning, we found a two-page note scrawled in sharpie in large letters stating that we were rude for parking in front of their house, and we’d better not ever again or else. We saved the note, after moving the car, in case of any future incident, which, thankfully, never occurred. I don’t know if the mother ever knew of his behavior, as she remained polite with us, and we with her, but the son, who no longer lives there, seems to make a point of parking on our side of the street whenever he is there visiting and leaving trash and cigarette butts on the street.

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The Elf January 2, 2013 at 8:29 am

I once had a neighbor get on my case for parking in front of their house. These were townhomes – no garage – and each home was given two parking passes to the shared lot. Each home had a single numbered parking spot reserved to that home, and the other parking pass could be used in any space not numbered or marked for visitors. There wasn’t enough parking anyway, but on my section of the street it was particularly short. Since my husband worked a shift at the time, I left the reserved spot open for him, otherwise he’d no place to park at all when he returned home at 2am. On top of that, I drove an old car from the 70s that had very long and heavy doors. In order to be able to comfortably exit my car, I needed to park with the left door at the end of a row. That narrowed my parking choices down to about three spots in the whole neighborhood. One of these spots was in front of a neighbor’s house.

The previous owners of that house didn’t mind – or if they did, they didn’t say anything about it. The new neighbors came out to talk to me after I had parked there for the third time. “This is my spot.” They kept saying. I tried to explain that it wasn’t reserved. “This is my spot”. I got a copy of the home owner’s association parking rules and showed it to them. That’s when it became clear that they had difficulty with English and literally didn’t understand the rules. My Spanish is limited to food words and basic phrases and the HOA rules didn’t come in a Spanish version. At that point, I gave up. I probably could have pushed it, but honestly I didn’t want a fight. I tried to find other spaces to park and only parked there as a last resort. Thankfully, the problem resolved itself when I started driving a motorcycle. One of the many benefits of two-wheeled transportation is the ability to park it nearly anywhere!

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Lo January 2, 2013 at 8:38 am

I don’t think either you or the neighbor did anything wrong, really.

Strictly speaking you both failed to effectively communicate your positions. This could have been taken care of with a face to face conversation. She might have been rude about it but then again she might have been happy to have been consulted or at least apologized to with the idea you might have caused her any inconvenience even though you don’t think your actions warrant it.

Sometimes it’s nice to throw standoffish people a little pre-emptive goodwill, they’re generally used to being met with more of the same and it’s amazing how a little kindness can crash a barrier.

She was just dealing with the situation the only way she knew how. Lame, definitely, but not horrible. Based on your only other interaction with her it’s really hard to say if she’s a rude person or not. Maybe she was having a bad day when your dog wandered over, maybe she’s scared of dogs, maybe she has a history of misbehaving pets on her property. I would definitely freak out if someone’s dog ran over while I was spraying weeds because I love dogs and would be scared that they might get too close to the chemicals. I could see myself incorrectly assuming that the owner was just being irresponsible and putting their pet in danger by not keeping them away. Sounds wild but you never know.

Next time just give her a heads up. Then you’ll know for sure if you had the wrong idea or if she’s really a rude person to be avoided.

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Kirst January 2, 2013 at 8:50 am

The street is a public place, not your neighbour’s property. The neighbour was being unreasonable.

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Michele January 2, 2013 at 9:06 am

Wow! What a charming neighbor! You broke no laws. Unless your car is soooo ugly to look at that it dragged down the value of her property, she stepped way over the line! You were not blocking her driveway and were not on her grass. You did nothing wrong. I would leave an equally terse not stating those things on her car and add in that while you normally do park in “your” space, she should not be shocked if in the future there might be the rare use of the PUBLIC street in front of her home. I might also add that you would have appreciated a vist from her rather than her ugly little note.

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egl January 2, 2013 at 9:07 am

While it definitely would have been better if she’d talked to you rather than leaving a note, some people are really uncomfortable confronting strangers. Certainly, the note could have conveyed the same message in a politer tone if that was the case.

BTW, to shed some light on the Labrador situation and her reaction, unless she’s met your dog before, she has no idea if he’s friendly. I wouldn’t expect most people to be happy after a large dog got loose in their vicinity, even with an apology.

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Jays January 2, 2013 at 9:35 am

I’m a little confused. Given that the OP was doing absolutely nothing wrong (the neighbor does not own that space!), I don’t understand why she should have to alert the neighbor about the work being done. She’d be perfectly within her rights to keep the car there after the work is done. I don’t see how she was being rude.

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Heather January 2, 2013 at 9:38 am

My ex-husband and I lived in a house on a corner lot (no garage). The driveway was on the side street. Our neighbor in front had a brother living with her. He would routinely park in front of our house, driving my then husband crazy. I’ll admit that the presumption of it irked me (although it is true that the street belongs to everyone… but courtesy should rule). However, because our cars were always parked in the driveway on the side street entrance I decided to let it go… my reasoning being that his car parked in front of our house made it always look like someone was home. Our kids were infants at the time and I told myself it gave me an extra feeling of security if my husband weren’t home, it looked like everyone was… and of course, if we all weren’t, again, it looked like someone was. That being said, I agree that the neighbor’s brother should have addressed it. Our relations with the whole family were good… nothing contentious.

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CatToo January 2, 2013 at 9:39 am

#1) The problem with her note was that it wasn’t polite. Didn’t even approach polite. Had it been phrased politely, as the first communication, you likely would not have minded that it was a note rather than a face to face conversation.

#2) “We were clearly only using the space for a very limited purpose. A reasonable individual would be able to assess the situation and understand the car would not likely stay there after our work was complete.”

A reasonable individual has no idea how long your construction project is going to take. Even with the best of intentions, construction projects often take longer than planned, and they didn’t even have a framework to begin with. Is this privacy fence your only project? How elaborate do you intend to make the fence? Are you going to be building a deck once the fence is done? Do you have landscaping in front of the fence you intend to do once the fence is up? Is it moving at a pace that can be clearly seen to be “getting done quickly”? Meaning a matter of days not a matter of weeks?

Your neighbors have none of this information and a reasonable person would not ask them to make any assumptions about the answers as a method for judging the amount of ongoing inconvenience. Sure, they could ask. But don’t expect them to judge your intentions and progress on your deadline without any info-sharing.

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Elizabeth January 2, 2013 at 9:43 am

It seems your neighbor has an attitude problem and it is likely that anything will set her off. Best to keep your distance, smile big, and keep away. Some people go through life with this toxic wake behind them and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

The note was aggressive and un-necessary. Rather, she could have asked if this was a temporary situation (if it was such a pressing issue to her). Yes, perhaps you could have notified her of the project but I’ve only done this when major construction was getting underway – this was a short-term project and had no material impact on her life, yard, etc. Quite simply, this is her problem (her attitude) and not yours. I hope the fence is tall :)

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Angel January 2, 2013 at 11:13 am

I think the OP should have given both neighbors a heads up on the project, plus an approximate time frame. It sounds like the neighbors are in close proximity so they deserve to be informed ahead of time. That being said, the neighbor’s note was terribly rude. there was absolutely no reason for that. I understand not being able to knock on the door and talk to others, but, she could have worded the note a little more nicely, if that’s the route she wanted to take. She really didn’t have a legitimate reason for being upset about the car being parked there, as it wasn’t blocking her in, but hey, some people just have to look for stuff to complain about!

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Lisa January 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

This might be considered bad etiquette on my parents part, but a large family moved in across the street from them which included an unused boat parked in their drive way, and other assorted vehicles parked along the street both in front of their house and in front of my parents house. The boat for some reason started to attract rats, so my folks asked if they wouldn’t mind taking care of that and also not parking in front of their house. This did not net any success so they alerted the police. This didn’t set well, and while my folks were out of town for a month, they decided to sign them up for close to 50 magazines using the free subscription card placed in most of them. When my folks got back, the post office handed over about two bins worth of magazines and post. Of course it was impossible to say that it was them, but I suppose calling the police was also a bit extreme.

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Michellep January 2, 2013 at 11:43 am

I’m with admin. The neighbor shouldn’t have left a passive aggressive note, and as a courtesy you should have let the neighbors know what you were going to be doing. The neighbor was more in the wrong than you were, OP.

As someone who has had horrible neighbors and wonderful ones, and needed to depend on good neighbors at times, I say be the better person from the get-go. OP, you had the right idea. Bring over a baked good and smile, and most likely you will have good neighbors, or at least civil ones. This woman doesn’t seem like she will be happy regardless, so just smile at her and move on when you see her. Keep tight watch and control over your dog, however, because I’ve been on the other end of that scenario with others’ dogs, and it wasn’t pleasant.

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The Elf January 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Jays: She doesn’t *have* to. It’s just *nice* to.

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Kovi January 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm

The neighbor is being quite unreasonable, and very rude. When there are building materials sitting in the driveway, it’s pretty obvious that there is work being done (it’s not like she couldn’t see the fence going up, anyway), and reasonable to assume that any parking that suddenly varied from the norm is a result of that work. A car being parked 2/3rds of the way over on HER side of the yard does not in any way harm her. And it’s certainly not illegal.

She has no leg to stand on.

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Jewel January 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm

While the adage is that “fences make for good neighbors”, fences can also be divisive in more ways than just marking property boundaries. It’s likely that your neighbor just has a sour, unfriendly personality. However, putting up a fence without even a “how-d’ye-do” can be really off-putting for a neighbor.

On my block, a home owner had a fence contractor digging post holes immediately after closing on the house in a neighborhood that had no fences up to that point. He obviously didn’t consider the message his actions communicated to the rest of the homeowners. Just saying “hello, I’m ______, glad to meet you; by the way, we’re putting in a fence so we can have an an espalier” would have gone a long way to avoid the upset that ensued. I often wonder if he has figured out why his neighbors, who are so friendly with each other, are cool towards him? It’s not the fence per se, but how he went about putting it in.

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LonelyHound January 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Having lived in a neighborhood similar to this with similar curtesy rules I have to say the neighbor was rude. Though I will admit you were a bit discurteous for not giving a heads up on the construction as well. I have been on both sides of the coin. In my little section of the block there was a house with a driveway, my left side neighbor with a half lot property, my house and our right side neighbor. My husband parked in front of the house with the driveway due to the fact that we talked with the elderly lady there and she had a large enough driveway to accomdate five cars so she and her family were set, I parked directly in front of our house and my right side neighbor parked directly in front of me. This left a whole car space open for my left side neighbor who, though she had a garage, had a daughter that would visit. This gave everyone a spot in front of their house in which to park. Well, it was not satisfactory for my left side neighbor’s daughter. She would complain to us that my husband left no room for her to park. Since large pickups have parked in the opening we left we knew this to not be true. Curious as to how she would prefer parking to go we left for dinner on a day we knew she would be coming over and took my husband’s car. When we returned she was parked so there was half a car length ahead of her and half a car length behind. She was taking up 2 car spaces just so she could park her car so her front doors were in line with her mother’s fance gate! No one required assistance or was disabled enough that they would need that precise parking spot. Before we continued with our regular parking routine we asker her mother if there was a reason for her parking like that. Her answer made us laugh.

Also, we had an old house across the street torn down and then a new house built in its place. The new house was modular and so they needed to bring in the house on several large trucks and place it with a crane. This shut down our street from one end to the other. NO ONE on our block was told, and what was worse was the fact that they were there until almost 7 pm. People were unable to get to their houses or find parking (In my old neighborhood 90% of the houses had on street parking and nothing else). No one was told and no apologies were made for the inconvience that the home builders caused. Needless to say the new neighbors got a chilly reception.

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Ellen January 2, 2013 at 12:35 pm

While the “letter of the law” may state that parking partially in front of your neighbors’ property is legal, etiquette is about those shades of behavior that are not strict questions of legality.

If you were building a privacy fence exactly along the property line, you must have at least occasionally been walking or putting materials in her part of the property. To do so without any prior communication will put a bad taste between you and your neighbor.

I can see that having multiple cars and work going on next door, with no communication of timeframe, could be very annoying. The fact that you state you did often leave your husbands’ car in front of our house when you *could* have returned it to your own driveway, could be infuriating.
You may not have been violating the law or any specific neighborhood code, but you have not been a subjectively good neighbor, where a little graciousness could have made things a lot easier.

Likewise, the neighbor’s note was overly aggressive where she could have been gracious. I would put equal fault here, but I think it could also be smoothed over with an apology and possibly a small token (such as baked goods) or an invitation for coffee.

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Stacey Frith-Smith January 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm

OP, perhaps I did not understand correctly, but you appear to say that you left a car parked close to your neighbor’s driveway for several days without moving it when it became feasible to do so (overnight and on the weekend). This would bother some people because it would seem that you slightly favor your own convenience overall. (You could have moved the car at night, when he did not have to come and go for class and when there were fewer vehicles in play?) No one owns the street, but people can be a little house proud, and want to enjoy not only ease of access but freedom from encroachment, be it ever so minor. If you are miffed over the note, perhaps you can extend the same awareness of frustration to your neighbor, with whom you had no communication and with whom you have a bit of awkward history at best. She might have been miffed that you couldn’t be bothered to mention your need for extended street parking and even more miffed that your husband’s car wasn’t moved during the project’s down time over the weekend. You are “incorrectly correct”. She hasn’t a leg to stand on in law. In custom, however, she might. If you weren’t inclined to think so, you might not feel “called out” by her note at all and could have promptly disregarded it instead of stewing over its tone.

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Barbarian January 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I would simply ignore the neighbor and her note because you were parked legally. We had a similar situation but with friendliness and cooperation from everyone, there were no harsh words of any kind exchanged. It was a busy holiday weekend. Son’s friend came in his car to spend the night at our house so they could get an early start on apartment hunting the next day. Son’s friend took the only parking space on our street which was on the street in front of our next door neighbor’s house. He left with son in his car the next day. Next door neighbor knocked on our door and told us his dad was coming in from out of town in his RV at any minute now and needed the space where son’s friend had parked-could we please move the car? I explained it belonged to son’s friend. We called son on his cell phone and they came back and moved the car. By that time, neighbor’s father=in-law had arrived in his RV, apologized for the inconvenience, thanked my son and his friend and took us on a tour of his RV.

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Meghan January 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm

People are funny about parking. The law is that no one owns the street (though park in a space someone else shoveled out in Boston and you’re asking for it), but in most residential neighborhoods, absent a big party, people don’t park in front of others’ homes. My parents live in the burbs, and that’s definitely the “rule.” Though from the OP’s description, the car was mostly in front of their own house, and only a little in front of the neighbor’s. If the neighbor was really bothered, then she should have come over and asked what the story with construction was. OP or her husband could have explained, and no harm done. Passive aggressive notes are always a bad idea, though they make for a very entertaining web site.

However, as others have noted, parking is a whole different ball game in more heavily populated areas. In my old neighborhood, there were several multiple family homes, a small apartment building, a set of townhouses and maybe one single family. So street parking was totally up for grabs. Most of the time it was easy to find a spot, and we had a two-car tandem driveway so it wasn’t an issue. But if we had a guest coming, my BF or I would move our car to the street to leave the drive free for a guest.

Also, some days the BF would chose to take his motorcycle, and leave his car parked behind mine. If I knew in advance, I could move his car out, move my car out and then move his car back in before taking off in my own car. It was a pain, and took awhile, and required two free spots on the street. If I didn’t have time, or there weren’t two spots nearby, I would sometimes just put his car on the street and head out, with the intention of putting it back in the driveway when I got back. Usually we would park right across from our house (parking was only allowed on the other side of the street), but occasionally it was across from out next door neighbor. One day, the BF noticed a note on his car. It wasn’t in English, and we literally had no idea what it said. So we just sort of ignored it. A few months later, my car was parked there, and we got another note. This time we were able to make out that someone didn’t want us to park there. This was really weird, because the spot is not in front of any house, and is between the driveway to the apartment building’s parking lot and the driveway to the house next to the parking lot. We still had no idea who didn’t want us parking there, as it was unlikely anyone could have felt possessive of it. Then a few days later we saw our next door neighbor, an older Italian woman yelling at some complete stranger who parked in this spot, which was on the other side of the street from her HUGE, multi-car driveway. Six cars could easily park there, maybe more. It was extra weird, because we always had a good relationship, and had lived next to each other for a couple years. She had given us herbs from her garden, and we always said hello when we saw her. She knew our cars, so I have no clue why she never spoke to us. From this point on, we avoided using that spot, but it was so odd that she felt she had the right to tell people not to park on the street, not in front of her house.

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Jay January 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm

You should move it to be nice, but the neighbors don’t own the street. They were quite rude, but that doesn’t mean you should be too, of course.

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Calli Arcale January 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Oooooh, street parking. The etiquette of this can vary tremendously, and it’s probably wise not to make assumptions about it, or to assume that the law and custom actually reflect one another. In my neighborhood, the law specifies that no cars may be parked on the street at night (I think they define it as 9PM to 6AM, but I’d have to look that up), but realistically they don’t actually enforce that unless they have to plow the streets. And because we’re in the ‘burbs, enforcement varies; sometimes the worst that happens is your car gets plowed in. But downtown, parking on the wrong side of the street during a snow emergency (even one you didn’t know about, because you were traveling) means your car gets immediately towed and you have to pay a fine plus daily impound fees to get it back. If you can’t afford it, your car will eventually be sold at auction. (Sometimes people manage to recover their cars this way, but not always.) The law doesn’t care whose house you park in front of, though if you’re parking in front of someone else’s house a lot, the police may be able to intervene. It’s not actually illegal, but it can be rude under some conditions. For instance, you probably shouldn’t be leaving your car in front of a neighbor’s house overnight if you can avoid it.

And then there’s space. In the ‘burbs, you probably have a driveway and enough roadside along your property to park two or three vehicles. In the city, though, you’ll probably have an alleyway and enough room for maybe two cars on the street. And everybody else wants to use the street too for parking their vehicles, especially if any of the homes are multi-family or are leasing rooms. And then we get into the whole fun etiquette of clearing your parking spot in the winter, over which people have actually come to violence.

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Anonymouse January 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

This is one issue that I had to deal with a lot growing up. My father is a licensed mechanic, so in addition to all of our own cars, we also had customers cars parked in the street and the garage almost constantly. The usual setup was to put as many vehicles as possible in front of our house and in the garage and driveway (which was last resort parking with so many cars going in and out) then to park in front of the neighbours across the street. Typically we give directions to the house ending with “the one with no available parking anywhere.” If the neighbours ever had a problem with it, I never heard about it.

Now, I am living in a basement suite with two other apartments. There are two spots out back, one belonging to me, the other to one neighbour. Upstairs neighbour has the garage and a driveway about twice the length of either spot. Because my one neighbour has no car, we have written permission to use her spot. Unfortunately, upstairs neighbour’s daughter refuses to park on the street when she visits, meaning we can’t park a second vehicle (meaning we can only plug one in at a time, making the second unusable in the winter. Hers is a big jeep that doesn’t ever get plugged in). Neighbour does not inform me when her daughter is visiting, nor do I expect it. Nor would I ever dream of leaving a passive-aggressive note for her. Just deal with it and no that it is not forever…

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Enna January 2, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Provided that the OP wasn’t blocking a driveway and wasn’t parking illegally then the neighbour is just being petty. I think the OP should knock on the lady’s door and say that her car hasn’t been parked there for a week and it isn’t a permanent arranagement.

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Chris January 2, 2013 at 3:05 pm

My comments:
1) I don’t believe the neighbor’s reaction to your dog is unusual. If she either has a fear of dogs, or has spent her time and labor on maintaining a pristine yard, its entirely reasonable that she’d be irked or scared about the dog. As a dog owner you DO have a responsibility to control your dog. If they aren’t behaved well enough to stay near you while not on a leash, then you never let them off the leash outside the confines of your house and fenced yard. If the collar you have allows them to slip the leash with ease, get a harness.

2) I agree that advising a neighbor of a project is courteous but I don’t feel it is required. It is expected of you to maintain your home both to preserve it’s value and to preserve the value of the neighbors’ homes. A privacy fence, if in good taste, adds value to all surrounding homes as privacy is a high demand commodity. So long as the work did not damage her property or continue into the night and thus cause a noise disturbance, there is absolutely NO requirement to advise a neighbor of the work aside from a courtesy heads up.

3) As for the street parking- you MAY have been in violation. It depends on a few factors. I’ve personally lived on a street that was privately owned. Each homeowner owned the portion of street that otherwise bordered their property. In such case parking in front of another person’s house WAS legally trespassing. One city I lived in (different from the previous one; I’m a military child incidentally), had an ordinance in place that assigned legal right to the use of the street parking to the homeowner. Again, parking there was in violation of the city ordinance. Lastly, in yet a third city, a homeowner’s association wrote it into the rules that street parking was allowed and that the space in front of a particular home was claimed by that home. I would encourage you to research the ordinances and rules which govern where you live OP. You might have violated them.

All that said, I don’t believe you acted poorly OP based on the facts as presented here.

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Amanda H. January 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Misuse of the word “illegal” aside, the biggest problem I see with the neighbor’s note was that it was contentious and rude. I could forgive the note if it were more polite. For instance, giving the neighbor the benefit of the doubt, there’s a small chance she didn’t know it was your car. Even with living near each other for a while, she may not have necessarily memorized which car goes with which neighbor. We’ve lived in our current residence a year and I only know the owners of maybe two of the cars outside our building, and in our previous residence, after five years I still only knew the owners of four cars, tops, out of a good twenty in the lot.

My husband and I have been in the position of note-writer before. In the first apartment complex we lived in after getting married, each unit was assigned one numbered parking space, as outlined in the rental agreement. Additionally, there was exactly one visitor space in the (quite small) parking lot. All other extra cars had to park on the street (very limited parking), or optionally in the church parking lot that was around two side streets but accessible by foot from our complex. (This particular church lot was plenty large enough and only used in full on Sundays, some Wednesdays or Fridays, etc., so convenient for short-term guests.)

Hubby and I would frequently come home in an evening after being out on errands, at class, at activities with friends, etc. to find an unfamiliar car sitting in our parking space. If the visitor space was free, we’d put our car there for the evening and hope that the mystery car would move by morning. When the visitor space was taken, we’d try to find an available space on the street, but more often than not my husband would drop me off at our door and then go to a nearby side street or the aforementioned church parking lot to drop the car off. After a few instances of this, especially when often as not the car would still be there in the morning, we started leaving notes. Simple, polite ones pointing out that the parking in the lot was assigned and they were occupying our assigned spot, and would they please not do that again. We didn’t ever learn if the cars belonged to our neighbors, but those notes usually kept the same car from showing up again. I suspect that many of the “invaders” belonged to guests of our neighbors. But the point is, without knowing in the first place which door to knock on to ask someone to move their car, the only real resort we had was to leave a note. The trick is to make it polite communication.

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Ellen January 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Correction – “in front of HER house”. I am not the OP’s neighbor, just typing too fast.

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Cat Whisperer January 2, 2013 at 4:15 pm

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

Admin called it right: OP should have contacted her neighbor before all the construction started, and explained to the neighbor what was going to happen, how long it would last, and offering to negotiate any problems that neighbor found unbearably inconvenient for some reason.

Neighbor might still have copped a bad attitude, but if you’ve taken the high road in advance and offered to meet her half-way, then at least you’re unlikely to find yourself featured on an eHell post as the bad guy.

I can sympathize with OP’s neighbor. Our next-door neighbor decided to construct an add-on to a converted garage/utility building on their lot that adjoins our yard. The neighbor decided to ignore zoning laws regarding set-back from the fence that divides our two lots, and construct their addition right up against the fence, with part of the roof overhanging our property line. The add-on was unpermitted, not done to code, and was sloppily constructed.

In order to build the damn thing, they had to have their construction crew come into our yard, stack their supplies on our side of the fence, and use a scaffolding and ladder set up on our property!!!!!

….And now comes the fun part. Know how we found out about this? When the workmen doing the construction started marching through our yard, carrying lumber and the frame for scaffolding!!!!

That’s right, they didn’t tell us this was going to happen. Never mind asking permission to go through our yard, set up on our property, and work from our yard!!!!! They just showed up and started setting up one fine morning, without so much as a by-your-leave or if-you-please.

I think that it would not be understating things to characterize my reaction as “going ballistic.” I ran out into the yard and asked the work crew what in hades they were doing in my yard. I got a bunch of wide-eyed dismayed stares and stuttered responses that well, lady, we have to work in your yard to get the job done, we can’t do it any other way.

I told them to get out before I called the police. They scrammed, and shortly after that the neighbor came over to talk to me about it.

I’ll spare you the negotiations that took place, except to say that my husband took over and we allowed them to do a minimal amount of work from our yard. No scaffolding. No ladders. No parking materials in our yard. Construction only allowed to take place while one of us was home; if we left, they had to leave. Daily walk-through to assure that nothing in our yard was damaged. And they had to have building inspectors approve the addition, and get variance permits for anything that departed from code.

Neighbor was not pleased. Neighbor couldn’t understand why we were so…unneighborly.

Want to hear the real joker in the pack on this farce?

Our neighbor is a CHURCH. That’s right, a Christian church that, on their website, proudly trumpets how they teach and preach “real fundamental Christian values.” The guy who sent the work crew over to our yard, without asking our permission, was the pastor. And he just could not understand why my husband and I got so bent out of shape about his assumption that without prior notification, never mind permission, he could have people come into our yard and use it as a construction site for however long and with whatever purpose he wanted to!

If you’re going to do anything that could inconvenience or intrude on your neighbors, talk to them first. That’s just plain common sense and common courtesy. Admin is absolutely right.

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Lisastitch January 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm

If I’m visualizing this correctly, your husband’s car was parked between the two driveways, but primarily on your side. That means that your neighbor still had parking on her yard-side. You have enough space to park two vehicles on your yard-side, so I assume she does too. It sounds as if you were doing your best to minimize the impact of your project on your neighborhood.
We live in a similar neighborhood, and I wouldn’t tell neighbors if I were doing something similar. I don’t tell them when we host a party.
Yes, I think it is considerate to park in front of the person that you’re visiting when possible, but the parking in front of my home does not belong to me. Especially if I know it’s a neighbor’s car, and I can see that they’re in the middle of a major project, I wouldn’t worry about the parking.

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Cat January 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I would have let both neighbors know what I was doing. Bearing in mind that crazy people have to live somewhere, I would try to avoid anyone who was passive-aggressive about parking.
I lived in a townhouse and found my neighbor had nailed a trellis to my roof soffit. He did not ask me about putting nails in my house, he just did it. I thought he went over the line there, but he was a nice person and, when I mentioned it, he removed the trellis.

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Serena January 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm

I don’t think you owed the neighbor either a “heads-up” or an apology. Plain and simple, the street belongs to the city, not the neighbor; you can park your car there until Judgement Day if you so choose. We had a similar problem at a place where I worked, except the homeowner in question had been a regular customer for decades and was now dying from liver cancer. So when he called ranting and raving we would go ahead and move the offending car. In this case, however, until I got a polite request to move, I would stand firm. Probably not the most mature mature of responses, but I don’t reward that kind of behavior.

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Seiryuu January 2, 2013 at 5:37 pm

As someone who’s had to deal with a neighbour like this under similar circumstances*, I’m biased in the favour of the OP. While it would have been nice for the OP to tell the neighbour that the space in front of her house will be temporarily used, she is not obligated to.

*: I live next door to a neighbour who has boundary issues. On days where my street is crowded, if a car was forced to be parked in “his” (as he has designated recently with buckets guarding it) spot, the owner will find a small note telling them that he doesn’t park in their spot, they don’t park in his. Of course, he ends up parking in other people’s spots, so that point ends up being moot. He has even gone as far to raise a legal claim against a tenant of mine in which he has no legal foothold, so to say.

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cathy January 2, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I would have given her a heads-up about the work being done. We have limited parking on our street and everyone seems to have 3 or 4 cars, so there’s a constant battle for spaces. We have too much stuff in the garage to park there, so we park our SUV in the driveway, leave a space on the driveway for our son’s truck, and have a sedan parked out front. At the moment we also own an old Toyota that we plan to get rid of, so it’s on the street too. While it sometimes bugs me that people who could park in front of their own house park in front of mine, I’m aware that they can park where they want to, so unless a vehicle is blocking me or it’s clear that it’s abandoned, I wouldn’t ask them to move it or call to get it towed.

Some people in my mom’s neighborhood actually have street work cones and put them out so people won’t park in front of their house. There is a small, private religious school at the end of the block that doesn’t provide parking for their students and they tend to park all over the street and I guess some residents got tired of it. I’m still wondering why the residents don’t just apply for resident-only parking.

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Cat Whisperer January 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm

One more note about the street parking issue.

One of our neighbors had a guest visiting. Guest parked on the street in front of my house. When I saw guest getting out of her car, I went out and politely suggested she might not want to park there. Before I could say anything more, guest told me, “Street parking is free, I’ll park where I want.” And turned her back on me and walked away.

Okay….since she felt that way, I saw no reason to run after her and finish what I was going to say, which was that street parking was prohibited on that day and time, since it was street sweeping day, and our city’s parking enforcement would be there in the next ten minutes or so to ticket her if she didn’t move her car. (The sign prohibiting parking on that day and time was within sight of her car, but I guess she didn’t see it.)

So I went back into my house, and from my living room window, I watched parking enforcement arrive and write her a ticket, and about half an hour later, I watched her when she came out and found the ticket. She didn’t look very happy….

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missminute January 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm

I had a similar issue. When my boyfriend moved in with me, I would use the garage and he would use a space on the street. If the space outside our home was available he’d park there, but with many homes having two cars, it often wasn’t. Two years into this arrangement, he parked at a space across the road for two nights. On the second night we found an angry note insisting we leave the space free as the neighbour needed it “for his guests”. We left a note in his mailbox explaining that, when we can, we park in front of our home. However we can park where we like, and he has no right to make this request (we cited local council law stating such). I explained we certainly were not parking streets away from our home, where he had lived for two years, so that his “guests” were comfortable. Never heard from him again. I understand it’s polite to let the neighbour know what is happening, but realistically the street is a public space and the neighbour has nothing to say about where you park.

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NostalgicGal January 2, 2013 at 10:08 pm

One of my aunts’ place had enough space to park four pulled in in the back at garage/apron, and 4-6 (with a bit of hangover) out front, and on weekends often there were that many. We’d arrived early in dad’s new LTD (limited edition, went to our dealership by accident, and like 500 miles on it) and ended up at the end with half the car in front of the neighbor’s. During day a number of the vehicles left, except ours and a few others, there was now space out front of their place IF someone was home to move stuff. Which there wasn’t.

Came back and neighbor that our car was ‘over on their side’ was mowing their boulevard, a large chunk of tree branch was lying there and they didn’t bother to pick it up… and we arrived in time to watch the mower toss it for the third time against our car.

‘should have parked in front of their place’ (at time we pulled up, no place else to park), nobody at home to move vehicle at the time they decided to mow ‘well should have moved it as soon as space became available’ (see nobody was at home) and ‘not responsible if you park in front of my house’ (they were not amused when they got sued for willful damage and had to pay for those three dents and the paint job on the side of that almost brand new car). We made sure next time and thereafter if we were going to do something and carpool in the allwheel drive stuff out of there, to MOVE everything.

That neighbor of aunt’s never said anything, just decided to beat up a car, and they moved about a year later and the lady that lived there next, was a sweetie; and never had an issue with ‘overflow parking’ on weekends-it wasn’t all the time parking.

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Rebecca January 2, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I don’t know what the parking regulations stipulate in the OP’s area, but as far as I’m concerned, if there are no signs banning street parking, what the neighbour is or is not “tired of looking at” has no bearing on whether or not the OP’s family can park there.

At any rate, if the neighbour was annoyed, there are ways to deal with this amicably. A knock on the door: “Hi, do you mind moving your car? It’s been in front of my house for quite a while” would accomplish more than a nasty note.

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Nancy January 2, 2013 at 11:59 pm

I’m sorry, but this looks like no harm, no foul. You parked your car on a public street, you parked it legally, and unless you’re in some neighborhood where there is a big need for street parking, you probably left lots of other spots for others to park. Everyone in the neighborhood has a driveway. Etiquette is great, but frankly, you can’t please everyone all the time. Letting your neighbors know that you were going to be parking on the public street as a courtesy seems like too much information. I seriously don’t know or care where my neighbors park, as long as it doesn’t block my garage. The ONLY way I would inform my neighbors is if I DID need to block their garage for any extended period of time.

I actually do live in an area where street parking does get used for the local rail line. I promise you someone is parked in front of my house right now. Sometimes when I don’t want to park in the alley, *I* park in front. Sometimes I park in front of a neighbor’s house. If either one gave me grief about it, ie leaving a passive aggressive note, I’d probably continue to park there, and I’d be sure to tell them that if something “strange” happened to my car, I know who I’d point the cops to.

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Susan January 3, 2013 at 7:56 am

I understand how the OP feels about getting a passive aggressive note from the neighbor. However, it might be wise to consider that some people just do not like confrontation, and not knowing you personally your neighbor had no way to know how you would react to a face to face conversation. Regardless of the legalities it was discourteous to leave the car parked there when it could have been moved.
I do not agree that the neighbor should have known that your construction job would not have taken long and was therefore not a big deal. Your neighbor is not psychic and cannot read your mind. And it smacks of self-justifying excuses to say that she should know what your intentions were. You could have told her. Especially if you were going to have building materials right on her property line for days.
Either way, I think that this situation could have been resolved with no long term wondering on anyone’s part with a simple conversation. And since the OP was the party who received the note, indicating that the neighbor wasn’t comfortable initiating one for whatever reason, it would have been the OP’s opportunity to start a friendly air-clearing chat at that point.

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michelle January 3, 2013 at 8:40 am

I just have to send a little plea to the OP on this one. Your neighbor lady sounds like my mom. Things like this really irritate her, and yet she truly is one of the nicest, warmest people. She has neighbors who, in the summer, constantly park in front of her house while leaving the space in front of their own house empty. Mom has had people drop by to visit, only to see a car parked in front of her house making them think she has company, so they just turn around and leave.

If you have any ill feelings towards your neighbor lady, please try to let them go. If she’s anything like my mom, she could be a great friend to you, if you can just accept her as she is with her idiosyncracies and all. She would totally understand if you’d just let her know what was going on first – in fact, she might have rolled up her sleeves and helped you if you needed it! (She loves home improvement stuff!)

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Shalamar January 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Jewel said: “On my block, a home owner had a fence contractor digging post holes immediately after closing on the house in a neighborhood that had no fences up to that point. He obviously didn’t consider the message his actions communicated to the rest of the homeowners.”

I’m sorry; I don’t follow. I realize that a lone fence on a completely unfenced street would look a bit odd, but he was building it on his property and had every right to do so. The only neighbours he should have talked to (and, I hope, he DID talk to) were the ones on either side of him, who would be affected by having a fence on one side of their property. If you’re thinking that he should have talked to everyone on the street, I don’t agree. Maybe I’ve misunderstood?

I’m remembering when our next-door neighbour told us that they were planning to build a fence between our two properties (we didn’t have one at that time). They told us “It’ll cost $x,xxx.xx” and looked at us expectantly. When we realized that they were expecting us to pay for half the fence, we said “Um, we’re really sorry, but we can’t do that. Money’s very tight right now, and we just can’t afford it.” The fence ended up not being built after all.

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