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Driveway Right A Way

Dear E-Hell,

I would like to get some suggestions from the moderators and readers concerning a bit of a parking inconvenience I am currently experiencing. Please bear with me as while this may seem a simple question of a “polite spine”, there are several details that are rather important…

I live in a lovely semi-historic neighborhood filled with mostly larger homes with a few smaller ones mixed in. The neighborhood is well maintained and one of the more desirable in town, with homes usually selling in less than a month of being placed on the market. While there is some new construction from people purchasing an older home and razing it to build a new one, it is rare. Most of these homes are single family homes, but occasionally there will be a home that has been turned into a duplex or even holds 4-6 apartments. As you can imagine these are snapped up as quickly as possible, usually by married or co-habitating medical students, people going through a divorce that don’t want to live in an apartment complex or other responsible adults that want a family style neighborhood. The home next to me is one such home. It has been turned into a duplex.

My neighbor is a lovely woman. She is a widow and moved into the apartment after her husband’s passing so that she could be next to her daughter that lived across the street. She does not drive, though the driveway to the home is on her side of the duplex and technically the driveway and the garage are ‘hers’ (per her rental agreement) and do not belong to the tenant on the other side of the house. She does utilize the garage for storage, but she has no car. Our homes are situated so that our driveways are actually right next to one another, so close in fact that at the street level there is no grass or other divider between them leaving it to look like one exceptionally wide driveway. As you pull up past the homes to the garages in back, the driveways do separate with a bit of yard between them.

A year or so ago, a new tenant moved into the apartment on the other side of the duplex. This is when the issue began. Two men (brothers) moved in and began parking in the driveway (that belonged to the widow) even though she had said she would prefer them not to. When they pulled into the drive far back, she would have to get around their cars to get into her garage which she goes into often. Plus, one would sometimes disturb her late at night with their coming and going as the drive was right next to her apartment. She evidently spoke to them and only one brother started parking in the driveway. The other started parking on the street, but for some reason chose to park directly in front of my home as opposed to in front of their own home.

This is an issue for me as my driveway is on a rather steep hill and I have a couple of friends and family members that will sometimes pop by that simply can not handle getting out of a car on that hill. My grandmother had her car door close in on her leg as she tried it and it left a bruise on her fragile skin for months. If she could park in front of my house, then she and others can walk on flat ground to the steps leading up to my house. I had just decided that I might need to say something, when the first incident occurred.

It was about 1 in the afternoon and I had just put my son down for a nap, when I heard shouting outside. I was in my living room, which is next to the driveway and I could hear both the widow and one of the brothers outside. They were having an argument concerning the driveway. I didn’t know all the details, but after several minutes he yelled at her and called her “an old bi**h” and it became quiet. I saw her later that day and she told me that he was coming in late in the evening, usually quite drunk and was waking her. To be honest, he was coming in quite drunk during daylight hours as well. She wanted him to stop using the drive all together as it was disruptive and she was (quite rightly) concerned he might hit the house or drive through the garage one day. She spoke to her landlord, but it was no help. The landlord told the widow that while she did get the garage in her lease the drive was not “technically” included and that the drunk would be allowed to continue to use it, but they would continue to only allow one car in the driveway to prevent the garage from being blocked.

As our drives are so very close, if a car in my neighbor’s driveway is not parked straight then I am unable to back out of my garage and down my drive. I am sure all of your readers see where this is going. The brother with the drinking problem often has trouble getting his car parked straight. There have been several times when I went to knock on their door to get the car moved and no one answered, leaving me to either call and re-arrange my plans with others explaining that I can not leave, find an alternate mode of transportation or just to wait for him to wake up/show up. I have also knocked and had the street parking brother answer and inform me that the brother blocking my car has left (either on foot or with friends) and he does not have the keys to move the blocking car. I even called the police one time, but was told there was nothing I could do about it.

The drinking brother shows no sign of quitting. There were two other incidents with him that did not give him enough reason to quit. One night my son woke and when I went to check on him I realized there were red and blue lights flashing through the windows. I looked outside (at 3am) to discover multiple police cars in front of my house. My neighbor was getting a DWI! Right before he pulled into our drive!!! I watched as a police officer actually drove his car into the driveway to keep it from getting impounded! What??? I couldn’t believe it. The next incident was during the early evening. I was sitting down with my son for his dinner around 5:30pm and once again I saw lights on the street. It was an ambulance. I went to the window and saw them walking to the house on the other side of the duplex. They have a young infant and I am friends with the mom, so I went out to see if they were ok or if I needed to watch the baby while she or her husband went to the hospital. They were fine. The brother with the drinking problem had walked out of his kitchen (the door is by their driveway) and passed out, knocking his head on the steps. The husband of my friend had found him outside and bleeding in their driveway!

The widow’s daughter (from across the street) had to move this past year to a town about 30 minutes away, but she still works here in town. This also further complicates the situation for the widow as the drinking neighbor, the one whom lives in the other side of her duplex is her daughter’s boss! I strongly suspect this is one reason the widow has not pushed the issue further with her landlord. I have met the landlord of my neighbor, and that woman is basically useless in this situation. She simply does not care and seems fairly clueless. Since the widow is the person paying rent, and she may be reluctant to get her daughter’s boss evicted, it appears I am stuck with the brothers forever.

The police are obviously aware of the drinking brother, but are no help. I don’t want to start a war with these unstable people, but the parking is more than just annoying – sometimes I literally can not leave my home! I also do not want to do anything that will cause more chaos for my sweet neighbor, but I feel like these people are a big stress for her to deal with as well.

So…any suggestions?

Thank you for any and all ideas you may come up with!   0816-14


The answer seems obvious to me. If the driveway usage is at the discretion of the widowed neighbor per her rental agreement, then how she chooses to use this asset of renting the apartment is well within her legal rights to use it as she wants.   Get permission from your neighbor widow to use her driveway to park your cars and then park your car in such a way that uses the entire driveway width and close to the street so no other car can get behind or around you.   Then when you have guests, move your car to allow them to park in widow neighbor’s driveway.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Chris August 19, 2014, 11:57 am

    I think the OP should park on the street in front of her house. Hence she can always get out. Problem solved.

  • Cecilia August 19, 2014, 11:59 am

    I agree with the majority that say put up some sort of fence/divider and call for a tow when they block your driveway.

  • Calli Arcale August 19, 2014, 12:30 pm

    I’m with the folks who suggested having the vehicle towed when it is parked illegally on your property. First, though, try posting signs or otherwise setting a clear legal precedent that you have communicated that it is not acceptable to park on your property without your permission. This should not have to be stated, but by stating it you will have a better time defending in court if he decides to press the issue that far (which seems quite possible under the circumstances).

  • Huh August 19, 2014, 12:36 pm

    My dad has a three car garage and lives toward the end of a street, so a lot of people will turn around in his driveway. It wasn’t a problem for many years until A. One day someone hit the garage trying to turn around and B. People started tearing up the yard and his garden trying to turn around (It’s a 3 car garage! How big is your car/why can’t you drive properly?!)

    My dad put up some nice flexible reflectors on each side of the driveway, hoping that people would see them and not tear up the yard anymore. They just plowed over them. So he bought these nice reflectors that are also solar lights at night. Very pretty. He attached them to these very heavy solid metal poles that if you hit them or run them over, you’re going to have sizable dent or scratch in your car. Since those have been installed, no one has tore up the yard or the garden.

    I can’t figure out OP’s driveway – it is two different driveways, but yet it isn’t? If it’s at all possible to somehow show the edges of your driveway like others have said, with planters, or a painted line or even pretty solar light reflectors made with heavy metal poles, you need something to show your neighbors where their property ends and yours begins.

  • NicoleK August 19, 2014, 12:40 pm

    If his car is blocking you, call a towing company.

    • Marozia August 20, 2014, 4:17 am

      Best idea! Tow it away and impound that car!!

  • Deb August 19, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Is there an etiquette question somewhere in this? At the heart of all the (utterly irrelevant) drama is a simple issue with a simple solution. Post a sign that says “No parking. Unauthorized cars will be towed at the owner’s expense.” Really, you can buy one anywhere. When the neighbor (or anyone else) blocks your driveway, have the car towed. There is no need to involve the widow, her daughter, the drunk, or their landlord. (Although that sounds like a great movie title.)

  • A different Tracy August 19, 2014, 12:47 pm

    As ALM said, there’s an awful lot of story here, most of which ignores or obscures the actual issues. Which are:

    1. The widowed neighbor doesn’t seem to know for sure whether her lease gives her exclusive use of the driveway or not. The answer: She needs to find out. But either way, the OP probably shouldn’t escalate the situation by parking there.
    2. The neighbor has a pattern of driving drunk. The answer: Report him every time.
    3. The neighbor blocks the OP’s driveway. The answer: Seriously, you can’t have someone towed if they park on your property?
    4. The neighbors take up the space in front of the OP’s home. The answer: If the OP has guests, she should park her own car in the street and leave her driveway open for guests who can’t navigate the hill on foot.

    • doobiebro August 20, 2014, 2:43 pm

      While I agree with your assessment of OP’s story, here are your answers as told therein:
      1. OP does NOT have exclusivity of her driveway per the landlord
      2. Police don’t c are if someone came home drunk, especially if they are now in their own bed in their own home
      3. The neighbor doesn’t park on OP’s driveway but parks poorly in the neighboring drive. PRetty sure a tow truck will not tow a car that’s just been parked sloppily in it’s spot (albeit the neighbor’s drive) but she could try!
      4. OP doesn’t own the spot in front of her home, anyone can park there.

      • Enna August 23, 2014, 10:59 am

        But the man is still driving drunk any Police officer worth their salt would want such a person off the road as sooner or later the drunk driver will KILL someone or cause a major accident. If they keep getting reports that MR so and so is always drunk when he drives they will have to act – even if it’s because they are fed up with getting the reports.

  • Renee August 19, 2014, 1:00 pm

    The rental agreement makes no sense to me. How does the widow have rights to the garage but not the driveway. If she parked in the garage and the other tenant was in the driveway, how would she get out? I understand the widow has no car but if she did this agreement would never work. Sounds like the widow needs to move. If I were the widow I would seek assistance and landlord/tenant court. If the brothers are this disruptive, and she has proof of a pattern, she might be able to legally terminate her lease.

    As far as the driveway, survey your property. Once you determine where your property line is, build a divider. This is something my friend had to do. The house next to hers became a rental property. The male tenant was a “back alley” mechanic. People would drop off cars blocking her driveway.

    I would not block the driveway with my car. Especially if you care about the car. People do vindictive things. You do not want your car to become the target of his aggression.

    • shh its me August 20, 2014, 10:46 am

      In theory the lease could specify that garage is for the widows sole for storage or it could specify the widow has use of the garage and only imply the sole use of the driveway as the widows parking spot. I don’t think its completely unreasonable for a landlord not to enforce that implied right for the purpose of the driveway remaining empty. ie If I didn’t own a car and had no intention of getting a car, I’m not sure I would expect my landlord to take any steps to keep my unused parking spot empty. Especially if the lease didn’t specify “sole use of the specified spot(in this case driveway).” Leases frequently specify that parking can not be reassigned by the tenants to 3rd parties or that tenant parking can not be used overnight for guests.

  • Molly August 19, 2014, 1:45 pm

    That was a very long explanation of the widow’s problem but with the exception of the “drunk’s” car being parked crooked and blocking your driveway I don’t see where any of this is your business. You don’t own the street in front of your house so you hold no claim to that. The problem the widow is having can be handled by her daughter if she needs extra help.

    Can you put a piece of chain fence between the two driveways to prevent the neighbor’s car from intruding on your space? That seems to be the only problem here that is yours to deal with.

  • NostalgicGal August 19, 2014, 1:58 pm

    1) If a vehicle blocks your drive you can have it towed. Do so. Every time. Take a picture first with some sort of timestamp too, so you have a file of complaints with documentation.

    2) The grey area of the use of the widow’s drive. Either she has right of use of it in her lease or she doesn’t. She needs to have that sorted pronto. If she DOES have rights to it, put in some fence and a gate; it’s legal as long as it’s an ‘improvement’ and is for ‘security’. (security is no drunk parking in her drive)

    3) Call a complaint every time, without fail. Get the others around there to do so too; and eventually rather than spend all the extra time and resources something will be done.

    4) Have complaint served on the other landlord every time there is a tenant issue. And be clear, you don’t want the widow hoofed for what the drunkard driver is doing. Sometimes a landlord will just clear everyone out and start over.

    5) Put in fence. Between the driveways. If the drunkard hits the fence, then damages can be levied against them as well, so make sure the fence is ‘yours’ in placement.

    6) Consult an attorney so you stay on the legal side of all of this.

    • Enna August 23, 2014, 11:01 am

      I also think the Widow should point out to her landlady that if this drunk man damages the house the landlady will have to cough up the cost of the repairs or take him to court. Widow needs to document any complaints she makes. If the landlady does nothing she could be liable for any damage done as she has failed to do anything previously.

  • ChicaLola August 19, 2014, 2:16 pm

    I realize there is no way to answer this, but why isn’t the drive part of her lease? At least the drive on her side….anyone who doesn’t live in her side of the duplex shouldn’t be allowed to use “her” drive.

  • Sherri August 19, 2014, 4:03 pm

    Where I live, it’s illegal to block any driveway including yours. I’d have the car towed. If the drunk bothers you, it may be time to move.

  • Kate August 19, 2014, 4:29 pm

    Actually, you and your neighbor have some legal recourse. We had a serious problem with an extremely loud neighbor and multiple neighbors calling the police multiple times. Essentially, the drunk brother is disturbing the neighborhood peace and living standards of others in the neighbors and basically in our state the landlord was ultimately responsible. When neighbors started to stress to the landlord they were contacting an attorney to initiate a lawsuit against the landlord, the landlord evicted the tenants.

  • Shyla August 19, 2014, 5:05 pm

    I’m not exactly sure what you can do but you need a lawyer. He/she will give you good advice. Do not engage the drunk brother in any way. He will crash your car or your house if he is mad enough.

  • River August 19, 2014, 8:22 pm

    Oh Admin, your response is an absolute peach!

    • patty August 19, 2014, 10:23 pm

      Do you ever print updates to what the OP actually did, if anything?

  • starstruck August 19, 2014, 10:47 pm

    i am not really sure about the exact details concerning the old lady’s drive way, but as far as yours goes, i would not tolerate someone blocking me in my drive way for even a second. i would ask them to move, then if that didn’t work i would immediately have it towed. no more questions asked. what if you had to go to work? or your child had an emergency ? oh i just can’t imagine. one trip to get his car from impound and that would solve that problem.

  • Library Diva August 20, 2014, 11:27 am

    Why not try talking to the guy? If you’re reluctant to approach the drunk brother, try talking to the sober brother. Ask him to get a second set of keys made to his brother’s car so he can move it if his brother is parked crooked. You’re willing to get these two kicked out of their home and thrown in jail, but the one thing missing from the story is the initial polite conversation where you explain how their behavior is impacting you. When you do it, be polite and respectful, and stick to the issue of your driveway being blocked. Everything else, from your desire to have them stop parking in front of the public space in front of your house to your belief that they’re bringing down the character of the neighborhood, is irrelevant.

    I would join the chorus that urges you to erect some kind of physical barrier between your driveway and theirs. Despite your belief to the contrary, these brothers will not be there forever. At some point, one or both of them will fall in love and move out, get a job in another city, go into rehab, decide to purchase their own home somewhere else, etc. But they may be replaced with someone even worse, and building a physical barrier means you don’t have to constantly reinforce an invisible one through repeated conversations with every new tenant.

  • Joanna August 21, 2014, 8:17 am

    Holy details! I felt like I reading a Dickens novel…and honestly, I think all the extra info confused me more rather than cleared things up.

    At any rate, a few clear points immediately emerge…1, the OP doesn’t own the street in front of her house. Just because she often has visitors who LIKE to park there doesn’t mean that other people can’t use that area as well. 2, it’s not her business to assess someone’s drinking. Regardless of whether someone is or isn’t a “drunk,” we simply need to gauge who’s in the right or wrong regarding parking. Period. She can’t speculate on whether he might or might not one day hit the garage or house, etc. Anyone might or might not do that.

  • WMK August 21, 2014, 3:17 pm

    1. Widow neighbor needs to move if she is unable to get help from her landlord as far as who has the right to park in the driveway. That’s what Judy Judy would tell her to do if she was unhappy with her current situation.

    2. OP needs to either park in front of her own house so that she will always be able to go wherever she needs to or,

    3.) If s/he owns her/his own home, OP needs to put up a fence that clearly designate where one driveway ends and where one begins.

  • Michelle C Young August 21, 2014, 7:21 pm

    Leave the poor widow out of it. She has enough trouble.

    Each time the guy blocks you in, call the police, and report that he is not only trespassing, but actually endangering you, as you are now unable to take your child to the doctor. Not that he NEEDS a doctor right this minute, but you know how kids are. They can get injured or sick in the blink of an eye. Demand that they tow the car.

    Every time.

    Yeah, he’ll probably retaliate against you, but at least he can’t fire you. And when he retaliates, again, get the police involved. This sets up a nice little pattern, where the three-strikes law can take effect, and he’ll be behind bars for LIFE!

    OK, that may be a bit hyperbolic, but seriously, if you are trapped, then get his car towed. But tell him, first. Talk to him, when he is reasonably sober, and warn him that starting NOW, that will be the policy. He blocks you in, his car will be towed. And you’ll send him the bill for it.

    If you warn him, first, then he’ll see it as consequences for his actions. If you spring it on him, without warning, he’ll think “THIS IS WARRRRR!” and retaliate. Be sure to have the sober brother as a witness, as you warn him, and let the sober brother know, whenever you need to have the car towed.

    “I have to go do X errand, and can’t leave the house because of your brother. I have already canceled several times because of him, and it’s not happening again. When you see the tow-truck, you’ll know why.”

    That man needs an intervention, before he kills someone. My aunt was killed by a drunk driver. I hate them.

    • Enna August 23, 2014, 11:03 am

      I like this idea.

  • beenthere August 21, 2014, 7:36 pm

    OP here!

    Sorry for the confusion and the length – I seemed to have confused some instead of clarifying! Thank you all so very much for your suggestions. I do appreciate it. A few replies:

    1) It is two separate drives, mine and the widow’s, though they merge together 10 feet from the house and it becomes solid concrete to the street. From the street it looks like one large driveway when in fact it is two exceptionally narrow driveways.
    2) A barrier can not be built due to the narrow size of the drives. Even a thin fence would make it impossible to use either driveway.
    3)I can not get his car towed when he is blocking me as he is technically in his driveway (as the widow’s landlord has said that he can park his car there) and that is what the police said as well. Even though he is parked 6 inches over (that is all it takes), the majority of the car is on his side. The direct quote from the officer I spoke with was “ma’am, we can’t tow someone for parking badly on their own driveway. I’m sorry, but you are going to have to figure something else out.”
    4)Parking further down the drive is an issue due to the very steep hill and gathering small children in and out of my car. Also, I am quite certain that my car would be crashed into within the first two nights!
    5)Parking on the street would also very likely mean the drunk neighbor would hit my car. I actually wonder now if his brother parks there to keep the drunk from hitting anyone else’s car…
    6)I have spoken to him numerous times about this and when he is sober he is very apologetic, but he just does not remember when he comes in drunk…and couldn’t park straight if he did!
    7)While the widow was always given driveway “rights” with the garage, only the garage is technically in her lease. It has never been an issue as the other tenants were incredibly pleasant and considerate. I can not park in her drive as the landlord has now told her to allow the drunk to park there. Plus I would prefer to park in my garage as the current temperatures are over 100 and small children scream for 20 minutes when being put in hot carseats this time of year!

    I know some of you are wondering why I posted here or have not started a legal case, but shortly after the daughter married her new husband was diagnosed with cancer which is why she moved to a different town. It is my understanding that her insurance was much better for them, plus she is only a few years away from retiring with full continued benefits. She can’t take a new job and if he retaliated (illegal I know, but it is still very possible) she would be in danger of losing the really great insurance that they need. The landlord of the duplex is useless. A lawsuit will take over a year to get to court (I looked into it) and I have real concerns of what kind of payback I would see during that time. I have small children and am going through a divorce. I can’t sell this house or move until that is clear. My attorney also told me that even taking it to court would likely not resolve this and would only cost me money.

    I know this may not be a strict “etiquette” issue, but I need a way to resolve it that will not offend for the time being, so I thought this was the best place to look. I have seen so many clever ways of resolving frustrating conflicts here. Thanks again for all of your help!

    • Enna August 23, 2014, 11:04 am

      You could point out that a fire engine needs to get down the driveway. Or an ambulance. Even if he is mainly in his driveway if he is over by six inches then it is still blocking you in. Maybe find out what the law actually says?

    • AthenaC August 26, 2014, 9:28 am

      I just thought of something that I thought I would throw out there, since you mention that he is apologetic and agreeable when sober –

      My mother-in-law has a long, narrow driveway that will have three or four cars parked in it when we come to visit. Invariably, any of the people that need to leave will be boxed in. The solution is that the car keys all go in a specific place on the kitchen counter, and whomever needs to leave is free to move any necessary cars and return the keys to that communal place.

      In the same vein, maybe you could take advantage of his pleasant disposition when sober to ask for a copy of his car key. Since he knows that he blocks you in, frame it as, “I don’t want to disturb you every time I need to go grocery shopping / go to the bank / go to doctor’s appointments.”

    • Steve September 3, 2014, 7:44 pm

      The policeman you spoke to is an idiot. Or a drug dealing accomplice of your neighbor’s.

      Call the fire department or your city’s inspectional services department. Both of them should know that driveway access for emergency vehicles is required by law. They may have advice.