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Look for encroachment issues before buying

Getting neighbor to remove storage shed a lesson in futility

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DEAR BARRY: My neighbor has a storage shed that is built against the side of my garage. It encroaches onto my property and prevents me from painting the garage wall. I’d like him to remove it, but he refuses because it was there before I purchased the property two years ago. The city building department sent him a notice, but he won’t tear it down. What should I do? –George

DEAR GEORGE: The oppositional purposes of neighbors are chief sources of so many difficulties in life. But your concerns are practical, not philosophical, so let’s examine the circumstances and possible solutions.

Clearly, your neighbor is trespassing where he has no permission or reasonable rights. On the other hand, you purchased an existing problem, and the number of years it has existed could have a significant legal bearing on the case. For clarification in this regard, you should consult an attorney. The city building department, however, seems to have rendered an opinion in this regard, but there remains the question of whether the department will exert any degree of enforcement.

The best time to have addressed this situation was while you were purchasing the property. Had you considered the matter at that time, you might have specified removal of the shed as a condition of the sale. That would have obliged the sellers and their agent to negotiate a solution with the neighbor. But that was then.

A possible solution for today is to formally request that the building department enforce its order to remove the shed.

If that doesn’t work, here is a more creative approach: Begin by building a fence along the property line, and connect it to both sides of the shed. Next, install a door in the wall of your garage, providing direct entry into the shed. The neighbor cannot rightfully complain because it is your garage. If you choose to install a door in the wall of your garage, that is strictly your business.

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Then, construct a partition wall inside the shed, on your side of the property line, of course. Now you have a private storage closet on the side of your garage. If you decide to remove the closet, the remaining portion of the neighbor’s shed will be attached to the fence, not to your garage. But don’t try this without first consulting an attorney.

DEAR BARRY: I have a simple question. Is a home inspection a legal requirement when a home is sold, or are home inspections optional for homebuyers? –Sandi

DEAR SANDI: No states have made home inspections a legal requirement. Professional property inspections are available to homebuyers at their own discretion, as an elective means of consumer protection and as a proactive way for buyers to beware.

(Although the Federal Housing Administration does not require home inspections, properties that do not meet FHA’s minimum health, safety and soundness conditions may be flagged by the appraiser for repair before the FHA will insure a loan).

When performed by a truly qualified inspector, a home inspection protects buyers from negative surprises after the sale. But a thorough inspection benefits the sellers and agents as well, by reducing the likelihood of conflicts after the sale. A state requirement to compel home inspections should not be necessary. Buyers should have the common sense and prudence to do this for themselves.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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