Matt, Other/Just Looking in Oakland, CA

what is the legal way to contact a neighbor about work on a property?

Asked by Matt, Oakland, CA Mon Sep 22, 2008

we are doing a major renovation and our neighbor has told us he wants to create a license so we can work on the side of our house that is next to his house.

when we bought the house there were no property boundaries on file. We have since had a survey done and found that we have about 2 1/2 feet of space. The scaffolding is about 3 1/2 feet so it will be on his property. Since there was no boundary when we bought it, our neighbor has a lot of drainage and water lines on our side of the property line.

He says he want to negotiate a license to access the side of our house, but he is rarely available. He is in poor health and under medication most of the time. He told us he can only talk for about 15 minutes a day due to the medication. We have currently left him 3 unanswered phone messages and we really need to get moving on the work.

what is the property way to escalate this so that we can move forward with working on our house.

Help the community by answering this question:


Hi Matt;
I think the best thing for both of you top do is to seek the advice of a Real Estate Attorney. This may cost you $250-$400/hr, but it will be money well spent. I would also advise you to keep this on a cordial, "neighborly" interaction. Keep both sides informed, and try to collaborate on the solution. At all costs, do not make this an adversarial relationship.
This can be worked out with sound legal advice, and cooporation.
If you need an attorny to contact, let me know.

Good Luck
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 22, 2008
You've actually described two potential legal issues.

The first is the fact that in order to perform work on the side of your house, the scaffolding will encroach upon your neighbor's property by a foot. Unless there is a specific ordinance in Oakland that requires the adjoining neighbor to consent (I'm unaware of any), you will be trespassing or encroaching upon his property if the work is performed without his consent or license.

The second problem you described has to do with your neighbor having "a lot of drainage and water lines on our side of the property line." Arguably, if this has been going on for more than five years, your neighbors may have created a prescriptive easement over your property to maintain the drainage and water lines you describe. That is something you'd have to disclose if you were to ever sell your property.

I suggest that you seek a resolution to both these issues by trading him a limited license for your limited use or encroachment in exchange for his acknowledgment that the drainage and water lines are allowed on your property as an "at will" license.

It is something that you will want to discuss with an attorney.

Jeffery P. Woo, Esq.
Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold LLP
Complex Rental Property Group
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 31, 2009
Please call the City of Oakland planning department at 510-238-3443. That is the permit center. You will probably need permits for your work, and a bonded contractor to do it. It is possible that your neighbor means "bonded" or "permits when he says "license" You are under no obligation to pay him to do work on the side of your house, however, you must not put him in danger of damaging his property or having an unlicensed, or unbonded contractor doing work for you on his property. You must make sure you get and post permits for the work. Also, stay in the bounds of the work day regarding noise. No noise before 8AM or after 7PM. ( If you do not get a call back from the permit center counter, call Kathy Kessler at 510-238-2910 a wonderful, and helpful administrator at the City of Oakland, or the Supervisor at the permit center, Tim Low at 510-238-6315). All the Best to you - don't let the neighbor bully you...Liz
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 22, 2008

Based on the information you provided, I would suggest you speak with a Real Estate Lawyer. It sounds like what your neighbor is asking for are easement rights to your property. You are also asking for temporary access to his property to provide access to your property.

This may not be a quick process, but I would recommend speaking with a lawyer first to help you determine the best solution. You may also want to try to find out if your neighbor has a family member that might be able to help facilitate so you will be able to get your rennovation project up and going in a more timely manner.

Hope this helps,

Lisa Cartolano
Alain Pinel Realtors
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 22, 2008
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