Tag Archives: LAND USE

Can I make my neighbor repair his half of the garage?

Q: I have a garage built on my lot long before I moved into my house. It straddles the property line. My neighbor and I each own one-half of the garage. My neighbor has failed to maintain his one-half to the point it is unsafe to use in its entirety. Can I compel him to repair his one-half? Can I remove entire structure, or can I effect repairs without his permission? (Plum Borough, PA)

A: This is a difficult situation and there are few things worse than bad neighbors. The easiest way would be to work this out with him. If that is not possible, talk to your local zoning officer. If his half of the garage is unsafe, unsightly or not up to code, the zoning officer can issue a citation and he will be given so many days to make repairs. If no such compliance is met, he can be hauled into court and fined or ordered to comply. As far as a civil or equity suit filed at the local magistrate or in the Court of Common Pleas, there is a remedy against property owners whose failure to maintain their property adversely affects adjoining or neighboring property. I once used it to get a judgment against the owner of an adjoining wall who failure to maintain it undermined the yard and foundation of my client’s house. I would need to research this cause of action more. Beware that having a judgment against another person can be useless if they do not pay or have no assets to attach. I suggest that you go through the zoning officer first.

How do I handle a neighbor’s roof runoff between our houses?

Q: I suspect this neighbor (who recently had their roof and gutters redone) is now running a drainage hose from their property into a utility easement between our houses. They are on a hill behind my house with a utility easement between us. My yard is getting flooded every time it rains and the neighbor next to me is getting a flood of water down his hill, which then also runs into my yard. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: There are general land use laws that hold that one land owner cannot create a situation which allows water to run off his property and on to the property of others. Before hiring an attorney, you need to take photos, keep a log of all activity, and contact your local zoning enforcement officer. He can look at it and advise you. If what you are saying is accurate, the zoning officer should contact the neighbor and tell him or her to stop and if necessary issue a cease and desist letter. If that doesn’t work, there is a citation process which may be authorized under your borough zoning and/or land use code. You may also ask the zoning officer to direct you to the applicable sections of the zoning code and perhaps get a copy from the borough or township.