Q: I found out my boyfriend set up his old cell phone in my bedroom and has been remotely accessing it through his new Samsung galaxy phone while working out of town. I found out for sure it’s a live feed type of situation because I could hear background noise on his phone when everything was silent at my house. I confronted him eventually after recording myself calling him was blocked on my home phone twice and you could hear him say hello through the planted phone and then the noise his phone makes when a call is dropped because I hung up. Right after that he messaged me and asked if I called & hung up. Is that enough to prove he accessed it? Should I give that cell phone back to him or do I need that phone in hand. I have three minor daughters in adolescence and one under 10yrs old. He is a malicious and vindictive type of person who has been threatening and blackmailing me threats of exploiting intimate materials of myself. (Uniontown, PA)
A: What he is doing, at least from what you posted, sounds like a crime. I would talk to the police. Save all evidence you can including texts and calls. If you have his phone, save that as well for the police. If he was recording you without your knowledge, you may also have grounds for a civil suit, but I would get the criminal started first.
Q: My neighbor has 3-4 very large trees overhanging my rooftop and backyard as well as the neighbors on the opposite side. Last June (2016) a 30-40 foot, branch has broken and is now hung up over her and my property. After 11 months and 5 iterations of her “looking into it” she has stated she will do nothing. The branch as well as other branches if knocked down will cause direct harm to my property, dogs, and even my children. At this point I feel like legal action may be necessary to have her properly maintain this tree as well as the other trees in bad shape. All the details have been photographed, 4-5 neighbors have also commented on the trees, and my home owner’s insurance has noted on file in case of damage. Anyone have advice on what to do? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Normally, the municipality that you reside in, whether it is Pittsburgh or a suburb, will have an ordinance on in their code which addresses the excessive growth of trees which trespass on to a neighboring property. Call your local zoning enforcement officer. It should result at a minimum in them coming out to assess the situation to determine if your neighbor should be cited.
Q: Aunt was over seeing my grandparent’s accounts and house. She was screaming at them and mocking them. Eating their food and spending their money. They asked to be rescued. I got them out of state back to PA from Ohio. Now my Aunt doesn’t want to relinquish house or cars. The police in Ohio won’t help, they say it’s PA’s problem. PA police here say they cannot force her to give up the keys in Ohio. Please give me a next step. Grandma had dementia but Grandpa has full faculties. (New Castle, PA)
A: Way more information is needed to answer this thoroughly. Is the aunt acting under a POA from grandfather or grandmother? If not, she should not be able to exercise custody of another person’s home or personal property. I think you should take your grandfather to an OH elder law attorney and have him execute a POA to you or someone trustworthy to handle business in OH. Perhaps you can find an OH lawyer who is licensed in PA. Once this is done, the Agent on the POA can go to OH, change the locks on the house and get the police involved. I think a letter from an attorney in advance to the aunt providing notice that she is in violation of the law and providing fair warning will help. If the aunt continues these actions, she is a trespasser in the home and an unauthorized user of the vehicles.
Q: Who’s responsible for property damage when a hillside is collapsing? The neighbors behind us moved in two years ago and when they did I asked them to please remove the giant slabs of concrete that were sitting on top of the hill on the edge of the property. Our yard sits probably 10 feet below theirs. Well the slabs have slid down the hill side as I knew they would, collapsing the hillside into my wooden privacy fence causing damage. Who is legally responsible to stabilize the hill and fixing my fence, us or them?
A: I would have to research the duty of a landowner to prevent a condition on his property that damages neighboring property to give you a proper answer. The last time I looked at this was in 2008 and I did find case law on this issue. My recollection is that such a duty does exist, if certain conditions are met. If you engage a lawyer, it will cost you. Your first step should be to contact the city or borough code enforcement officer and see if he or she can help. This might be a code violation of some sort and perhaps the neighbor could be cited, which would or should case him to remedy the condition.
Q: We have a 76 year old woman living next door and she is in the habit of taking in homeless people. Last summer some of her” tenants” were seen by my wife and myself using her back yard as a urinal and a portion of it as what we can only describe as a defecation pit. My wife talked to her about this but it went on until I called the city about it. They came out and spoke to her but it still went on. Now she found out that I was the one who called and tonight she came over making threats at our front door beating and banging on it, in a drunken rage, with foul language, then went around back and did the same. We called 911 and the police said maybe I should get a court order so if it occurs again I can press charges. I know she is up in age but some of her tenants shoot guns in the woods and they have been doing drugs on her property also (we smell marijuana smoke and other weird smells). Do you think an anti harassment order would help?
A: Bad neighbors can be big problems. She is free to do things on her property that are not illegal. If you believe she is violating state laws or zoning ordinances, call the police or the municipality and let them investigate. Keep calling until they do their job. As far as her coming on your property, she can do so for legitimate purposes. If she is not welcome on your property any more, tell her so or provide written notice to her that neither she nor her crew are welcome on your property. If she continues to get drunk and come back over to your house (which often happens with people like this) she will be deemed a trespasser based on your prior notice. Under the law, based on the prior warning, she can be arrested as a trespasser and you can have law enforcement cite her or arrest her for trespassing. As far as a civil order you can probably get one if you continue to establish a record of bad behavior and get some good photos-like the defecation pit and sound recordings of the discharge of guns. However, you would need to pay a lawyer to do this and a civil order will not have the bite that a criminal charge would. Plus, you don’t have to pay the police, or at least should not have to. Perhaps she has lost her faculties due to natural aging or drug and alcohol abuse and a social services agency may help by doing a wellness visit. If they visited her and became concerned, they too could make referrals to the appropriate agency including the police or psychiatric intervention teams. Good luck.