Monday, May 28, 2007
Help Me Howard: Rent Offense
What do you do if a neighbor has his stuff on your property and won't move it? Well, one South Florida man came up with a great idea: start charging the neighbor rent until he moves it. Now, just one question: Can you do that? To find out let's turn to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Alexander Smellie's name is a little on the unusual side.
Alexander Smellie: "Spelled S-m-e-l-l-i-e, not with a 'y.'"
Patrick Fraser: "People rag you about it?"
Alexander: "Oh, yeah, only in America."
Alexander and Hanna can use a good laugh; building a house by yourself will do that.
Alexander: "Washer and dryer are going to be right here."
Patrick Fraser: "Is this a dream to build this house?"
Hanna Smellie: "Yeah, it's our dream, yeah."
But, they're talking to Help Me Howard because they have a little damper on that dream.
Hanna: "When the surveyor came to do the measurements, he says they are on the property."
The survey showed not only was their neighbor's fence on their property but, resting there, were two of his vehicles and a concrete driveway, taking up over four feet of the Smellie's yard.
Hanna: "So we spoke to them verbally, and they said, 'Oh, we'll soon take care of it.'"
That was a couple of years ago. After waiting a few more months, they sent a certified letter with a copy of the survey. As you can see, their yard is still behind the neighbor's fence.
Alexander: "I don't think he's being mean or anything, I just think he's being real slow, like forever slow."
And, if the fence isn't moved when the Smellie's finish the home, it could stop them from moving in.
Hanna: "And with the fence there, we can't complete the house and start the landscape, so we've got to get that out of the way first.
Alexander: "We can't get a C.O. because it's too close to the fence line right here."
Unable to get their neighbor to move the fence, Alexander then decided to charge him rent for using their yard.
Alexander: "It was my idea, just so he would respond, because people respond when money is involved."
And the money for not moving the fence was not chump change.
Alexander: "Like $100 a day or something like that for every day that the fence is still there."
Charging rent until they move the fence sounds like a great idea, but is that legal?
Let's bring in a lawyer whose expertise knows no bounds. Well, until we find that person, let's bring in Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "It's a clever idea, and you can charge rent but only if the other person agrees. Otherwise, you have to go to court, and a judge will either force them to give you back your property or pay you money for the loss of that portion of the property."
While we were talking to the Smellies, their neighbor did come out. As they said, a nice guy.
Smellies's neighbor: "So, I need to move this truck and the blue car for me to cut this."
But, after waiting a couple of years, Hanna was clearly a little frustrated and let him know it in front of our cameras.
Hanna: "You've got to respond to us, and let us know what's going on. We've had no response from you."
And, with us there, he responded, promising to return their yard by the end of May.
Smellies's Neighbor: "I promise you, this month I will do it. I will do it."
They hope he does, so they can eliminate one hurdle and overcome another one by moving into their dream home as soon as possible.
Hanna: "We still got a few months."
Alexander: "At this rate that we are going, January 1st."
Hanna: "I'm thinking about Thanksgiving."
Patrick Fraser: "And, good news, their neighbor seems to have kept his word and is starting to move things off their property. By the way, it's important for the Smellies to regain possession of their property because, and, it's a big because, if you don't do something within seven years, you could lose that fenced-in property to your neighbor. It's called Boundary by Acquiescence."
Building a solution that is starting to crumble? Need someone to construct a better option? Contact us. We seldom let ourselves get fenced-in.
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