I never finished writing about next door, did I? I should, because it’s an amazing story.
I left off in 2001 (see previous post) after she asked me to look after her pool while she was away, and gave me permission to use her car, a Nissan Pathfinder 4WD. I still have a recording of her voice from my answering machine if anyone doubts me. (Never underestimate me – when I say something, I can back it up! Whatever you read below, I have photos, video and documents. I’m not making this up. I have a thick file with all the letters, emails and photos.)
I was very upset, as you can imagine, at being crapped on by her when I thought I was doing as she asked. While she was away I’d fixed her side gate which wasn’t closing properly (for a swimming pool owner, tut tut!) and also fixed one of two garage door remote controls for her. Yet I was severely reprimanded for not doing exactly what she wanted on the pool and using her vehicle in a way she didn’t approve. How neighbourly. How nice.
So I just shut up for nearly a year. I didn’t look in her direction, I avoided eye contact, I said nothing. Our fence was only chest height, remember, and our driveways were separated only by light trees and shrubs.
After about a year of this, she broke the ice and we started talking again. I was relieved, but cautious.
However, we seemed to be getting along fine and she even looked after the dogs for me when I went to Singapore in 2002. When I left, I simply handed her my keys – here, I trust you completely, use my car, go into my house, I don’t care. She said later she did actually go into my house a couple of times. I say this to illustrate our different attitudes – I don’t lay down rules.
But the fence was becoming a problem. It was falling over. I knew it needed replacement, but I’d been putting it out of my mind. It was jarrah pickets and covered in Mexican Rose creeper in summer, very attractive, I thought. And it allowed conversations over the fence, which I enjoyed. I didn’t really want it changed.
This was the fence and the next door house in 1987, soon after I arrived, but long before she did.
Finally in 2004, she broached the subject and I agreed, it had to be done. What did I want? Treated pine lap boards, preferably, I said. Treated pine panels, no gaps, just slight overlapping pine boards.
What did she want? Colourbond steel panels. Oh no, I thought to myself. Industrial. Metal. Unnatural.
But I said nothing and just went along with what she wanted.
She decided we needed a small retaining wall, about 300mm high and about 4m long. She suggested concrete panels slotting into concrete posts. No problem – I let her decide and plan it all. She showed me the quote – I agreed. I left it all to her as she seemed to want to do it.
Part of the deal was that we would remove and dispose of the old fence ourselves. No problem. Odd though, that my share was about 60% and hers was about 40%. Oh well, too bad. I had my strength and energy in those days – 2004. She also wanted me to give her any good quality posts. Again, I did it for her.
But with two dogs and no fence, I needed to ensure my dogs couldn’t roam. I put up a temporary fence of plastic pickets, garden stakes and plastic and garden wire mesh. It was quite a construction because it was about 20m long. I was told the job would only take a day, maybe two, so I didn’t worry too much.
The day arrived. I was home, of course, but she was at work. A young guy arrived and started installing the retaining wall. Very soon, I noticed that he was putting it exactly on the property line where the original fence was. Simple enough to see, because there was a groove in the dirt, obviously.
I went over and said, “How does this work? Do you put clips on the top of this wall to take the panels?” All I got was a shrug and a mumbled answer. Nothing, really. I didn’t understand, but I didn’t think much about it because it was on the line, equally between us. It was concreted in, with cement put into the gaps.
Later that day, she came home, saw this wall and immediately started having a go at me. Why had I told him to put the wall on her side? It was supposed to be on my side. My side was the problem. What? It was on the original fence line. Why was it my fault? But she thought it was.
These concrete panels are slightly on her side of the boundary line, and the metal fence is on my side. She told the guys what to do and there was no other way. But she somehow believed I’d manipulated this.
So began the problems. She got the retaining wall guys back and told them to shift it to my side. But it wasn’t feasible. It just couldn’t physically be done. On my side were concrete steps, original. It couldn’t go any further to my side. She made them cut it back with an angle grinder so it wouldn’t show as much on her side. I stayed out of it. I didn’t understand what her problem was. I certainly hadn’t told the guys what to do – she did.
A week or so later, the Colourbond fence guys turned up. Again, she was at work, I was home. They dug holes for the uprights, poured concrete in, left concrete splashes everywhere, didn’t clean up, put the uprights in, then disappeared for the rest of the day while it set. I stayed inside, out of it.
A couple of days later, (huh? – this was supposed to be done in one day, remember) they arrived with a few panels and installed them. This was a part of the job. Then they disappeared and didn’t come back.
A week went by, then another and another. Waiting for parts, I was told. All this time, I had only a partial fence and still depended on my temporary plastic wire mesh to keep my dogs in. In truth, Boopsie and Minnie made no effort to roam. They stayed happily within my boundary. Even if there’d been no fence, they didn’t want to go anywhere.
Then the guys arrived again to finish the job. This day, they brought their own pair of dogs which proceeded to run all over my yard and into my house. Friendly dogs, but boisterous. I didn’t know what they were so I asked. “Oh, they’re Pit Bulls”, one of the guys said. WHAT?!
I hurriedly made sure my dogs were inside and closed the door. Luckily, these Pit Bulls seemed tame enough, but how dare they bring dogs like that, unrestrained, unleashed and allow them to run free on a customer’s property.
I told the guys they couldn’t bring them again and they agreed, and no harm was done, but I was pretty annoyed.
Finally, after two days’ work, the Colourbond fence was up and I could no longer see my neighbour, no doubt as she intended. Are you seeing a trend here? You will.
But to get the panels to go down to ground level, the guys had bent them a bit so that they covered the retaining wall on my side and exposed it on her side.
This is her side. She didn’t like it. You can see how the metal panels are bent to pass the posts.
Wooohooo! She accused me of making them do this. She saw it as exposing this ugly concrete wall on her side and she didn’t want that. I had nothing to do with it! I didn’t care which side was which, but to make the panels go down to ground level, this was the only possible way. The workmen did it, not me.
To me it was no big deal. But I found out later, much later, that she regarded it as a major sin on my part and stored it up for later. I didn’t know.
That was 2004. I noticed a cooling of the relationship from then on, but nothing else. The new fence prevented any conversations anyway.
An incident that occurred in about 2005, though, will give an idea of what I was dealing with. I was out on my front lawn one morning with my two dogs, Boopsie the Border Collie and Minnie the Golden Labrador.
She was there too and said, “You’d better be careful your dogs don’t go to the toilet on my lawn otherwise the council ranger might pick them up.”
It was quite a vicious comment, in other words. She’d been building up resentment. She was quite prepared to take her hatred of me out on my dogs. I was not impressed, but I said nothing. Boopsie died on 2 July 2006.
We both had letterboxes on posts at the front, quite near each other. The postie had to ride his motorbike across grass to reach them and I thought a bit of brick paving in front of these letterboxes would make it easier and neater. I suggested it to her and she agreed. We were still on civil terms and I thought, quite friendly terms.
So I paid a friend to cut the lawn back and lay some pavers that I had left over as a path for the postie. I paid my friend $60 and I never bothered to ask her for her share. The relevance of this will become clear later.
You can see the small brick path in front of our letterboxes. Note the trees and greenery on our dividing line. I liked it this way! Note also the position of the block pallet, just slightly over the diving line (white rocks). She didn’t like this and threw all the blocks over onto my front lawn on the other side of my driveway, followed by the pallet. See below.
In early 2006 I had a big job of brick paving done in my place. Part of it involved laying pressed limestone blocks as a base along the fence line on my side, and the building of a decorative limestone block wall. Obviously, I had a pallet of these blocks delivered.
I wasn’t home when they came but the delivery truck put the pallet on the small patch of street lawn between our land. This is public property, remember. Neither of us owns it. This is the land in front of the property line. The pallet was mostly on my side but was about 300mm over the boundary line. I thought nothing of it, didn’t even notice it.
The pallet held about 100 blocks and I was slowly bringing them down as we used them.
One morning, I went to the front and found all the remaining limestone blocks, about 30, thrown all over my front lawn on my side of the driveway and the pallet tossed after them. It had broken up.
She’d obviously lost her temper about the intrusion of this pallet slightly over her side and decided to get rid of them in the night time. Get the idea?
In fact, I took ALL the remaining blocks down to the work area that day. We used them all that day. If she’d waited 24 hours, they would have been gone anyway. Get the idea? I did. Crazy.
In mid 2007, in the driveway, she and her female partner announced one day that they wanted another fence between us. “Oh,” I said, “Where? What do you mean?”
“Here,” she said, indicating the front boundary from the end of the metal dividing fence at the building line to the front property line at street level.
What? At that time, we had reasonably nice trees and shrubs in this space between us. I didn’t want it changed.
“What kind of fence?” I asked.
“The same as the existing fence, Colourbond”, she said.
Whaat? Six foot high metal fencing at the front of our houses up to street level? I was appalled, but I just looked and sounded unhappy.
“What do you want?”, she said.
“I don’t want a fence at all. I’m happy the way it is. But if I had to have a fence, maybe like that one”, I said, indicating the fence on the other side of my block. This was sandy coloured rendered brick pillars with painted timber railings between them, installed at no cost to me by my other neighbour. He wanted it to enclose his front yard as he has young kids and didn’t ask me to pay anything. Nice.
I can’t remember every detail of that conversation, but as far as I was concerned, I said I didn’t see any need for a fence between us, I liked what was there already, I didn’t want to lose the vegetation but if there had to be any fence, I could live with the type on the other side of my block.
A few weeks later, I got a letter from my neighbour written by her in semi legal terms – “The party of the first part agrees with the party of the second part …” setting out an agreement to build a wall between our blocks. It was a “please sign and return.” I was supposed to sign this “agreement” and return it to her!
This was rubbish. I had never agreed to any wall or even a fence. I wrote a note back saying, “I’m not signing that. I don’t want any fence and I don’t want a wall.”
Next thing I knew, the trees and shrubs started disappearing. She was clearing the boundary line between us, digging the tree roots out herself. There was nothing I could do about it because they were actually all on her side of the line. This went on for a couple of weeks of digging ALL the vegetation out between us, leaving bare sand with big holes. I was annoyed, but there was nothing I could say or do. We ended up with a completely bare strip of dirt where there had been nice greenery. Nothing I could do.
Next thing, I got a letter from Stirling City council asking me to remove the sand they said I’d dumped across the road in the bush area next to Marmion Avenue. What??!! I hadn’t dumped anything.
I realised that she’d barrowed the dirt she’d dug out across there and formed about eight or ten large piles of dirt. A council ranger had seen it and asked her to remove it. But she’d written to the council and told them it was mine!
She dumped all this sand across the road, then told the council it was my dirt! (24 November 2007)
Luckily I’d been taking photos as the wall progressed and I wrote back to the council denying any responsibility, and including photos to show where it had come from. I actually included a drawing with calculations to show how much dirt was barrowed across, to show where it had come from.
This is where it came from. Remember how green this used to be? Note the string line for the boundary (just to right of my letterbox) and that she’d actually dug away part of my side. Note also the brick paved path that I paid for. (29 October 2007)
Then I got a letter in my letterbox from her with copies of emails she’d had with the council, and trying to explain that the dirt was really mine because she thought I’d made my block higher than hers in 2001! So she felt she had the right to get rid of it and blame me. She also told the council that my health was bad and she was really doing me a favour!
I wrote back saying, How dare you talk about my health with a third party. It’s none of your or their business and this is a breach of my privacy. She went quiet after that and the sand disappeared. Get the idea? This woman is difficult!
Later that year she decided to re-roof her house. It had orange clay tiles and she wanted green Colourbond corrugated iron. I saw what was happening and said I needed some of these tiles for a carport roof and I’d buy some from her.
Weeks went by, then one day a big dumper bin was backed in and parked in her driveway near her house. A couple of workmen then got up on her roof and proceeded to remove all her tiles and throw them down into the dumper bin. They all smashed as they fell!
I was amazed. Clay tiles like this (40 years old, traditional pattern) are scarce and valuable. If she’d let me buy them, she would have earned money for them and saved the cost of the dumper bin, which was probably about $300 at least.
But no, she wasn’t going to cooperate with me, so they all got smashed into the bin. It cost her probably $800 in total, because I would have paid her $500 for them. But she wasn’t going to let me have them. Tragic!
Then I got a new letter from her: a quote for a limestone block wall, 1.8m high, all along this front boundary. My cost? $3,250 approx.
WHAT??!! I wrote out a note/letter and said, Er, no, I never agreed to any fence, let alone a wall, and I’m certainly not going to pay $3,250.
I knew I legally had to pay “half the cost of a sufficient fence” which these days is Colourbond. How ironic. I got a quote and my share was about $500 (it’s very standardised, easily calculated). I put a note in the letterbox – I do not want a wall between us – but if you insist on it, here is my quote for what I have to legally pay. That’s all I’m going to pay.
Next thing, I’m home one weekend afternoon and there’s a knock at the front door. I open it and through my flywire door, which I don’t open, I see it’s her and her partner. She immediately starts telling me how I said I wanted a limestone wall and how awful I’m being by not agreeing to it. I shake my head and start to protest that I never said I wanted a wall, especially not a big limestone wall, and I’m not agreeing to it.
Well, that started a tirade, a rant. She launched into a loud speech about what an awful person I was and how I was untrustworthy in using her car and how I’d tried to sabotage the fence and what a generally awful person I was.
As you can imagine, I wasn’t having this so I just closed the door on her. I didn’t answer, I just looked out the window as they walked back to my gate, with her still shouting what an awful person I was. I was pretty shocked.
Then about a week later, she tried it again. This time I looked out my window before going to the door and when I saw it was them, I didn’t open the door. They must have seen me at the window and realised I was home, so the shouting abuse started immediately. She was shouting at me through my door and window.
If you don’t believe me, if you think I’m exaggerating, I have a short recording of it, made with my Sony digital voice recorder. It’s only about 15 seconds, unfortunately and nothing like the whole thing, but …
So I have a next door neighbour who feels she can come to my door and shout abuse at me for not agreeing to something she’s made up. How nice. How neighbourly.
Late in 2007, a guy turned up one morning and started setting out the foundations for this wall. I was at home and went out to have a chat. His name was Gary. He knew nothing of any dispute – all he knew was that he’d quoted on a job and been contracted by my neighbour to build a full limestone block wall down the boundary line.
I explained what I’d been going through, that I didn’t agree to this wall and that I wasn’t paying any more than I legally had to. He said he’d been involved in “fence mediation” – it seems fences cause a lot of friction. Really? How surprising.
Anyway, I said I was only going to pay “half the cost of a sufficient fence” and gave him my cheque for $550 or whatever it was. He wrote out a receipt and said if there was any deviation from what I’d been quoted, he’d talk to me again. That was it, as far as I was concerned.
A few days later, I was checking my letterbox late one afternoon and the women were there too. I tried to speak reasonably about the deal, saying I really, really didn’t want to be at loggerheads over this and wanted to be on good terms.
She said something like, “Well, you went back on an agreement.” What agreement? I never agreed to anything. “You wanted a limestone wall.” No I didn’t!
And then she launched into a litany of all the ways she felt I’d wronged her going back 10 years to the pool stuff, the 2004 stuff, the car, all her stored up “wrongs” I’d supposedly committed against her.
I realised at that point that it was impossible to deal. I got in my car and angrily drove away.
Over the next few weeks, this massive limestone block wall went up. I emphasised that I would only accept an intrusion across my borderline equal to half the thickness of the Colourbond “sufficient fence”. I wasn’t going to have her block wall intruding onto my land. That’s what Gary did.
Twice towards the end of the two or three week building process, Gary came to my front door and tried to persuade me to come to the party and pay the $3,250. I think he knew by now that there was going to be a problem getting her to pay the full cost. I said, sorry, I’ve already told you the way things are, and I’m not going to change my mind. I told him this twice.
In January 2008 the wall was finished and Gary came to my front door again and made one more appeal – please pay him $3,250. No, sorry Gary. You knew my attitude before you started, yet you went ahead anyway. Sorry, it’s your problem, not mine. He went away.
All went quiet for a month or so. Except that I now had a massive blank limestone wall where before I’d had nice greenery.
I had this … (6 Feb 2006)
Now I had this. It’s not an improvement, in my opinion. (16 Jun 2008)
It wasn’t over. I got home from the club one Friday evening about 7pm (it was still light) to find these two women on their knees at the front of our property junction pulling up those paving bricks I mentioned in front of our letterboxes. They were throwing them across onto my lawn on the other side of my driveway, just throwing them.
I parked in my carport, got out and stormed up my driveway saying, “What the hell are you doing??!!”
There was a neat brick paved path. They destroyed my side too.
They just got up and walked back into their house without saying anything. I was pretty angry as you can imagine.
Next morning I came out to find all my pavers neatly stacked, but on my side of the driveway. They must have been out during the night or early morning. But no more path for the postie. In fact, they built a garden bed lined by limestone blocks projecting about 350mm in front of their letterbox, so he has to lean across to put letters in their slot. They obviously don’t care.
Next thing, nearly six months later in June 2008, around tax time for businesses, I got a letter from Gary with an invoice for $3,250! And saying that if I didn’t pay within 14 days, I could expect to hear from his debt collection service! Obviously, the woman next door had refused to pay Gary what she considered to be “my half”. Incredible!
I wrote back saying, Gary, we’ve been through this twice before, I have no contract with you, sorry.
Next thing, I got a phone call from a guy asking me to pay this bill. It was Gary’s debt collector! This was getting serious. I explained the story to the guy and emphasised that I had never signed any contract and I had no obligation to pay any more than I had paid. He said to leave it with him while he checked.
A couple of days later, he phoned back and suggested Gary would settle for $2,000 and emphasised that I’d got a nice limestone wall out of it and I should be grateful for that. He’d settle for the lower amount.
Bulldust! I said no, if I paid that, I’d be giving in to the woman’s false demands. I’d paid all I was going to pay. I said if this continued, the next letter Gary got would be from my solicitor.
Well, that’s what happened. I had to get a solicitor to write a legal letter saying “There was no contract and my client will not be paying any more. Back off.” and I sent it off. That was the end of it. I got no more demands after that, but obviously Gary lost half the cost of this massively expensive wall by dealing with my neighbour. Why did he go ahead and build it if he knew he didn’t have the payment locked down? He knew from the very first day he started what my attitude was.
But that cost me about $200 for the solicitor’s fee.
As you can imagine, I was reeling by this time. This was a hydra-headed monster that would not lie down and die.
Soon after that, she had all her street lawn shovelled out by a Bobcat and fine gravel spread in its place. Hers is the only house in the street with gravel for a front “lawn”. It looks terrible.
I was also plagued by her and her partner parking their vehicles in their driveway, blocking pedestrian access, but more importantly blocking my view of traffic as I reversed out onto the road. I checked the regulations – it is actually illegal to park across the footpath, although at that time there was no defined footpath. Even so, it was against the regulation.
So I developed the habit of taking photos for several months and I’ve got more than 100 examples like this:
2 December 2007 – is anything coming?
5 April 2008 Blocking my view of traffic, as you can see.
I was stewing on whether to do anything, but I never did.
Luckily, that was the last I heard from any of them, Gary or the debt collector or my neighbour. I was organising my September 2008 trip to Europe and that kept me fully occupied. I had a house sitter coming to look after Minnie while I was away and so I left on the trip feeling OK. I was away for the whole of September and October 2008.
Strangely, my neighbour also disappeared at about the same time. I have no idea where she’s gone. I suspect the house is rented out, but I never see the neighbours to talk to so I don’t know. Here we are four years later and I still don’t know what’s happened. But it’s been four years of peace, thank goodness.
I’d had more than seven years of accusations, tirades, shouting sessions, frosty relations, resentments, weirdness, threats and general unpleasantness. I was so tired of it! It reached the stage that I looked first before I ventured outside my front door, in case she was there. I became afraid of her.
I’m selling and moving just as soon as I can find a buyer, so I’ll be glad to get away. I’ve always liked getting on with my neighbours – five changes on each side in the 26 years I’ve been here. I’m still in touch with a couple of them. But this one was beyond my ability, beyond hope I’m afraid. This was impossible!