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Palm tree may be damaging neighbor’s fence

Q: The residence behind our property planted one of those really wide palm trees in the corner of their cinderblock fence about 20 years ago. The palm has grown too close to the common backyard fence and has pushed it out into our backyard. The cinderblocks are cracked and coming apart at the mortar joints. The only solution I can see is for the tree to be removed to allow the fence to be repaired. How can I notify the offending property owner? To what extent is that owner responsible for the monetary cost of rebuilding the fence?

A: From the one photograph you sent me it would appear the palm trees could have caused the damage to the cinderblock fence. In contacting the neighbor, you should first have a contractor look at the fence and obtain a written report about the cause of the damage and the cost to repair the fence. The report would establish responsibility between the homeowners about whose landscaping caused the damage in the first place.

You should also review your covenants, conditions and restrictions, which probably has a maintenance section that would direct you as to the responsibility of repairing shared fences. In this case, assuming that it is the neighbor’s responsibility, if you are comfortable enough to knock on their door, you should show them the damage, the projected cost to repair the fence and the section from their governing documents as to responsibility to repair it. Or, you could send a letter and invite the neighbor to review the damaged wall. You could contact the Neighborhood Justice Center to see if it would help mediate with your neighbor. You could also contact the management company and find out whether the association will help with this neighbor-to-neighbor issue, if not, you may need to contact an attorney.

Q: A pipe between our water meter and our condominium unit broke. The cost of repairs was $150. Our homeowners association said the cost of the repairs was our responsibility. We’re on a fixed income, the $150 was a big deal, but we didn’t want the hard-working plumber to get stuck, We paid it. Later, another HOA officer said our plumbing responsibility doesn’t start until after the pipes enter the condo. Who’s right?

A: The homeowners’ maintenance responsibilities, outlined in Section 4.1, of the CC&Rs, states that the homeowner is responsible for maintaining and repairing the plumbing system within the outside perimeter of the exterior bearing walls. It would appear the homeowner was responsible for maintaining the broken pipe based on the governing documents and given that the pipe is from the homeowner’s meter going into the condominium unit.

Barbara Holland is a certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager. Questions may be sent to holland744o@gmail.com.

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