Neighbor’s neglected yard could hurt mine. What to do?
By Gary M. Singer
Feb. 4, 2019 –Question: The vacant lot next door is not maintained. It is overgrown and unsightly and the pepper trees are continually growing over my fence. My biggest concern is that the owner does not repair his seawall. It has caved in, and I am very worried it will damage my seawall soon. What can I do now – and what are my rights if my seawall is damaged? – Robert
Answer: Your first step is to send a letter to your neighbor. You can look online on your county's property appraiser or tax collectors website to get the owner's name and mailing address. Write a polite letter asking him to cut back his vegetation and repair his seawall before it damages yours. Send two copies, one first-class mail and the other certified, return receipt requested.
If this does not work out, report the problem to your municipality. Many local governments have lot-clearing programs where it will hire a landscaper to clear the lot and then assess the costs to the property owner.
Municipalities are almost universally concerned with seawalls and may be able to help you in getting this resolved. Make sure that you follow up with your city official to get results. In my interactions with local government, I have found it is the persistent resident who gets things done. Even though you are frustrated, always remember to be professional when dealing with this to get the best results.
You can cut back the branches that overhang the fence, but be sure not to damage the health of the tree. You should also do what you can to protect your seawall from damage on your side of the property line. If it turns out that his neglect has damaged your property, you should be able to take him to court. As long as you can show that it was his negligence to blame, you should prevail.
About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.