AIBU or is my neighbour?

(33 Posts)
Cabbagesandcustard Fri 18-Jul-14 13:32:35

We live in a terraced house and have a generally good relationship with our elderly neighbour who has lived in the street forever. That said, she's bit "odd" and very private: there are some fairly serious hoarding issues going on and I have never once been invited even to step into her hallway in the fifteen years we've lived here, despite the fact that I regularly pay her to come in and feed our cats when we're away.

At the end of April I noticed a damp patch about 2ft x 1ft appearing in my bedroom, high up on the party wall where our house abuts hers. I mentioned it to her and she seemed keen to get it looked at, although she admitted due to the corresponding bedroom in her house being "completely full of things", she didn't actually know whether there was any sign of damp on her side of the wall.

I then asked my builder to come and have a look at the roof - his diagnosis was that the cement fillet where her tiles hit her side of the parapet has pieces missing and needs replacing, plus we should do some repointing along the shared parapet: about £650 worth of work in total (which I was relieved about as frankly her roof is in a pretty poor state overall and I was worried that no builder would want to touch it. Our roof, in contrast, is pretty well maintained.)

We have offered to pay half, which my builder describes as "more than generous" as at least two thirds of the required work is on her side, but she is now stalling, telling me two months in a row that she "can't afford to do it this month" because of another large expected bill. I'm now hanging on on the chance she "might be able to afford to do it later in the summer". If she wants to get her own quote from somewhere cheaper elsewhere, she's of course free to do so, but she hasn't.

While her insurance company might pay out for water damage to my decor, (I haven't even got so far as that far yet and probably will just leave it even though it has made a brown stain on the painted wall and has caused the about 9sq feet of plaster to "blow" off my bedroom wall meaning that it is only held on by the lining paper.), of course they won't pay for normal wear and tear to an unmaintained elderly roof, so no chance of them sorting it out for her.

I feel really bad for her: she's 80, is on her own with no family and I think has some fairly serious health problems which may affect her longevity and I do understand that she'd probably rather not spend loads of money on her house at her age and state of health. BUT I really do want to get this fixed before the autumn when it starts raining again and gets worse - and I think she has a responsibility to us to address this problem and not just leave it.

What bothers me is that she spends a lot on mail order items (I know because I take parcels in for her) and regularly puts whole van-fulls of stuff into storage - this is not a cheap thing to do in the long term, so there must be some money around. It's not like I'm talking thousands of pounds here: I only need her to find £330!

What would you do?
-Give her a fixed deadline to get the work done (or what consequence ? - not sure of the legal standing here)
-Involve the insurance company and see what they say (we have legal cover). I don't want to go down a legal route of forcing her to get it done as I don't want to fall out with her / upset her.
-Lend her the money to get the work done (really don't want to do this as it sounds like a recipe for arguments and anyway, she might die before she pays us back!)
-Pay for the whole lot ourselves (but why on earth should I pay for repairs to her roof, and in any case, I would still need her consent to get the work done.)

Interested to hear how you would approach this and if anyone knows whether one has a legal responsibility to maintain ones own home so it doesn't damage someone else's....

HighwayDragon Fri 18-Jul-14 13:48:41

Oh, ONLY £330 hmm

That must be some re-pointing if the builder is charging £650!

Maybe she really doesn't have the money and no, you cannot insist she get's it done.

I am a bit confused as to how her roof needing repointing is making you bedroom wall damp on one patch though - what state is the loft in?

and how is her roof affecting your side - just get your side of the roof done and surely as your bedroom is under your roof this should solve your problem???

peggyundercrackers Fri 18-Jul-14 14:08:36

£650 for repointing? your getting ripped off. we pay about £70sq m for repointing work - so £650 would cover about 9.5 square meters worth of work.

Middleagedmotheroftwo Fri 18-Jul-14 14:11:34

I would take informal legal advice - via CAB maybe. It's going to get worse, and more expensive to fix if you leave it. You need to get it done before the winter really.

You really need three estimates.

There are fife rent routes, you can get in direct contact with Environmental Health.

I had roof damage during the year of bad storms.

The leak ran through the loft and along the party wall, it would of potentially damaged both properties. I'm in a Ha house, so is next door, so it was easy fixable.

Her state of finances are non of your business.

Have it from three builders what is going on then, if it is from her side, contact EH.

If she is in real financial difficulty, she can get assurance which EH via the LA will help with.

SiennaBlake Fri 18-Jul-14 14:20:13

If you "only" need her to find £330, and it's so important to you to get it done, why don't you pay for it? It's "only" another £330 after all!

"Lend her the money to get the work done "

Only if you are prepared to write it off.

She may not have the capacity to enter into an agreement.

Likewise the legal route may be to official, whereas EH are used to dealing with ageing home owners and know who to refer them to, for help.

Hoarding is a MH issue, so be aware that you are dealing with a very vulnerable person and could end up looking like the bad guys.

The £330 may only be the start, though, you don't know what you may face come next winter.

MrsWinnibago Fri 18-Jul-14 14:24:05

yabu for all the reasons mentioned by other posters.

Cabbagesandcustard Fri 18-Jul-14 14:36:56

There's a lot of good points here - that's why I posted as I wanted different perspectives. We try really hard to be good and supportive neighbours to her and I am acutely aware that she is not a well lady physically or probably mentally. But I am also aware that water penetrating into the party wall (probably evident on her side too, if she could see it) is not good news and needs to be dealt with promptly.
I would pay for the work but I fear that doing so might come back to bite me on the bum (if then her roof starts leaking in other places she could blame the workmen that I appointed - I just don't want to go there.)
FYI The builder is a trusted tradesman who we have known for many years and I know will do a "proper job" and not rip me off.

MrsWinnibago Fri 18-Jul-14 14:42:34

Just get yours fixed. She's 80...something like this can give real worry to the elderly. They can fret and lose sleep over the most trivial things so you nagging about the roof won't help her.

As for her ordering things by mail...so what? That's her business.

chockbic Fri 18-Jul-14 14:44:00

Can you afford to pay for it all?

Cabbagesandcustard Fri 18-Jul-14 15:07:19

Well I don't really want to - why should I subsidise 30+ years of her letting her house and garden deteriorate? I feel I am already being very fair and generous in offering to pay half for the roof and in letting the decor damage go. But I would pay the rest if it was that or not get it fixed at all - I feel really worried about the damage to my house and decor, and the potential for worse to come if we have another wet winter.
However, I can't authorise works to her roof though, can I? - as what needs doing really is mostly on her side of the brick parapet. And if I did, it might open a whole other can of worms - she could later accuse me of pushing her into stuff she didn't want.
I am a nice person and really don't want to upset a vulnerable old lady: I just want to make my house watertight!
PS My point about the mail order habit - agree none of my business - is that I don't think her resistance is entirely about the money.

sparechange Fri 18-Jul-14 15:16:02

Cabbages, can you see if your council provides a scheme to provide grants to allow elderly people to get maintenance work done? The council then puts a charge on the house and gets their money back when the house is sold.
My local council does this, but I don't know how widespread it is nationally, or if it only covers some types of work

RocknRollNerd Fri 18-Jul-14 15:18:02

In this situation I think I would be inclined to suck down the implications of a claim on insurance and get your house insurers to deal with it for you - that keeps you one step 'removed' and depersonalises it all. They can appoint builders to do quotes etc and use negotiation/legal route as required.

We had issues with a shared flat roof/party wall a couple of years ago, I've just looked back and can't find the info from the time but there are legal obligations and routes that can be taken and the insurers may want to do this. You've tried to resolve it amicably but you really do need to get it sorted now before winter. It does sound as if your neighbour might have some issues, maybe also consider calling adult SS to see if they can offer her some support? We were lucky in that our neighbours at the time eventually paid for their side of the repairs themselves after their LL started dragging her feet - it was a similar situation in that the previous owner (LL mother) had been ill, hard up etc and not had cash to do routine house maintenance for years.

This sounds like a classic hoarder (I have studied this topic extensively and am fully qualified to comment thanks to my American TV habit ;)) - buying lots of stuff, storing more stuff elsewhere, parts of the house apparently inaccessible due to the amount of stuff, and ignoring necessary/urgent repairs.

I am not sure what I would do - if you are willing to get really tough, you could do the work and take her to the small claims court for her share - but that is probably not something you would be happy to do.

I do think that, in terms of what the OP has posted, the mail order stuff is relevant, because it suggests that she has money, but is not willing/able to prioritise paying for the necessary repairs ahead of acquiring more stuff.

Hmm - there was supposed to be a wink, to indicate I know I am not really qualified to diagnose her as a hoarder, but I got my FB emoticons and my MN ones mixed up. Oh the shame. blush

SiennaBlake Fri 18-Jul-14 16:29:42

Tbh, thinking about it, if she is a real hoarder, it won't be the money at all. It will be the hoarding. She won't want the anxiety and stress and the complete breakdown that moving the hoard could cause so she is trying to pretend it's not happening. When you're that entrenched in hoarding, sometimes the thought of touching the hoard and the stress it causes outweighs the stress of the thought of what could be happening in and around the hoard and denial takes over.

I don't know what you can do though sorry. I would be getting quite worried that this is something that is going to be dragged out for a long time though.

Nanny0gg Fri 18-Jul-14 16:43:51

There is also the chance that she isn't insured...

UptheChimney Fri 18-Jul-14 16:51:10

She's 80, probably on a fixed income, fragile, no family. You're concerned about the damage, she doesn't seem to be.

If it were me, I'd just get it done & not pursue her for payment. And certainly not take legal action.

I'd hate to think I was hounding an 80 year old neighbour who is otherwise a real help to me.

lettertoherms Fri 18-Jul-14 16:52:35

I agree, there's a good chance it isn't the money at all. It's the hoarding, and the idea of people coming in/moving things/clearing things. If you offer to pay, I think she will still refuse.

TheFairiesAreBack Fri 18-Jul-14 16:54:09

Your best bet is to give social services a call. Hoarding and buying stuff (That possibly she can't afford and hasn't yet paid for) is pretty standard for elderly people who are suffering from dementia/loneliness/and so on.

My mum worked with the elderly and she had to sort out some pretty dire hoarding/debt stuff for elderly people.

weatherall Fri 18-Jul-14 17:05:10

Will they need to access inside her house to do the work?

If so I can see why she doesn't want it.

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