(re-run, a pre-pandemic story)
My little beach house sits on land bought back in 1929 from the railroad company. The old deed shows the purchase price of $25.00. For some reason, the original owner didn’t want to buy the land up to the railroad tracks.
Now, 90 years later, the land between my back fence and the old railroad right-of-way belongs to my next door neighbor. The driveway for my old house used to hook up to a different street, and it had to go when the developer bought the adjacent land. My house has a legal easement on my neighbor’s driveway, established in the 1960s.
My neighbor Bob (not his real name) is possessive when it comes to his asphalt. The first time he kicked my girlfriends off the driveway back in 2011, after I’d let them use the house for their author weekend, I knew I had to nip it in the bud. I got a land survey done, and you guessed it, Bob came out and yelled at the surveyors to get off his driveway.
Once I had legal proof of where my property line was, I was able to stand in the shared driveway with Bob and keep up my side of the argument. Bob and his wife had been parking in front of my garage doors and in front of my back gate to the house. I told him it was my property. He argued that he had paid for new asphalt back in the 90’s, so the asphalt belonged to him.
Imagine a long shared driveway of over 100 feet, where the only way for me to get out is to back up. Who knew that those two summers of driving and backing up USPS mail trucks would finally come in handy as a life skill?
But I digress.
Let’s just say Bob and I had a contentious relationship from that day forward. One of my author friends’ husbands was a lawyer, and she offered a free phone call with him to discuss property lines. He asked me how long the neighbor had been using my property for parking.
About five years.
He then told me to delineate my property lines ASAP because after seven years, their allowed use of my property could be grandfathered in as legal in a court of law.
Shortly thereafter I had my contractor build a fence around the space behind my garage that the neighbors had claimed as their own. I had him build a flower bed in front of my gate so that no one could park there but that left me a walkway to come and go without a vehicle in my path. I put wine barrel planters in that flower bed and filled them up with local jade plants.
I also put up a solid six- foot fence along the driveway so that the neighbors couldn’t peer into my front yard and swear at me (as Bob’s wife had done one Easter Sunday). This angered Bob so much that he called the city and turned me in for having too high fences (the city code is 6 feet). My bf at the time showed me how to snap a line so he could saw off eighteen inches of the offending back fences ((not the new one along the driveway).
This has been the past eight years owning property as a single woman next to Bob and his wife. Last summer I installed a new back fence because it was old and only five and a half feet high, and I could see Bob’s car collection (that he parked behind my fence) from my kitchen window (remember, his property wraps around mine). That beautiful new fence did the trick for a couple of weeks, but then one day I noticed something turquoise sticking up higher than my fence from my kitchen window.
I grabbed Daisy and went on a reconnaissance mission. We walked down the street, turned left, and then took the rec trail (old railroad right of way) to see what it was. I peered through the neighbor’s wire fence and saw an old RV trailer, up on blocks, mixed in with all the cars and right next to the shed that held the back-up generator. An electric cord was stretched from the shed to the trailer.
It was October. Somebody was moving in for the winter. I soon found out who the somebodies were. The older homeless couple that often worked for Bob’s wife, the ones with the loose boxer with no collar, that’s who.
I called the city. They sent a letter to Bob and his wife. Nothing changed. The couple stayed all winter.
I often chatted with the homeless woman, Lisa, when we met on the driveway. Her cracked weathered face made it hard to figure out how old she was. My age? Younger? I never did meet her husband/boyfriend. At any rate, Lisa and her spouse became less of a perceived threat to me as the months passed.
Now that it is summer, the couple is gone. I can enjoy days of no loose boxer running up to greet me when I pull in or out of the shared driveway. Lisa was a gardener extraordinaire, and she did improve the look of my neighbors’ flower beds along the driveway. She put a dog collar on her large loose dog when I shared my concerns regarding my own, smaller dogs. She gave me doggie treats the last time I saw her, back in April.
The turquoise trailer is gone, hauled away for scrap. Why, you ask? One night in January, when the homeless couple slept inside my neighbors’ house during a big storm, the limb of a cypress tree came down and sliced the metal trailer in half.
Homeless squatters or not, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.