Please - Just Fence Me In

My wife and I have lived in our current home for 24 years. Our neighbours, with whom we share a fenced border, have lived in their property for a similar length of time.

These neighbours are an elderly couple (EC), their daughter (D), and her two boys. The EC also own a property abroad, in which they have been living for the past 5 years or so. Any problems with the fence were always sorted out pretty quickly by the EC. It’s their fence so they fixed it. However, D is not so assiduous in such matters.

In mid-November 2015 very strong winds blew out 4 fence panels overnight. The collapse of two panels was assisted by them being weakened by an old vine (theirs) which had badly split the wood.

As it stands, the gap in the fence exposes our patio to our neighbours’ gaze, rendering privacy a thing of the past. D has been promising to do something about it since we first discussed the matter the day after the winds.

In November I’m told she’ll get it fixed before Christmas. This fails to happen. Then she’ll get someone in after Christmas but that doesn’t happen either. At the end of January I ask D what is the problem. I’m told that four different contractors have promised to do the job but failed to deliver. One of them, I am informed, took a deposit of £160 and just ran off with it.

By mid-February D can’t find a fencing contractor in the entire area who is willing to do the job, despite the locality crawling with such people. By the beginning of March, D has actually found someone but, unbelievably, he’s let her down as well.

When I last saw D, on a visit next door to retrieve a set of scales she had borrowed 3 months earlier, D told me that she had found someone to do the work but they couldn’t start until after Easter, what with everybody being so busy at this time of year.

I emailed the male half of EC and proposed that, with D having such terrible bad luck with unreliable fencing contractors, I should arrange to get the work done and he could pay me back sometime in the near future. He thanked me for my offer, turned it down and advised me to leave matters for his daughter to resolve.

And that’s where the situation stands as we speak.

The law says that I can’t engage anyone to do anything about the neighbours’ fence. It’s theirs. In fact, if they chose to pull down every single panel of that fence and have no border whatsoever, they are within their legal rights to do so. That said, one way or the other that fence will get mended.

My wife was diagnosed with Stage IV Multiple Myeloma in May 2014. There is no cure for this type of blood cancer. It can be treated for a limited period but there is no cure. She goes out to see her GP, his nurse, a specialist at a hospital 25 miles away, and her father who is in a care home, all of these trips made accompanied by me. On a goodish day we might go out for something to eat with friends.

She likes to spend time in the garden. This is because I am a dedicated gardener, hopefully producing something good to look at each year. It’s a restful place for her and she will not be deprived of such innocent pleasures, especially when considering this may be her last year in this house. She is depressed about how things look at the moment to the extent that she will not have the curtains opened to reveal the offending gaps in the fence. I am very, very angry about this.

More to follow…

So sorry to hear about your wife. Is there no way you can erect a fence on your side of the property and sever your dependence on the neighbors?

Sorry about the terrible situation.

For the interim, just put 4 panels up just on YOUR side of the property line. Maybe paint the neighbors side with some raunchy painting.

Or just hang out in your backyard with you modeling the lastest string speedo.

Is it within your means to build your own fence? Or offer to pay for repairs to your neighbors’ fence without reimbursement? Since your aesthetic-emotional investment in this bit of your neighbors’ property seems at this time to exceed theirs, perhaps the next quarter-century of fencedness will have to be on you. But people shouldn’t make promises they don’t keep.

My plan is to talk to a fencing contractor and brief him on the back story to the current circumstances. If he’ll play, I’ll hire him. He’ll be working for me. I will pay and I will make no attempt to recoup the outlay from D. This is because sometimes the achievement of a target is more important than the price paid to get there. Plus, I doubt I’d get paid back anyway.

If I’m lucky, D will be away when the job is done and she’ll come back to a repaired fence for which she does not have to pay. If she complains, and there is the small problem of trespass to consider, I’ll tell her about my wife’s health, of which D remains thus far ignorant.

If D is at home when the work is carried out I expect her to come across and ask what the hell is occurring. I’ll suggest to her that she should allow the guys to finish the job. I’ll reassure her that when the work is complete the fence problem ceases to exist that very day and we need never talk about it ever again.

If D prevaricates on this, I’ll tell her of the terminal diagnosis hanging over my wife’s head and then ask her, in so many words, if she wants to be known as a woman who wouldn’t allow her neighbour to fix her fence at his own expense so his wife could enjoy the privacy of her own garden. I will also darkly hint that if the newspapers ever got hold of this story she would be in line for some very negative publicity.

There remains the possibilty that D will call the police. Well, she can certainly bring that on. When said police hear my story I’d like to think they would do everything in their power to make her shut the fuck up about this and then everyone can get back to more important matters. But, you can never be sure how officers of the law will react.

If D still wants to bring a legal action against me on the matter of trespass, or whatever, I’ll be quite happy to go to court, plead guilty and pay the fine. I’ll also arrange for members of the local press to be present at the proceedings to make sure this woman gets precisely what she deserves. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’d appreciate any comments concerning how my stratagem might backfire.

Thank you for reading this. I broke it into two pieces to mitigate any incidence of glazed eyes.

Filling the gaps from my side is a fallback position. But, it’s not straightforward. Two of the broken panels should sit on a low wall, and I’m not sure there’s enough room to sink a couple of holes to hold the fence posts.

I’ll certainly talk to the contractor about that option.

Maybe you could ask your neighbor for permission to put up tarp panels as a stop-gap.

Ask the contractor to wear a ghillie suit. Record the whole thing and put it on YouTube.

I think you are missing a much more reasonable approach.

TELL them about your wife’s condition and you don’t have time to fuck around. If needed, tell them you’ll do all the arranging and if they can’t afford it…you’ll pay for it as well.

If they STILL dick around after that offer, THEN go to the local press.

Or, ask your wife if she would be willing to wear a ghillie suit while enjoying the garden. She can regain some privacy and D might feel like HER privacy is being invaded and repair the fence.

This seems like a crazy overreaction to 4 missing panels in a neighbors fence.

The panels all measure 7 feet by 6 feet = 42 square feet x 4 = 168 square feet in total.

When those panels are adjacent that’s a big gap, especially when it’s straight outside the living room window.

Maybe I should just keep on asking when the work will get done.

This story is ridiculous. You need to hire someone and ask them for the boilerplate neighbor agreement they use. The one that says “I give my neighbor permission to tear down my old fence on our shared property line, and put up a new fence.” Then walk over to the neighbor’s and have whoever can legally sign it, sign it. Then give it to the contractor, and they will do the rest.

If they won’t sign the paper then hire someone to put up a fence some inches inside your property line, avoiding their fence altogether.

All this stuff about making the neighbors feel bad about your wife (I am sorry for her illness) and sneaking around and emailing back and forth is not how you get shit done.

I share a fence with a neighbor. I got a new dog during the winter, and my dog started jumping the neighbor’s fence. His fence did not suit me. I hired someone to build me a taller fence. They gave me a piece of paper to have signed by the neighbor. I had the neighbor sign it. A week or so later, I had a new 5’ fence and so did the neighbor. Suited us both.

Many thanks for the comments so far.

ZipperJJ in particular, a poster I remember from an earlier time on these boards, has me thinking I am too far inside this situation and need to get less obsessed by it.

My wife suggested making D feel bad (I instantly agreed) but we are talking about a very difficult neighbour who has given us a very hard time in the past.

We’ll be reconsidering our approach.

Not this.


I don’t think you would be making her “feel bad” in bad way if you know what I mean if you told her about your wife’s cancer.

I think any reasonable person would be more inclined with getting off their ass knowing someone’s got cancer than if they did not know about it.

You neighbor can’t react to information she doesn’t have. You are probably mad about the cancer aspect. She doesn’t even know.

There are ways to behave that will result in your garden being properly screened from outside observers in relatively short order.

There are different ways to behave that may or may not eventually satisfy your indignation at the way that the neighbor is behaving.

You’ve been behaving in the latter ways. By your own admission, you’re very angry. But you could behave in the former ways. You might still be angry, but your wife would be in the garden.

You need to disconnect yourself from your neighbor’s fence. Put up your own fence, just inside your property line, and just enough to screen out the eyesore. Don’t let them control your destiny-- take it into your own hands.

It’s not just about the fence. It’s about one person having a horrible illness, and another person feeling helpless about it.

I was the sick one about two years ago. My world became very small and consequently the things in it became more important. I can’t tell you how upset I was when our cable went out for one day. Looking back it seems ridiculous, but at the time, it was one of the few things I had and I relied on it for escape from physical and mental pain. What a jolt when I didn’t have it.

I suspect that’s how it is for Chez’s wife. Her small world isn’t right and it’s stressful.

Chez, if this ends up being a drawn-out process, maybe you could cover up the missing boards with something like bamboo fencing:

I know you’re in the UK but there must be something similar. With some creativity and potted plants/flowers, you could actually have a new design feature for your wife to enjoy. Do some Googling. She might even have fun planning it and ordering you around.

My very, very best to you both. ::insert Facebook hearts here::

Maybe she can’t afford it.
Maybe she doesn’t use the room that looks out that way frequently & doesn’t care/remember because she so rarely sees it.
Maybe she likes it now that there’s something to look at other than that @#$%&* fence.
Maybe she’s a voyeur & likes to look onto your property.
Maybe you did something to her a few years ago, so minor that you don’t remember it but it was a big deal to her & she’s using this to spitefully get back at you.

If it bothers you that much, erect your own fence, or at least a long enough portion to block the current opening.

Don’t fix her fence w/o her knowledge/permission. Lastly, don’t rely on a sympathetic judge/press if you do go on her property & she decides to press charges.

I have sympathy for your situation but it’s a weak pitting.