Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Fence Saga

I finished the fence today. We left room for a gate which I built today but I miscalculated and the gate ended up a little too big to swing so it ended up as a fence panel. I screwed it in waiting for Brooks to come back when maybe he can trim it down a bit and make a gate. He is very talented. I could do it but it would take me another day or two and I am out of band-aids. I am not sure if we really need a gate as we have very little interaction with the condo folks. Every conversation we have had with them over the past twenty years has had to do with the fence and who would or wouldn't pay for it.

There had been an old fence between our properties dating back twenty five years or so to when the condo was built. It went in as part of the construction and we were never asked our opinion or to share in the cost. It was a pretty minor issue for them at the time and a tiny addition to the total construction costs. It was mainly put in to secure the building site and was not the best quality. It lasted about fifteen years and then started falling apart. I repaired it several times but eventually it was beyond repair, fell down and was hauled away for firewood. A twenty foot section remained at the foot of the bank.

Then about ten years ago Brooks was up building a fence for a neighbor. The Condo Committee came over to talk to him about a new fence. He gave them an estimate of around $3,000 for about 120 feet of new, five foot high cedar board fence, half billed to them and half split between us and Pauline, the neighbor in front of us. This price included removing and disposing of the twenty feet of old fence at the back and the old fence still standing fence between them and Pauline. He told them it was a one time offer as he had his truck and tools here already and also had a free couple of days to stay here and work. If he had to come back, the price would be considerably higher. Pauline quickly agreed but they could not get their committee together quickly enough and came back the next morning to say "no".

A couple of years passed with still no fence when they told us they had decided to put in a hedge instead. We have had bad experiences with hedges and told them we were not interested but if they wanted a fence, we would get Brooks to give them another estimate and we would share the cost. They said no, the decision was made and they were putting in a hedge. Norma warned them that she did not want it infringing on her flower gardens along the property line and that they would have to keep it trimmed at the property line. They agreed and their gardener planted 10 or 12 small, foot tall cedar trees on their side of the property line, about one every four or five feet. They have not yet, and probably never will, turn into a hedge. Norma hacks back any branch that intrudes over the property line.

Fast forward to November 2009 when a huge tree on the bank fell down in a storm, landing between the buildings and wiping out the twenty foot fence but doing no other damage. We were in Mexico and arranged over the phone and email to have the tree removed and the mess cleaned up. At that time we assumed the tree had been on our property. Late that summer we got a letter from the condo committee telling us they expected us to replace the twenty feet of fence at our expense because 1) the tree that fell was on our property and 2) the fence was at the top of a steep bank on their property and they feared liability if someone fell down the bank.

We replied that if you sight down the property line, the root ball and trunk of the fallen tree was pretty much on the property line. It was not clear at all whose tree it had been. Also, anyone who fell down the bank would have to have come from our property and it was a part of our property that we never used so there was no danger. We did not think that short fence was needed, but if they wanted, we were still willing to share the cost of a complete fence. They responded, saying they had hired a contractor to build the short fence and would be sending us his entire bill. We replied that we would not pay it. The contractor built the fence, the bill arrived and we returned it unopened to the condo committee (more on this later). We heard no more from them but they were mad at us and sent a letter to all the condo owners telling them so.

A couple of weeks ago Norma saw the committee standing in the yard next door. They told her there had been a homeowners revolt and the old committee had been replaced. The new group seemed very nice. Norma told them we were going to be putting up a fence made from recycled boards. She said we did not expect any compensation from them and that she was doing it because the hedge was not stopping the deer and she was tired of doing their hedge trimming for them. They said they were broke but would give us $100 from petty cash. The total cost to me for the 60 foot fence was about $1000 (framing material, stain, gas, posts, concrete, jack hammer rental etc). Brooks and Jason's labour was free.

While they were talking they told us the bill for the 20 foot section of fence that we sent back unopened was for $3000! The contractor was a nephew of a previous committee member. The fence was the cheapest possible construction for a cedar board fence. Brooks says there was about $200 -$300 worth of material in it.

So there you have it, more than you ever wanted to know about the Randle fence saga.

The twenty foot. $3000 picket fence and my "gate" next to the yet to be trimmed post:


  1. What a saga!

    And just to be nitpicky, the tree came down in November, not January, of 2009: :)



  2. Your fence looks great. Too bad you can't choose your neighbours though....

  3. Yikes, that's quite the story. Reminds me why we don't own any property!

  4. Good fences make good neighbors.
    Robert Frost

    Who pays for the fences can cloud that axiom.

  5. Wow that sure is a story, frustrating to say the least. Good luck with the ongoing battle.

  6. Quite the story! Do you think there might be a movie in it? Perhaps featuring Norma chasing deer and trimming the "hedge"?

  7. Wow! A $3,000 fence that looks to be worth a couple of hundred bucks!

    Your fence looks great. You took the high road on this project and the condo residents are big beneficiaries. You have to wonder what motivates people into stupid decisions. C'est la vie!

  8. Some municipalities have a "fence viewing committee" that come to the site, listen to both parties then make a decision on a new fence. It sometimes is probably a decision that makes both parties unhappy but it resolves conflicts, and both parties share in the cost of the solution.



  9. In the hood where I grew up, a good fence was "hog tight", it looks like you have one that is Condo Committee tight.