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PRO

Hi to all.

 

We have recently finished a full garden landscape and as part of the project the client asked us to replace a small fence. The fence belonged to the neighbour so we sought their consent before carrying out any work. We replaced the fence and put it back in exactly the same place as it was before so as not to alter the boundary. Now that the job is complete the client has complained that the fence tapers in and is not parallel with the fence on the opposite side. I pointed out he probably didn't notice the difference in angle before because 1, the old fence was falling down and 2, the area was overgrown. He wanted to know why we hadn't asked about straightening it before doing the work? I told him it would involve changing the boundaries and as such I did not want to be involved in any future boundary disputes, as far as I am concerned we did the right thing by respecting the pre-existing line. He countered that he would have spoken to the neighbour to get their consent as we were only talking about altering it by 10-15cm into their garden at one end. To complicate matters the neighbour has a large-ish mahonia with it's root crown only about 15cm from the base of the post to contend with if we carried out his plan. I pointed this out to him and suggested the neighbour might take a bit of a dim view of us hacking away at it to make way for a post. I informed him that the only viable alternative was to move the fence-line 10-15cm into HIS garden at one end, something he seemed strangely reluctant to do. Anyway, my problem is he still owes me money on the job and I fear he is going to try to mess me about and ask me to move the fence before settling up despite telling me this morning he would pay, seemingly accepting the fence had to stay as it is. He still hasn't transferred the balance so I am a little concerned. 

If he does come back and ask me to move the fence what are my options? Obviously I want to get paid but I don't feel this is a legitimate excuse for witholding money. At the same time litigation is a lengthy process and I don't have the time or the inclination to go down that path yet, I'll give it a few days for him to pay before I even consider it. The alternative of course is I just move the bloody thing but I want to know what safeguards there are so I can't be held liable in the event of any disputes between them or any future occupants of either property. Do I have good grounds for simply refusing as I believe we did the right thing to begin with?

Thanks in advance for any assitance.

 

Paul  

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Replies

  • PRO

    If it does go the worst way, do not be afraid of the legal route. It’s easy, automated and online and consider bringing it into the conversation down the line.

    If your case is reasobable with simple evidence you should be successful, with costs & interest.

    Obviously a common sense / negotiated solution would be preferable.

    • 'Cross over' - take your pick!! 

       

      • PRO

        I’d never suggest taking the legal route first off, but as I mention, if does go bad don’t be afraid of using it as the final resort :)

  • Firstly, I don't think I'd be thinking in terms of 'liabilities' and  'litigation' at such an early stage.  Such small measurements tend to become less important after a week or so. Give it a week or so and see hope things pan out.  If the problem remains, next step would be to establish the actual boundary, if you have worked to the wrong boundary, just get in there and put it right while the concrete is still green.  I can assure you that righting a wrong will do your reputation more good than a legal fight.

     

     

     

  • PRO

    Thank you both for your input. We'll see how things go. 

    Some interesting points however, particularly about looking into where the actual boundaries are. Lets face it, who goes to land registry when replacing a fence. Generally you put it back broadly where it was but it throws up an interesting question as to what happens if a neighbour disputes the position and the boundary turns out to be different from how you found it. Should we be getting both parties to sign an agreement on the positioning before commencing work while acknowledging the actual boundary may differ, adding the contractor is not liable for any inaccuracies? Just a thought.

     

    • PRO

      Conveyence plans held at the land registry can not be taken to explicitly position boundaries, especially old plans that have been digitised. Download an old plan and enlarge it. The line often represents a phyiscsl width of several feet.

      They may show whose boundary is whose, but boundary issues are often defined by the physicality of the site, historical facts, previous fence /hedge lines, photos etc

      This why boundary disputes can consume immense legal costs. In fact, even a fence is often not sufficient to show location and ownership.

      Best solution is to broker an agreement and if this means a simple bit of re-working (as Colin said) it is probably the best solution for the two niehbours and ensures your bill are paid before condidering action to recover your costs. 

      • PRO

        It could be he has simply just not got around to making the payment yet . 

        A polite reminder may be all it takes to make this happen . 

        It sounds as though he has accepted your explanation or the dialogue would have ended on a negative note and he sounds pleased with the rest of your work . 

                        However if you feel he is using the fence as a delay tactic then its in your interest to show that you have offered to resolve the situation before taking legal action and in reality its probably quicker to sort the fence out after asking the customer to mark out exactly where he would like the fence to go . good luck .

         

  • Hi Paul , You mentioned that they have agreed to pay you so maybe a bit early to worry about that. It might be worth getting back to them in an email to confirm what was discussed just incase it comes back to bite you at some point or you end up in a dispute over payment.  

  • PRO

    Thank you for all the comments and advice. The client has settled the bill now. As some of you suggested I was worrying a little prematurely and of course legal action should be the very last resort when all else has failed. It is funny as we make a habit of consulting our clients at every stage of a project but in this one instance the fence went back up without explaining why we were putting it back as it was. Anyway, the client was happy with the rest of the job and did accept the fence needed to go back in the same position as before, so all is well.

  • PRO

    your client is  talking nonsense in my opinion. 

    You cannot change an existing fence line and you had no reason to. People do try and find ways of not paying the last bill when you finish a job by making up that they are not happy with something. It’s the oldest trick in the book. He’s trying to have you over. Tell him the invoice is payable and that’s the end of it. I’ve been building fences for 21 years and I can count on one hand the fences which run parallel to the opposite fence in the garden, it just doesn’t happen. 

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