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Need advice troublesome neighbor
Old 07-21-2014, 02:50 PM   #1
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Need advice troublesome neighbor

I am soliciting advice as to how to deal with a thorny problem with our neighbor. She has been our neighbor for 8 years and we have always had a poor relationship. I won't bore you with the details as to why since I'm not sure they are relevant to the issue at hand. The enigma is that while many in our community see her as a difficult person OTOH she also seems to have a lot of friends, including some people that we are friendly with as well.

Her property has deeded water rights to a spring on our property. When we bought our property we shared the spring but we later drilled a well and no longer use the spring and she has enjoyed sole use of it since we drilled the well. A few years ago, she bought the property next to her (on the other side from us) and is fixing it up to rent. I just learned that she is extending a water line to provide water from our spring to that property as well without even asking us.

On one hand, I’m not sure I care since we don’t use the spring anymore. OTOH it burns me up that she just went ahead and did it without discussing it with us or disclosing it to us at all. So should I just ignore it or should I call her out on it?

If I call her out on it, even diplomatically, it will make a bad situation worse but we don't speak at all now other than obligatory "Hi"s so I'm not sure it matters.
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Old 07-21-2014, 02:59 PM   #2
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What do you want to ultimately happen? Do you want her to stop tapping water for the new property? Or do you want some other compensation you could negotiate?

Even a neighborly "Hi" is better then a bitter feud. And you never know when you might need to depend on her for something in the distant future.
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Old 07-21-2014, 03:00 PM   #3
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You probably need to do something just to protect your rights to the spring. Even if you didn't need the water, it would be nice to at least be able to preserve it for the future. I'm sure knowingly letting this happen would have some legal ramifications.
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Old 07-21-2014, 03:01 PM   #4
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Plain and simple, get an attorney and put her on notice that the property in question does not have water rights. Indicate in the letter a willingness to consider a fair offer for your consideration in her favor.
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Old 07-21-2014, 03:19 PM   #5
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You may be doing her (and someone else) a huge favor by at least bringing it up now. Otherwise, should she ever decide to sell that property, a wise buyer will ask about deeded rights.

Where does it get its' water from now?
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Old 07-21-2014, 03:44 PM   #6
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Do you have a legal claim to the water from the spring? You said in past you did get water from it, but since it is on your property and she has the rights, where do you fall? What specific legal documentation exists for her use of the water?

At a minimum it seems logical that her water rights do not extend beyond her property. She can't make a local water supply company just because she has rights, those rights are probably limited to her property use. Or at least should have some sort of limitations.
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Old 07-21-2014, 03:45 PM   #7
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What do you want to ultimately happen? Do you want her to stop tapping water for the new property? Or do you want some other compensation you could negotiate?....
I'm not sure what I want to ultimately happen (her going away would be great but isn't in the cards). I don't care about the water as our well provides us plenty. There is another simmering issue with her that might make negotiations easier.

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You may be doing her (and someone else) a huge favor by at least bringing it up now. Otherwise, should she ever decide to sell that property, a wise buyer will ask about deeded rights.

Where does it get its' water from now?
Yes, I understand that. It is a seasonal property and draws water from the lake for toilets, showers, etc. Lake water is clean - probably technically drinkable but no one does. You would have to bring in drinking water.

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Do you have a legal claim to the water from the spring? You said in past you did get water from it, but since it is on your property and she has the rights, where do you fall? What specific legal documentation exists for her use of the water? .....
Yes, the spring is on our property and so is our spring so we have a legal right to use the water from the spring (and did for some years) but have just not done so recently. We have not abdicated any right to the spring. Her proprty had deeded rights to use the spring for drinking water. I suspect she uses it in her shower as well which is another liberty she has taken that we have not called her out on.
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Old 07-21-2014, 03:49 PM   #8
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I get the impression that if, by doing nothing, you forfeit your future rights to all of the water or your rights to control what she does with the spring on your property, she will have no hesitation to to take what she wants regardless of of the trouble is causes you. She is, in your own words, troublesome.

Also, how would this affect your ability to sell your property in the future?
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Old 07-21-2014, 03:55 PM   #9
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Just to be clear, a line runs from the spring to her house and she has recently extended the line from her house to her rent house. The extension is solely on properties she owns but the rent house does not have any rights to the spring water.
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Old 07-21-2014, 03:58 PM   #10
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If you haven't already done so, check the document that provides the neighbor's deeded right to the spring water. That should inform you as to what limits, if any, exist on her use of the water. I agree with those who counsel that you should raise the issue. If you and your neighbor ultimately come to agreement, you probably should consult a lawyer regarding documenting the resulting easement or permission.
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Old 07-21-2014, 04:07 PM   #11
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You should be asking a qualified (not any old) lawyer these questions and not an internet forum.
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Old 07-21-2014, 04:20 PM   #12
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I'm not really looking for legal advice. I know that she doesn't have the legal right to use the spring water at her rent property and I could easily get a judge to agree and force her to stop doing it. To do so would cost both of us legal fees but I can afford it more than she can.

The more relevant question is whether I should just let her do it since I don't use the spring myself and to keep the peace/be neighborly or whether I should call her out on it and negotiate something in return or force her to stop.

I don't care so much about the water since we have plenty, but am pissed that she just went ahead and did it without asking.
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Old 07-21-2014, 04:23 PM   #13
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You own the property where the spring is located, and she has a specific right to use the water for drinking. You need to reassert or clarify what the deed states and whether she has exceeded her rights.

Her behavior is pretty typical. Someone takes a small liberty, and then the violation grows as she justifies the old behavior and new transgression(s).

You have to see what is in her deed, your deed, the other property deed. You could go down a path and have a surprise later on.

I have a similar neighbor. He is the president of the association. Put up a two story shed right next to the fence. Someone complained, and he went for a variance. I voiced objection, and township made him comply with several ordinances. Years later he replaces broken down fence and the "good side" is facing his yard. He tells me that it looks better. LOL. I asked him to comply with the code, and he took 3 months to do it.

In your heart you know the problem has been there, and it won't go away. By going forward your raising this to another level. But you have to do some fact-finding first. My experience has been that a neighbor just won't conform based on a little chat you have, or a friendly letter. YMMV.
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Old 07-21-2014, 04:26 PM   #14
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I don't care so much about the water since we have plenty, but am pissed that she just went ahead and did it without asking.
A perfect reason to lawyer up and make her pay the legal fees, too. Listen, it seems you can even get some of any future rent she gets from the rental. Protects your heirs as well.

Or sell her your property.
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Old 07-21-2014, 04:46 PM   #15
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I just learned that she is extending a water line to provide water from our spring to that property as well without even asking us.
I would make it a point to pee in the spring every morning.
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Old 07-21-2014, 04:57 PM   #16
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I don't care so much about the water since we have plenty, but am pissed that she just went ahead and did it without asking.
For me that is the crux of the issue. IF she had asked, would you have let her do it?

If so, then I would talk to her about the issue, which isn't the water, but the fact she didn't ask.

If you wouldn't have let her have the water rights, well that is the conversation to have with her.

A similar (sort of) example. A tree fell on the far side of my property (near my neighbor), he asked if he could chop it up for firewood and I said yes. Now if he had done it without asking (and assuming I found out), I might have been pissed initially, but I would soften it up with the reality that I would have said yes, so the end result is the same. I would have mentioned that I have no problem with him having the tree but I would like to be asked as I might have wanted it, etc.

So no real harm as I would have given him the tree either way, and I can live with that.
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Old 07-21-2014, 05:03 PM   #17
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Would you be liable if something happens to neighbors who drank the water? Let's say someone claims that (s)he got violently ill after drinking the water. That's the 1st thing I'd worry about.
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Old 07-21-2014, 05:10 PM   #18
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You REALLY need a lawyer with expertise in water rights, at least you would if you lived in the west where it is said that 'whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over'.

In the west water rights are documented separate from land title, just because a stream runs through your property does not mean that you can use it for any purpose (domestic, watering stock, irrigation).

You need to preserve your water rights even if you don't 'need' the water even if it means drawing from that spring to water one rose bush.

That lawyer will tell you what the neighbor's rights are and you should take action to see that the neighbor is aware of his/her limits on its use.
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Old 07-21-2014, 05:51 PM   #19
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I would encourage you to please take some time to Google "Adverse possession" and "prescriptive easement ". You can find many examples in law whereby if you allow someone to do something on your property for a long enough period of time, you can eventually, and completely, LOSE your claim to that piece of property.

E.g. By adverse possession, title to another's real property can be acquired without compensation, by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner's rights for a specified period.

I do not know what the statutes are in your state, but, in Pennsylvania, it is 21 years.
Pennsylvania Adverse Possession Laws - FindLaw
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Old 07-21-2014, 07:53 PM   #20
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I would encourage you to please take some time to Google "Adverse possession" and "prescriptive easement ". You can find many examples in law whereby if you allow someone to do something on your property for a long enough period of time, you can eventually, and completely, LOSE your claim to that piece of property.

E.g. By adverse possession, title to another's real property can be acquired without compensation, by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner's rights for a specified period.

I do not know what the statutes are in your state, but, in Pennsylvania, it is 21 years.
Pennsylvania Adverse Possession Laws - FindLaw
I have researched that ad nauseum and also talked with my lawyer due to another issue we have that I didn't include in the OP where she is claiming a prescriptive easement for a driveway that crosses a corner of our property. The key is that it has to be adverse (against your wishes) for a long period of time in order for the party to get any rights. In the case of the driveway the prior owners gave her permission for it, they communicated it to us bith verbally and in writing when we bought the property and we send her a letter every couple years letting her know that she continues to have permission to use the driveway across our property but that said permission does not convey to her any legal right to use the property or an easement. Our lawyer said that a periodic letter was sufficient to protect us and that the key is that she has permission. Obviously, we can withdraw that permission at any time but haven't yet, even though she periodically pisses us off.
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