Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I've made a terrible mistake

People, you know how mamas are supposed to tell their babies not to grow up to be cowboys?

I'm here to tell you, don't move into neighborhoods filled with people who have too much time on their hands.

I have been reported to the city for having a messy yard.

My neighbor also threatened to sue me a few months ago. I didn't blog that one in detail because I was too angry and anxious at the time, but here's how the story goes:

I had the big trees ripped out of my yard today, at the suggestion of both my neighbors. It cost $2,500. My brother Charlie stayed at the house while I was at work and overheard my neighbors talking about how they're going to sue me because I didn't get their permission to have "heavy machinery" on their (read: OUR) driveway and the landscaper's cherry picker left a SKID MARK on the ground.

Repeat: on the ground.

So that night, when my neighbor came over to my house to yell at me because someday his cement might crack (in Utah, where temperatures freeze in the winter and boil in the summer) and that will be all my fault because a cherry picker once spent thirty minutes on his cement (and the fact that he parks two boats, a motor home, a F-250, and an SUV on it on the reg is apparently irrelevant), I told him to go ahead and sue me already.

Most lawyers, myself included, would recommend against encouraging people to sue you. Suing is, generally speaking, a bit of a hassle. But frankly, I was in no mood to be threatened with a bogus lawsuit. As my neighbor blustered about his "potential THOUSANDS in damages"* to his cement, I calmly pulled out the proof of the landscaper's million dollar insurance policy and told him to get off my porch.

(And then later panicked because OH MY GOSH, I JUST TOLD A CRAZY PERSON TO SUE ME.)

A week later, Hannah moved out of the house. I decided not to go camping over Labor Day weekend, as I'd planned, so I could help run interference with her and our neighbor. While we didn't actually end up having a fight, he did sit on his porch for fifteen minutes, swearing and yelling at us as we loaded up her aunt's truck with furniture.

That neighbor and I haven't spoken beyond "Merry Christmas" since this summer, but don't you worry, he finally got his revenge on me. Today, in fact.

When he called the city today to report me for failure to get a permit before knocking down the dividing wall between my kitchen and dining room.

Now, to be fair, I was supposed to get a permit. (I didn't know I needed a city permit for a cosmetic alteration to my own house, but that's a story for another day.) But the point is, my neighbor had to get on the city's website, look up my address, find out I didn't have one, and then call the city to report me. That's a whole lot of steps to take out of sheer spite.

Don't worry, it wasn't that big of a deal. I went down to the city this afternoon (I will be working quite late tonight to make up for that little detour) and two hours later I got my $200 building permit. And then out of curiosity, I checked the permit site myself, to see if my neighbors got a permit for their new fence. (They didn't. I won't report them though, because I am not terrible.)**

But seriously, it's a life lesson to us all.

Avoid people who have nothing better to do than mess with you.

* Spoiler alert: Speculative damages are not real damages. This message brought to you by law school.

** If you live in Salt Lake City, here's something you probably didn't know: You need a permit to do ANYTHING to your house other than paint the walls and carpet the floors. You want a new door? Permit. New fence? Permit. New windows? You betcha. Don't even get them started about tearing down a non-load-bearing wall.

And the thing is, while I understand that this is the sort of thing that drives otherwise normal people to become libertarians (joke: please don't come after me, libertarians), I'm not even annoyed with the city officials. The inspector and the folks at the permitting office were as nice as can be. They didn't fine me over my ignorance, though they could have (a fact I'm sure will rankle my neighbor), and very kindly gave me a day to fix the permit situation before citing me for my failures. 

So it's not the city I am annoyed with. What I can't understand is what drives some people to live their lives looking for an unearned payout and opportunities to dick people over. I am quite sure that no matter how long I live, I will never figure that one out.

At least it's good writing fodder.


  1. You're a better person than I am. I would have totally reported them for the fence at that point. But, I guess you do have to live next to them for the foreseeable future, so maybe non-escalation is a good decision. :)

    1. I came her to say what Becca said. I would have totally reported the fence.

      Maybe you could take him a "Why are you being a douchecanoe?" cake.

  2. I would have also reported the fence, because if it wasn't surveyed properly, they could have actually built a fence for YOU. :) And what if it falls down in a storm??? It could kill a squirrel!!! The horror!

    We need permits for everything here as well. My dad's a contractor, so we know this full well. Last year we remodeled the basement, reran electrical, drywalled, gutted the third back portion of the house and started siding the garage. This year we are replacing the remaining 5 windows on the front of the house NOT from 1942.

    I still have no idea how much a permit costs or what the application even looks like. At the end of the day, as long as it passes inspection the only ones that care are your neighbors. Who thankfully, are awesome, and the biggest part of why we haven't moved.

  3. Ugh. I will never understand why people have to be that way. What does anyone get out of being so spiteful and horrible?