Tag Archives: Property lines

The Fence

The fence has been a long-standing source of frustration, ever since the previous neighbors knocked out numerous slats. (Before that, a random teenager running through backyards also destroyed half a dozen slats.)

But we’re on the move! New neighbors bought the previously condemned crack house and have spent the last couple months working around the clock on it. They essentially gutted the interior – save for the gorgeous hardwood floors and woodwork – and are replacing just about everything, including the plumbing, electrical and roof. Though they’ll keep it a four-unit for now, they’ll live in a couple of the units and thus have a vested interest in screening tenants when they’re ready. I talked to them about the fence, and they assured me they value their cars too much to slam into our fence.
So I started watching for sales and tried to figure out the logistics. My sister called and asked what we planned to do with the old fence, then offered to haul it away to use in a bonfire. I took her up on the offer, and came home one day to find her with a crowbar, pulling down the old slats. The old stringers were so rotted that they crumbled into dust as soon as you pulled on them.
Since then, we’ve had an army of solitary posts left, which is just odd. Upon further inspection – and confirmation from our jack-of-all-trades neighbor, who witnessed the original installation – the posts are fine. They’re still solid in the ground, no signs of rot or decay, and the concrete beneath is fully intact. So we decided to just replace the panels themselves.
Three weeks ago, Menards ran a sale, which I price matched at Home Depot (to get the extra 10% off). Originally my sister had thought we could fit the new panels in her pickup, but we quickly realized that while we might fit 3 or 4, hauling 17 required either multiple trips or renting a HD truck. We went with the rental.
Since then, we’ve been plagued by a ton of rain (October was one of the wettest in history!), illness and the logistics of trying to remove the evil mulberry tree. When we removed the old fence, we discovered metal stakes long the property line – and the tree proved to be 100% on our side. I signed the death order that day.
All 17 panels are still stacked up against the garage, ready to go. Our neighbor has said he’s happy to loan us his nail gun to speed things along.
We’ll get the new one installed very soon, especially given some crime in the house behind us last week.
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Finally! A Fence!

I had my new fence all planned out last summer. The money was set aside and I had a detailed blueprint with exact quantities for posts and sections. I was ready to rock and roll.

Then, one of the tenants next door got a new boyfriend who drove a giant conversion van. Every time he came over and parked in their driveway, he slammed into our fence. And not just a little tap, as other tenants had done over time – this was full fledged, fence-shuddering contact. He knocked multiple slats from their moorings. I cringed every time I heard the whine of the engine pull up, because I knew it would be followed by a loud thud.

He didn’t seem very approachable, so I never confronted him. Instead, we talked to the absentee landlord, who really didn’t give a damn but said he’d talk to the tenant.

We really didn’t want to invest the time and money to install a new fence if it was going to be abused so harshly.

But then, in a whirlwind of a few short weeks, the building was vacated and condemned, and the ground began its winter freeze.

We’re ready for the spring thaw to dig holes in the ground – below the frost line of 42”, mind you – and install this new fence. Though we still haven’t determined what to do with the old fence, which is in pretty sorry shape. Maybe stick it in the garage until next year’s Spring Cleanup?

Frustration

When I took my second look at my house – prior to making an offer – I noticed that the extra-large house next door had a large parking area, with space for four cars. Upon further inspection, I noticed a sign designating that parking was for tenants only, and multiple entrances. I thought for a moment that maybe living next to an apartment building – four single bedroom units – may not be ideal, but decided it was fine.

I was wrong.

That apartment building has caused misery and frustration during my time in my home. Since it’s old and in poor repair, the units are cheap – and the landlord hasn’t been very selective among his tenants. About four months after I moved in, it went on the market. I hoped someone would buy it, clean it up, maybe deconvert a couple units. The City of Elgin offers a very generous grant to people willing to buy these old homes that have been carved into apartments and restore them to single family homes. I even mentioned the program to the listing agent, encouraging her to pass along the information to interested parties. (If I read the information correctly, a buyer could get up to $90,000 – $30,000 per unit removed – if they converted the four unit property into a single family home. Heck, if they wanted to make it a duplex, they would still get $60,000.)

No such luck. The new owner continued managing from afar, renting to crack dealers who brought with them a parade of traffic, creepy crackheads and, one summer night, gunshots. One morning I even found a drunk/high/impaired man passed out on my front lawn! In conjunction with a small candy shop across the street, things got very bad for awhile, with large crowds loitering on my block, passing the time as they waited for their customers. I was afraid to walk home late at night, though they did seem like friendly crack dealers, calling hello and commenting on the weather.

Winter came, and things improved. It was far too cold to conduct business outside, and though traffic continued, it was much sparser and quicker.

With the spring, though, the crowd reappeared on the first nice day, as did many of the customers. One of the main dealers spent his time sitting on a milk crate out front, waiting for cars to pull up, then exchanging product for cash. Litter abounded, and one of my neighbors put a trash can in her front yard, hoping to alleviate the problems. Things got worse than the previous summer, with a more serious tone about the sheer volume of the problem. Until one day – my birthday – when I came home to a drug raid in progress. Five people were arrested, and my neighbor’s young son asked innocently why the police were interested in the large bag of flour.

After that, things got better for a couple weeks. But then, one by one, the crowd returned, minus the former tenants. The milk crate throne was restored, and business returned nearly to its previous level. The landlord, anxious to keep his rental income, rented one of the newly vacated apartments to the buddy of the dealer now sitting in jail. And another vacant unit to one of their friends. Despite neighborhood involvement, the landlord of the apartment building and the candy shop decided they preferred rental income to neighborhood quality and safety – an easy decision to make for an absentee landlord.

Fall came, and one of the new tenants next door was arrested for assaulting his pregnant girlfriend, vacating an apartment. A family moved in, with three small children in a one bedroom apartment. The winter again stopped the crowds, though the dealing continued, quietly, from one of the apartments.

The spring thaw brought the most blatantly open dealing I’d seen. I’d be out mowing the lawn on a Sunday morning and would watch three transactions, right in front of me. Helped by easy access to major roads and a hungry customer base, business even picked up, with new, younger faces doing the brunt of the work.

Then it stopped. The candy store closed, and the crowds disappeared into the summer night. It was quiet. Kids started playing in the street, biking and playing soccer until their parents called them in. It became a stereotypical 1950s Midwest suburban block, plus a bit of diversity. We spent more time outside, chatting with our neighbors. One of the kids threw a ball and hit one of our screens, prompting a stern talking-to from his dad in a very Dennis the Menace moment. The other kids chalked hopscotch grids on our sidewalks. We held a barbecue and invited our neighbors and their kids.

Sure, we had minor annoyances. The boyfriend of one of the tenants kept slamming his oversize van into our fence as he tried to park in the tight space, knocking loose several slats and completely destroying two of them. We put our fence plans on hold, hating to invest the time and money. Occasionally, loud, thumping music rattled our windows and the pictures on the wall.

Still, the building next door was crumbling. Built in the 1860s, the foundation was uneven, the paint was peeling, and some gutters had come unhinged. You could see damage on the roof. Apparently the inside wasn’t much better, and neighbors reported major plumbing problems and an unresponsive landlord. They stopped paying rent. He went into foreclosure. One of the tenants began holding moving sales every weekend, sitting on the front lawn selling anything and everything, leaving things that didn’t sell on the curb. Don and I talked about trying to raise the capital – and leverage city grants – to buy it out of foreclosure and rehab it, a difficult proposition given the credit crisis.

Finally, the city came to respond to tenant complaints about a lack of heat and plumbing. And then they condemned the building, slapping red tags on all three entrances. Monday, the sheriff came by and made sure it was vacant. Tuesday, the owner – no longer a landlord – piled everything left on the front lawn. The garbage crew only picked up things in cans, leaving piles of clothes and assorted junk outside. Rain lessened the probability that scavengers would be interested in the ancient TV, coffee table, baby furniture and other detritus of four families’ lives.
Wednesday night, I saw a shadow, peering into the windows next door. By the time I looked again and grabbed the phone to call the police, he was gone. Or maybe it was just my imagination.

That makes three vacant houses on our block. One, gutted by fire, has been mired in insurance investigations and a divorce settlement for nearly two years. Another, a rental home, is between tenants, but at least the owner stops by periodically to trim the grass and collect the political mailers off the front step. I only hope that the one next door is tended to and not allowed to dilapidate further, and that any resolution is quick. I’d rather it be torn down and cleared for a new home – that matches the neighborhood’s character, of course – than sit for years, vacant, potentially drawing the former crackheads. I plan to be vigilant and stay on the city for answers and action.

But it’s just so damn frustrating Every time the neighborhood starts improving – and we’ve come so far – something happens.

Four (more) bottles of beer on the lawn

Yep, I ventured into the backyard yesterday to try to get rid of the four new empty beer bottles littering the snow. It appears the morons next door have switched to MGD from Modelo. Nice.

I threw two back over the fence. The other two are firmly frozen into place against the garage, where melting snow fell off the roof and then refroze. I wonder what other surprises the thaw will yield.

I’m still struggling with the thought process of the beer swiggers next door. In what universe is it okay to throw trash into your neighbor’s yard? I’m especially befuddled because there are eight trash/recycling cans in their parking area (two per unit; it’s a huge old house that’s been carved up into four one-bedroom apartments). Do they throw the bottles over their cans for fun? Does hitting my garage get them extra points? Sheesh.

Beer Bottles: An Endangered Species

From the Onion: Empty Beer Bottle Released Into Wild

Aha! So my beer bottle problem was really just a conservation project. Good to know.

(And no, I have seen nary a rogue beer bottle since tossing the four across the fence nearly a month ago!)

Slushy Beer

Thursday night’s snow left me with a solid 10 inches of the wet, heavy stuff. In some places, it was drifted to 16-18 inches. Fun, achy back times.

Being the bright ray of sunshine I am, I found the positive. It was pretty and peaceful. There was enough to justify “working from home” on Friday, along with the extra hour of sleep that entails. And it covered the three empty beer bottles I’d been locked in a staring contest with. All that was left was three subtle, soft, snow-covered lumps.

But Saturday morning, while brushing my teeth, I noticed a travesty on the pristine blanket of snow. A new empty beer bottle.

I grumbled and debated, but while debating, Don took matters into his own hands and tossed all four back over the fence.

Maybe we’ll have a six pack by spring.

Bottles over the fence

A new quandary – how to stop the beer bottles from migrating across the fence into my yard? In summer, it was just plain annoying. Every time I’d mow the backyard, I’d scoop up the assorted candy wrappers and flamin’ hot Cheetos bags from my yard. For awhile, when it first got cold, it was like the litterbugs had fled to the inside of their crappy apartment building.

Then, one day about a week ago, while brushing my teeth and looking down into my backyard, I spied a beer bottle smack dab in the middle of my backyard, in the snow. It was almost artistic. While leaving a bit later, I remembered it, and my boyfriend tossed it back over the fence into the yard – heck, not even a yard, but just asphalt parking lot – for the four-unit apartment building next door. I chastised him and said it should be recycled, but I did agree there was a point to be made.

Then, Sunday morning, I noticed another beer bottle (the same one?) in my backyard. I forgot about it every time I left the house, until Monday morning, while in the rush to leave for work.

Yep, there are now three empty beer bottles in my backyard.

I’m torn. If I recycle them in my own cans, yes, it removes the litter. If I toss them back over, does it send a message? What I just don’t understand is why – the parking lot in question has all four garbage cans and four recycle bins within 10 feet of where the bottles enter my property. I always wonder who taught litterers that it’s okay to leave your trash in someone’s yard or, in the case of my walk to the train, along the side of the road.

If I see the friendly landlord again, I’ll mention it to him. Though I guess in the greater scheme of things, the bottles aren’t nearly as bad as the crack dealers he used to rent to.