My girlfriend and I are in the process of building a house to start a family. We have hired a contractor that will arrange everything from start to finish to deliver a habitable house.
The lot we are building our house on is meant for two semi-detached homes. Our neighbors finished building their home recently. During preparations for our house, our contractor discovered that the foundation placed underneath the common wall on our neighbors' lot is actually too wide and about 20 cm is placed on our lot (probably by mistake); it now blocks construction of foundations for our home.
That small part of our neighbors' foundation cannot be reused because each house needs to rest on its own foundation to allow both of them to move independently. Using this part of the foundation as part of the foundation for our house is simply not possible and cannot be presented as an answer.
Our contractor has proposed two solutions:
- Remove any of part of the foundation that is on our lot.
- Move our home 20 cm and fill the gap with additional insulation.
The first solution will most likely damage the house of our neighbors and potentially lead to an unstable common wall. The second solution has no risk for any damage but reduces the valuable space on our lot by a small amount (though, certainly not negligible) and adds an additional cost to the construction of our home due to the additional insulation and exterior materials that are required.
We met our neighbors once before the incident and both parties clearly expressed the intent to have a friendly relationship for many years to come. Once our contractor explained the problem with the foundation, we contacted our neighbors and requested another meeting to discuss the solutions.
The first solution could be enforced through court because we did not give permission to install the foundation of our neighbors' house on our property. However, letting the court resolve this issue will most likely take a few months to a few years. The relationship with our neighbors will be ruined (because their house will most likely be damaged) and we do not want to risk an unstable common wall.
We favor the second solution but obviously do not want to pay the additional cost to make it all happen. All in all, we would already voluntarily sacrifice valuable space on our lot to fix our neighbors' mistake.
We already briefly explained the situation and solutions to our neighbors over the phone but they immediately made it clear that they also have no intent of paying any additional cost because they simply do not have the funds to pay for it at this time.
The additional cost is estimated to be 2400 euros. We could pay for it ourselves but obviously prefer spending it elsewhere. We also feel that paying this from our own pocket would hurt the relationship with our neighbors from our side for the coming years.
We are meeting our neighbors tomorrow.
- What is the best course of action to get our neighbors to pay for the additional cost of moving our house as a result of their faulty foundations? During tomorrow's discussion, what arguments could we use that have the highest likelihood of persuading our neighbors to pay?
- What general advice should we keep in mind when discussing this topic with our neighbors? Are there any big "do's and dont's" for situations like this?
First of all, thanks for all comments and answers, they have most certainly be helpful to us!
We have met our neighbors and discussed the issue. We explained the problem as it has been presented to us by our contractor and stated the solution: removing the encroaching foundation that is on our property. We also stated that enforcing this solution is completely within our right because we are the owners of the property and did not grant permission for any such construction. Then we continued that the aforementioned solution entails a high risk of permanent damage to the house of our neighbors and that we were willing to accept a workaround that involved moving our house. We presented the cost estimation our contractor provided us and formally requested all costs be payed in full by our neighbors in case they chose this approach.
At the start of the conversation we emphasized that our aim is to find a solution that everybody is happy with and that others have forced us into resolving a difficult matter. Nobody at the table was to blame but everybody had the best interest in finding a solution that works well for all. Afterwards, we phrased our request quite formally just in case our neighbors would react badly to our proposed solutions.
Luckily for us, they reacted quite well and appreciated the fact we were so open and direct to them. They also emphasized they have our relationship as their primary interest because we will be living next door for many years to come. They have accepted our requests and will present it to the contractor responsible for the construction of their foundation.
In the meantime, our contractor already confirmed that their contractor has acknowledged the faulty foundations. It appears that they will resolve the issue themselves. Nevertheless, we have requested that all communication is also forwarded to our address so that we can keep up with how things are going.
For this outcome, I want to thank both answers that were posted before we had the meeting. One showed that a friendly tone is of utmost importance in discussions like this. The other also highlighted the fact that we should not tolerate grave mistakes and exercise our rights appropriately.