Dear Urban Diplomat: How do I get my elderly neighbour to fix her rotting fence?
My elderly neighbour has a white picket fence that prevents people from cutting across her corner lot. She hasn’t maintained it, so it’s become an eyesore: the paint is peeling and a few of the slats are rotten. Since she’s rather reclusive, it’s not as if we can casually chat about it. I drafted a friendly but direct letter and placed it in her mailbox last week. So far, nothing. What do I do next?
—On the Fence, L’Amoreaux
Your neighbour may be breaking a city bylaw that requires residential fences to be “structurally sound…in good repair and free from hazards.” But before you call 311 and ask the city to send her a fix-it-or-else decree, consider the circumstances. She’s old and nowhere to be seen, which might mean she’s too frail for housework, seriously sick or worse. She doesn’t need a mouthful about how her battered barricade is offending neighbourhood sensibilities (and property values); she needs a decent neighbour to check in on her. Knock on her door and ask if everything’s okay. While you’re at it, offer to fix the fence yourself.
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