Can I get on my no-good neighbour’s property to make repairs?
My neighbour and I don’t get along. Most of the time, we’re happy to avoid each other, but I need to replace some crumbling brick in a wall of my house that’s only accessible from his property. He won’t let me back there because he doesn’t think the repair is necessary. What do I do?
—Wall-To-Do, The Beach
You can legally access your neighbour’s property without permission if there’s a genuine emergency. Since you’re writing in, I’ll assume your house isn’t about to collapse. If you don’t want to wait until it is, you can apply for a city permit, but the process takes six to eight weeks, comes with a hefty security deposit (to cover any damage you might do to his property), and you’ll have to submit a proposal describing the work you want to do. If you do get approved—only necessary maintenance will get the go-ahead—the city can force your neighbour to comply or threaten him with fines. Of course, summoning municipal staff to his door will only exacerbate your feud (and perhaps inspire him to fight back by taking legal action under the Trespass to Property Act), so treat that as your nuclear option. First, try knocking on his door, explaining the permit process in a civil and friendly manner, and asking if there’s any way you can avoid the paperwork. To up your odds of success, offer to do the repair on a weekend when he’s out of town.
Send your questions to the Urban Diplomat at firstname.lastname@example.org