Shared driveway causes tension between neighbors
Q. I share a driveway with my next door neighbor. We both enter the driveway at the same spot and then about 30 feet later, the driveway splits off to our separate properties.
The part of the driveway we share is disintegrating. I have obtained a quote to repair for about $3,500. I have brought this up with my neighbor who insists the driveway is fine and there is no need to do anything. It does not appear he will willingly agree to contribute anything to the cost of repair.
This is somewhat of an embarrassment to me as when it rains, this area becomes a huge mess. Large holes fill with water and mud that mess up cars driving over it.
Is there anything I can do to convince my neighbor he needs to pitch in for this repair?
A. My first question is how long has the sharing of this driveway existed? Did you create this or was it in existence prior to you and/or him owning your properties?
Next question is whose property is the common driveway on, yours, his or both? If it is solely on one of your properties, I would presume an easement agreement exists giving the non-owning party the right to use the driveway for ingress and egress to their property. If it is on both parcels, I would presume some sort of reciprocal easement agreement exists, allowing each party to use the entire driveway.
When you purchased your property, you received a title insurance policy. That policy lists everything that is recorded involving your property. Check the policy to determine if anything is recorded regarding the driveway. If you see something in the policy that appears to be associated with the driveway issue, contact the title company that issued the policy and ask them to send you a copy of the document.
In the event an agreement exists associated with this issue, the agreement will likely address repairs and replacement. I'm not sure that would convince your neighbor to pony up for his half of the expense, but it would be worth a shot. Presuming the agreement states the two owners will equally divide the cost of repairs and your neighbor continues to balk, you could bring a pro se lawsuit against him for his share of the cost. If the extra $1,250 expense of filing suit to you is worth alienating your neighbor, you do have potential relief from the court.
In the event there is nothing in writing anywhere regarding the driveway, I think your choices are deal with the mess or pay for the repair. Again, determine whose property the common driveway is on. If it is on your property and there is no agreement, you could prohibit him from using the driveway. Of course, if it turns out the driveway is on his property, he could take the same action. If you are unsure whose property the driveway is on, call a surveyor who could determine this for you.
Q. My wife and I are looking at a piece of property that is in foreclosure. Our Realtor tells us not to worry about this but we are both concerned. Is there anything we need to look out for if we pursue this property?
A. Hire a competent attorney and your problems are solved. He or she will make sure all costs and expenses associated with the foreclosure are paid at or prior to closing and that the seller's lender is releasing any rights they have to proceed against the property.
The foreclosing lender will issue a payoff statement that indicates once they are paid a certain amount on or before a certain date, they will release their mortgage lien on the property and will dismiss their case against the seller. The title company will then issue you an owners title policy, guaranteeing you clean title.
It is also possible your seller is in a "short sale" situation, meaning the seller will not clear enough money from the sale to pay off the existing mortgage. This is a bit more complicated and you should speak to your attorney regarding the ramifications of a short sale prior to entering into a contract.
• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 910 E. Oak St., Lake in the Hills, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (847) 359-8983.