A shared wall between neighbors can create quite a stir. If you live in a townhome, a condominium, or any other type of property with shared walls, you are forced to rely on your neighbor to care for and treat your property with respect. Unfortunately, our neighbors do not always live up to their duties—whether it is an ill-advised renovation or a home repair project gone wrong, a neighbor’s actions can cause serious damage to your property.
At The Law Offices of Mary T. Hone, PLLC, we have experience representing clients involved in disputes over shared walls and other complex boundary line issues. If you are having a problem with your neighbor and your common wall, it is crucial that you take immediate action to protect your rights. Here, our Scottsdale, AZ real estate lawyer provides an overview of the key things you need to know about common wall disputes in Arizona.
Know the Scope of Boundary Issue
As a starting point, you need to take the time to understand the scope and implications of your damaged wall/property line dispute. There are a number of different issues that need to be considered. For example, you must figure out who owns what and who is responsible for what. In legal contracts in Arizona, shared walls are often called ‘party walls’.
The general rule on maintenance and care of common walls is that both parties (both neighbors) are jointly responsible for the upkeep. This occurs through a type of ownership called a tenancy in common. Although there may be joint ownership, one party can still be held liable for the damage that they caused.
In some cases, property owners need to deal with other issues that complicate the situation. For example, if you are a member of an HOA, townhome association, or condo association, there shared wall may be owned, at least in part, by the entire association. In this scenario, the HOA/condo association may actually try to step in and resolve the issue.
Consider Opening Discussions With Your Neighbor
If your neighbor damaged your shared wall, it does not necessarily mean that you are destined to end up in a protracted legal dispute. Quite the contrary; many disputes between neighbors are resolved in an informal, low-conflict manner.
Of course, that is not possible in every case—whether talking to your neighbor will work depends on many different factors, including the scope of the damage and your relationship with the neighbor.
As soon as you notice wall damage or potential for damage, you may want to raise the issue. If the neighbor gives you a hard time—or if there has already been considerable property damage—it is time to reach out to a lawyer.
Prepare and Send a Demand Letter
If your neighbor is unwilling to make repairs or refuses to stop the problematic renovations, you have legal options available. In most cases, the next step is to send a demand letter. As described by the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, a demand letter is a statement of a claim. Among other things, a demand letter should include:
- A careful explanation of the facts;
- A notice of the violation;
- A demand for action—in wall damage cases, this is often payment for the cost of repairs;
- A clear statement of your intent to take legal action if the issued is not resolved; and
- A deadline to respond.
As shared wall disputes are complicated, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney before sending any type of formal demand letter. This letter should be drafted by a professional.
Take Legal Action to Protect Your Property
What comes after a demand letter will depend on your neighbor’s response, or lack thereof. If your neighbor admits fault, it may be advisable to enter into settlement negotiations. On the other hand, if they refuse to cooperate, a lawsuit may be required. Under Arizona law, property owners have the right to bring a lawsuit to recover compensation for damages caused by another party. In cases involving common walls, plaintiffs often seek reimbursement for repairs that they have already paid for or performed on their own.
Call Our Scottsdale, AZ Real Estate Lawyer Today
At The Law Offices of Mary T. Hone, PLLC, our top-rated Arizona real estate law attorney has extensive experience handling boundary line disputes, including cases involving shared walls. We will protect your rights. To set up a strictly confidential, no commitment consultation, please contact our law firm today. With an office location in Scottsdale, we serve communities throughout the state of Arizona.