A matter of land | Do I have to pay for unsolicited maintenance of my vacant lot?
Good day, readers. This week I respond to a reader's question about unsolicited maintenance.
Hello Mr Francis,
I bought a lot in 2012 from my family in a prominent town house area. Since the purchase, when I do get a chance to visit the area, I noticed that the grass is always maintained. I've made several attempts to hire a landscaper to cut the grass in the past, but upon visiting the property, I found that it had already been cut.
In December 2015 I visited there again and made arrangements for the grass to be cut. After the work was finished, the landscaper told me he was 'attacked' by a man demanding for him to tell him who gave him permission to cut the grass.
The last week in December, I made a visit again and realised that the lot was again recut. I was disturbed as there had been little to no rain in the area for the need for it to be cleaned again.
I have asked an architect to draw a house plan. He visited the property recently and he told me a neighbour is requesting compensation for years of maintaining the lot.
I must also say that I have received text messages and letters (to my home address), usually from 'anonymous', asking/requesting that I make the property available for sale. The last message was received in April.
Considering that I have never given anyone my current home address nor my telephone number, and I have never spoken to anyone about the property, who lives in that community, what rights do I have in court here? Am I obligated by law to pay an individual money to maintain my property when they took it upon themselves to do so? How do I avoid any problems in the future when I am ready to build?
- C. C.B
Good day, C.C.B,
I am sorry to hear of your unpleasant experience with your soon-to-be neighbours. It is not the best thing to be at odds with your neighbours before even moving into the community.
The issue of persons calling and sending you messages is a matter that you would have to take up with the police as I am unable to tell you how they got your number or address to be harassing you about sale of your property.
As to the need to pay someone to cut or maintain your property, this depends on the nature of the arrangement the community has with you or the policy they have as a community.
If when you purchased the property you signed an agreement that the maintenance would be done by a designated landscaper, then you would be obligated to pay.
If you have not been keeping up to your civic responsibility of keeping your lot clean and the community citizens' association deemed it unsightly or a health threat (mosquito-breeding site, etc.) they could have gone ahead and cut same and now require you to pay this sum over to them.
However, unless you signed a written agreement, you are not legally bound to pay. You will be also legally bound to pay if the persons who cut and maintain your property put a caveat on your title to ensure they receive compensation for the years of maintenance.
What the neighbours should have done, if the lot is a nuisance, was to advise the parish council of the health hazard it posed and the overall safety threat, and have the council conduct the bushing. At that time, you would be legally bound to pay.
So unless a civil case is brought against you, in the absence of an agreement, you are not legally bound to pay anyone who went ahead and maintained your property without a specific request from you.
However, since you will be neighbours soon, it would be better to start on a good note and not one of acrimony and bad blood.
As such, I recommend you talk to the neighbour to see if you can compensate him or her for some of the work done on your property. However, ensure that he and she produces receipt to validate their claims.
If this approach is taken, you should have no problems when you start to build, and after you move in, you and your neighbour can live in harmony.
Until next time, traverse well.
- Craig Francis is a commissioned land surveyor and managing director of Precision Surveying Services Ltd. He can be contacted for questions or queries at email@example.com or Precision Surveying Services