Split­ting re­pair cost with neigh­bor for shared drive­way

The Mercury News - - Books+authors - Leonard Sch­warz Jeanne Flem­ing Jeanne Flem­ing and Leonard Sch­warz are Palo Alto-based colum­nists and au­thors. Email your questions about money and re­la­tion­ships to Questions@ MoneyMan­ners.net.

QWe share a drive­way with our nextdoor neigh­bor, a por­tion of which sits on each prop­erty. The titles to our homes in­clude an ease­ment that gives both fam­i­lies use of the drive­way. With­out this ar­range­ment, nei­ther fam­ily would be able to drive to their garage, be­cause the space be­tween the two homes is too nar­row.

Now, though, the drive­way needs repaving, and the ease­ment says noth­ing about main­te­nance. So how should we split the cost of the work? About two-thirds of the drive­way is on our prop­erty, and one-third is on our neigh­bor’s. But they go in and out on it as least as fre­quently as we do.

ASince your neigh­bors are re­spon­si­ble for half of the wear and tear on the drive­way, they ought to of­fer to pay for half of the main­te­nance. But bot­tom line — they are not ob­li­gated to pay for repaving the por­tion that’s on your prop­erty. So if they’re will­ing to pay only one-third of the bill, they’re not be­ing un­rea­son­able.

That said, if your neigh­bors ex­pect and al­low you to pay two-thirds of the bill, they also should ex­pect, and al­low, you to de­cide whom to hire and how much to spend on the project. They can’t choose to pay for less than half of the work, then ex­pect to be de­ferred to on cost.

P.S. Be sure to also ask your ques­tion at City Hall. They may have rules that trump ours.

QI grew up work­ing in my fa­ther’s mar­ket, and took it over when he re­tired three years ago. Then six months ago Mom died, and Dad de­cided to come back to work. It hasn’t worked out. While Dad as­sures me (and him­self) that I’m in charge, he can’t stop be­hav­ing like the boss. With­out con­sult­ing or even no­ti­fy­ing me, he changes or­ders, raises and low­ers prices and al­lows em­ploy­ees to change their work sched­ules.

The re­sult has been chaos: Our em­ploy­ees don’t know whom to lis­ten to, and our sup­pli­ers don’t know whom to talk to. I tried speak­ing to Dad about this, but his re­sponse was that he’s “just try­ing to help.” What can I do?

ABuy him out. OK, we’re kid­ding, but to a point. Un­less you paid your fa­ther for the store and we as­sume you’d have told us if you did — it’s his store as much as yours, and he’s en­ti­tled to be there if that’s what he wants. Not that we aren’t sym­pa­thetic to your problems. We are. But if your fa­ther won’t lis­ten when you ex­plain them, you need to find a con­sul­tant who can help the two of you es­tab­lish a mu­tu­ally agree­able divi­sion of re­spon­si­bil­ity and au­thor­ity.

There are folks who do this, and some of them spe­cial­ize in help­ing small fam­ily busi­nesses that are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ex­actly the types of problems you’ve de­scribed. Fam­i­lies have been strug­gling with suc­ces­sion since “King Lear.” It’s time for you to con­sult with a pro­fes­sional who knows how to guide your fam­ily to a hap­pier end­ing.

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