Who Pays to Restore Common Wall's Look?

  Question:  Our neighbor recently hired a construction crew to take the top row of decorative bricks off our shared common block wall and replace it with two rows of solid bricks.  The problem is that this common wall no longer matches the rest of the wall surrounding our backyard.  We called the police at the time, but the police said that this problem was a “civil matter.”  The cost now to rebuild the row row of the wall with decorative bricks will be $2,700.  Do we have any claim against our neighbor for making this change without asking our permission?

  Answer:  You and your neighbor own this common block wall as tenants in common.  Therefore, you and your neighbor have the mutual obligation to pay for the cost to maintain and repair this common block wall.  If one neighbor pays for the cost to maintain and repair a common block wall, that neighbor is entitled to reimbursement for one-half of the cost from the other neighbor.  In your situation, however, the removal of the top row of decorative bricks was apparently not maintenance and repair of the wall, but was, at least in your opinion, a unilateral act of destruction by your neighbor.  Therefore, you should have a claim for the $2,700 cost to repair the block wall in order to return the common wall to its original condition.  The Small Claims Division of your local justice court has jurisdiction of disputes up to $3,500.  Similar to TV’s “Judge Judy,” there are no attorneys, no juries and no appeals in this Small Claims Division.

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