And then there's the downside of assigned parking...
March 22, 2014 10:11 PM   Subscribe

My apartment building has assigned parking spaces. My parking neighbor (though not my actual neighbor in the building, for weird reasons) left a large, very noticeable scratch on my front quarterpanel last night or today, complete with paint transfer matching his vehicle. How do I resolve this in a way that feels fair to me but averts major bad blood? Snowflakes on their side of the line inside.

So I am 99.9% sure that my neighbor did this, what with the paint matching the car parked in his spot (though it's a different vehicle than the one that he usually drives, but further circumstantial evidence is that I saw that vehicle in the lot at our local grocer last night, and him inside). No damage when I left my car last night (and because his vehicle was different I left him a ton of room); scratch when I came out this morning, and he was already gone. There's no dent but it's a series of very deep scratches running about 3"-4" down the panel. I left a brief and friendly note under his door with my apt # and phone # and asked him to discuss it with me. No response from him. I went and knocked on his door when I saw the car back later in the day; no one answered. Other neighbors have confirmed that he is around, so it's clear that he's ignoring me. What do I do? Ideally I'd like 3 things: for him to be more considerate in the future; for him to offer to pay for the $15 tub of touch-up paint I can buy on Amazon and the buffing/application at a local detailer; for this to not blow up in my face because we're stuck parking next to each other until one of us moves out of the building. What are my chances? I'm in MA, if that matters.
posted by TwoStride to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You take a picture of the car, you take a picture of their car, you contact the police, you fill out an accident report. My neighbor's 15 year old daughter took her mom's car for a joyride into the back of my wife's car. Even with an element of denial it wound up being pretty straight forward. The big thing is - you'll always have conflict with your neighbors. If you let this sit they'll treat your car with disrespect every time they park. If you confront this, they'll be more courteous and respectful with their parking and eventually they will get over their mistake.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:22 PM on March 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

If no one saw him do it, and he is ignoring you, then I think that you'll have to eat the cost of having the scratches repaired. Your evidence is circumstantial, even though you're probably correct that he did it. In other words, I don't see how you could *make* him pay.

Having said that, I don't think that it would be out of line for you to ask him to be more careful around your car, but be prepared for him to deny any involvement. His continued ignoring signals to me that he probably has no intention of fessing up or taking responsibility.
posted by Shouraku at 10:24 PM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yepper, Nanukthedog has it pegged. Pictures, documentation same as you've given us, then call Officer Friendly and get him/her involved. You don't buy paint or buffer stuff or anything else; neighbor pays to have it done down at Melvin's Body Shop.

And if Officer Friendly can't help you, then you either slash the son of a bitches tires -- which you're not going to do -- or you let it go, which is what you will do. People are all over the spectrum, this one is an asshole, the Wheel O' Life will go 'round, he'll get his. Or not. But let's don't you get twisted up about it.

Good luck with Officer Friendly.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:29 PM on March 22, 2014

File the police report as Nanukthedog suggested. Give it to your insurance company when you file your claim. The adjuster will take care of the rest.

Your insurance company doesn't want to lay out the money to fix your car. They want someone else to pay - either your neighbor's insurance company or he, himself.

You might not be able to *make* him pay, but your insurance company can. And they will.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:50 PM on March 22, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: In a perfect world, your neighbor would just own up and pay, but I don't think that's actually on the table here. If it's easily within your budget to fix it, then if I were you, I would just fix it using my own money and otherwise leave the issue be.

Your neighbor isn't willing to step up enough to even talk to you about this, so I highly doubt that he'll willingly pay or even corroborate your story to the insurance company (and I don't even think that the cops will let you file a report for something this minor, or at least they haven't ever let me do so where I've lived). This dispute could easily turn into a feud between you and him, which would probably cost you a lot more -- especially in peace of mind but also in things like complaints to the landlord -- than the cost of buffing out a scratch on your car would.

Also, based on personal experience, getting your insurance involved for a repair that's worth less than your deductible (which it sounds like this is?) is extremely unlikely to be worth it. It would be nice if your neighbor would admit fault and if you didn't have to pay any of the deductible, but it really sounds like he's not willing to do that. That likely means that this claim will have to go to mediation, in which case you're probably going to have to pay the deductible in the meantime in order to get the repair done, and then wait to get reimbursed once you're declared not-at-fault. Given the scanty evidence and your neighbor's unwillingness to fess up, you might actually not even be declared not-at-fault (I've had a similar thing happen to me, and that was the result in my case -- for what it's worth). So, worst case for going to the cops/insurance about this is, you end up paying for the repair/deductible and your insurance goes up. Best case is that you don't have to pay for a repair you could have afforded. Either way you have a feud brewing with your neighbor. Personally, I just don't think the reward outweighs the risk for going to the insurance, though of course it's up to you.
posted by rue72 at 12:37 AM on March 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would take pictures for sure. Take good ones and take many -- close, far, different angles. Also get a photo of the license plate too, especially if say this isn't his usual car. Then ask the police what you can do about the situation.

I have to be honest -- one time backing out of my driveway, I hit my neighbor's car parked in the street next to my driveway and I never told anyone. This was many years ago when I was probably like 20 or something. I was living with my mom and I didn't really know our neighbor and... it was stupid and I feel bad about it now. But if the neighbor had asked, I surely would've owned up to it. So I don't know if it's a good idea to confront the neighbor, but he may acknowledge it and then you can go from there.

You could also consider reporting it to your landlord, but they are unlikely to do anything.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:52 AM on March 23, 2014

Wait... you're estimating the cost to you to be $15???? Don't call the police for $15, it's not worth their time, plus you have NO real proof, no witness, and it's on private property..what do you expect them to do, force him to pay, write him a ticket with no evidence, take him to jail??? Don't call the police.

Don't approach him over $15 with no real proof, he'll say he didn't do it, what then? Are you going to hire a lawyer and file a civil case , for $15 damages?

The only reasonable solution, as I see it, is to ask the management to change your parking spot if they can, meditate a bit, and take a plate of cookies to your neighbor to adjust the Karma from the note and banging on his door...

It's only a car...
posted by HuronBob at 3:02 AM on March 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

@Huronbob -
Item 2 says $15 plus labour at the local detailer.

And even if it was only $15, that doesn't make it wrong for the OP to follow up on it - they certainly don't owe him any cookies!
posted by Cheese Monster at 3:45 AM on March 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I recently scraped our tenant's car while backing out of the garage. Left a dent and a few minor scrapes. Of course I owned up to it immediately and she took it to an auto body place to be fixed. $800. Which I cheerfully paid. The repair looks perfect. We also offered to pay for a rental while it was fixed if needed (it wasn't) and brought her flowers to apologize for the inconvenience on the freezing cold days she walked because her car was in the shop.

I say this because this is not in fact $15 worth of damage. Your car just lost way more than that in Blue Book value. It would cost far more than that to have it professionally repaired at an auto body shop, which you are absolutely entitled to do.

I say take the police report and insurance route. You wouldn't have to make the police report if they'd admitted it but since it's now hit and run you are within your rights, Take all those pictures and yes, the license plate ones too. Yes it will be contentious and yes your neighbor has already shown they are not interested in playing nice. Tough shit. This is actually a big deal, you are well within your rights to use whatever legit means you can to get them to own up to their responsibility to fix it.
posted by Sublimity at 4:05 AM on March 23, 2014 [24 favorites]

I'm with HuronBob. Don't get worked up over the small stuff. Had this happend in a mall parking lot, you'd get over it in a minute. Calling the cops over something so minor - on an obscure matter of principal - is absurd and a waste of resources. When you see him say "Hey, I think you might have scratched my car. How about being a bit more careful next time." And leave it at that. Cars get scratched and dented as a consequence of use. Get over it or buy a bicycle.
posted by three blind mice at 4:32 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

How do I resolve this in a way that feels fair to me but averts major bad blood? Your neighbor is doing a fine job of being an utter jerk, so it's already too late to avoid bad blood. How expensive will the application & buffing be? So, yeah, police, insurance, and ask the landlord to assign you a new space.
posted by theora55 at 5:16 AM on March 23, 2014

Best answer: You work hard for your stuff and take good care of it, so you have every right to be upset when people disrespect it. It is good that you are keeping the big picture in mind though.

He might not even have insurance and is fearing the 'worst possible outcome'. Maybe give him one more chance to come clean? Slip a note under his door :
"Hey dude, look, I don't meant to be a pain in the ass about this, but I'd really like to work this out with you so I don't have to involve insurance and the police and photographs and blah, blah, blah. Just give me a call and we can work something out." -TwoStride

The way that is worded is kind of casual (I find the word "dude" to be kind of like a code for "you be cool and I'll be cool"), like you're not looking to make a big deal or get him in trouble, you just want to settle things because you're neighbors.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:18 AM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the opinions so far, folks; keep 'em coming. It's always really helpful to see both sides of an issue stated by Mefites.

Just two quick points: yeah, I think this could all probably be taken care of for $120-150, which is probably why I'm sitting on the fence so much about the insurance/police route. And secondly, there is pretty much zero chance we can change parking spots. The building has gone condo, so there's no one single landlord (I'm renting from an out of state owner) and each unit has a specific deeded spot.
posted by TwoStride at 5:27 AM on March 23, 2014

@HuronBob. I agree with the sentiment that it is only a car. I disagree with the original estimate that this is only 15 dollars. I disagree more with the thought also that this is about the 15 dollar estimate. This is about making sure the neighbor is respectful in the future, and that there isn't retalitory activity in the future or continued disrespectful damage to the asker's car.

That means two things the asker needs the ability to confront the likely culprit and have her piece as well as ensure the damage doesn't happen again. The neighbor is removing her agency for the first part of this, and is signaling they won't show respect for the asker in the future. Thus, while it may go nowhere, advocating for ones self with the assistance of the police is unfortunately necessary.

Documenting.the damage to the car as possible equal damage to the edge of the neighbors car at least builds a case. If it really goes nowhere, oh well. That's the end of that; however the neighbor will at least recieve the message that hitting the asker's car in the future will likely result in a visit from the police, and next time the asker will have full pictures of each car's paint damage upon initial inspection. That means the neighbor will likely not mess with the asker in the future. In time, the neighbor will get over the enbarrassment of a persistent neighbor calling them on their bad behavior.

$15 dollars may be the cost of buffing it out. But if it turns out to devalue the future sale of the car, there is a lot more to that $15 number to fix it right. Having tried to handle a few car issues caused by other people in the past, I can say the only way I have ever had some sembalence of being returned to whole was when a police report and insurrance were involved.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:03 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think it boils down to how much trouble you want to make for yourself, considering you still have to park next to this guy and see him on occasion. He knows that you know he did it. If it were me, I'd get the insurance estimate, and if the repair really is less than the deductible, I'd pay for it myself. Then if my neighbor ever needed my help for anything, I'd tell him where to go.
posted by Koko at 6:32 AM on March 23, 2014

I agree that if you let this go after initially trying to get neighbor to respond he will be more disrespectful to you in the future. I also agree with another casual note under his door, ringing the bell again, then call the police.
posted by arnicae at 6:32 AM on March 23, 2014

Having gone the insurance route when I dented a neighbor's car, I would not now get insurance involved if it's my choice to make. The body shop had a huge scam going on to get the maximum amount of money out of me and my insurance company, and my rates went way up.

What I would do in your shoes is get the scratch fixed professionally and pay for it upfront and then present the guy with the bill, with the attitude being that you are simply expecting him to pay. If time goes by and he doesn't approach you, say how about half? Don't just assume he is being a dick; you didn't let much time go by before knocking on his door; he may be terrified about this because of his life circumstances; there may be all kinds of crap going on. But you have to co-exist with this guy so it's best to assume he's not just evil. If you can't get any money out of him, well sadly that's par for the course when someone hits your car in a parking lot.

I don't think you owe him any cookies but in your note with the bill you might mention, sorry I came and banged on your door like that. I don't think you did anything wrong there; just some people living in apartment complexes REALLY don't like people dropping by.
posted by BibiRose at 7:01 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

The scratches will eventually develop rust if not repaired soon.

This damage degrades the value of the car.

Take pics, file the police report. Once you report it, your insurance company makes sure that he or his insurance company pays for the professional repair.

Stop over-thinking this. Call the non-emergency line for the police and have someone come out and make a report.

There is no "other side" to this issue unless you are OK with eventual rust damage and unnecessary devaluation of your vehicle.

These laws and procedures exist for a reason. You are likely wrong about the under $200 price tag, too.

Stop contacting him directly.

File report, file an insurance claim.
posted by jbenben at 7:01 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest taking the hardass "call in the authorities" route. You will never appeal to the other owner's sensibilities. Some people are just inconsiderate assholes.

For the last year I've been dealing with a meathead neighbor who refuses to keep his bass down, to the point that he turns it up so loud that we can hear it throughout our apartment (even when closing doors to try to wall off the rooms that border his unit). In our state our quiet enjoyment laws mean that he legally has no right to make us listen to his bass ever... much less for hours on end at such a loud volume.

We tried going over to talk to him about it to ask him to turn it down a fair bit (and limit the amount of time it's on), and were promptly ignored... and then he began behaving aggressively by yelling at us after the first time we took it to management.

Since then we have only gotten some relative peace and quiet by getting the police and the management involved. People like that will only listen when someone with authority threatens their money.

It may just be a $200 scratch (I doubt it... scratches and body work are rarely that cheap), but your neighbor should pay, and with that kind of person, you've sometimes got to call in the big guns and get authorities involved. Don't be ashamed to do it. Do it now, today, rather than later.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:35 AM on March 23, 2014

File the police report. This doesn't mean you necessarily have to get insurance involved. I'd wait and get an estimate before deciding if it was worth it to go to insurance. But even if you aren't going to persue it with your neighbor this time, you need some kind of record of this event in case something happens in the future that is more serious.

I'd leave one more note for the nieghbor (after taking pictures of both cars and license plates) and say you'd like to resolve this in a way that works out for both of you. Don't mention the police, that might come off as a threat and who knows how he'd react. You say this isn't his usual car, so maybe he doesn't have insurance on it, or it belongs to someone that he doesn't want to know about the incident. Or maybe he's just an asshole. If still no answer, just file the report, and decide if going to insurance is worth it, and get the police's opinion if there is enough evidence to for them to decide he is at fault.

Maybe you just have to eat the cost, but at least there is a record of what happened in case of trouble with him in the future.
posted by catatethebird at 10:06 AM on March 23, 2014

I don't know anything about car values or the pros/cons of going through your insurance in a situation like this, so I'm intrigued by everyone who is saying you should definitely, immediately go to the police and insurance. How will the insurance co. magically make this guy pay if he won't confess to the incident and the Asker doesn't have his insurance info? I'm genuinely asking because I don't know much about these things. Is the paint color match enough proof?

I would send or leave one more letter for your neighbor (or attempt once more to speak in person when you drop it off) with a friendly, non-punitive tone trying to persuade him to simply pay for the repair without getting insurance involved. You believe he is at fault due to evidence a,b,c but would much prefer to talk about this in person if neighbor believes othersie. Set a timeline (a few days, a week?) within which you would appreciate hearing from him.

If you still don't hear any word, I would go the police report and insurance route because I don't think letting something like this slide is a good precedent to set with the neighbor. If it turns out he's kind of an uncooperative jerk that can't resolve this like an adult (which it sounds like), you shouldn't feel like you have caused any potential bad blood by taking this route. You are simply standing up for yourself and doing so in a adult, non-vengeful manner.

One final alternative which is probably dumb but would avoid prolonged insurance hassle and neighbor blaming you and being petty and vengeful after taking him to task: take care of the repairs yourself and write neighbor a letter in which you claim the moral high ground. You are disappointed you couldn't settle this as adults but you decided to be a good neighbor and make the repairs without going through the police or insurance. You hope he'll be more respectful of your property in the future. (You could choose to enclose a copy of the bill and suggest payment by him if he feels responsible, not that this is really a good way to try to get him to pay. More just a guilt-trip.) I don't think this is the best response but a possible one.
posted by dahliachewswell at 10:14 AM on March 23, 2014

when this happened to me one I called the police before confronting the guilty party. Good move as they immediately accused me of hitting their car.
posted by lester at 11:10 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

pay for the $15 tub of touch-up paint I can buy on Amazon and the buffing/application at a local detailer

Do you know for sure that there's a detailer willing to do this, attempt a finish repair with supplies provided by you? Because that sounds, honestly, kind of unlikely to me. Car paint is pretty different (in composition and application) from, say, house paint, and finish repairs can be tricky.

Lots of pro people in all kinds of trades are reluctant/refuse to do this kind of thing, where the customer buys supplies/does some of the work/"helps" in some way, because it can make the pro's job harder (like, say, your touch-up paint isn't quite 110% the right color, but the detailer doesn't have the tools/supplies/experience to make the touch-up match exactly), and then the customer gets mad because the results aren't what they want or the cost/time to do the repair are more than they were expecting.

I think this could all probably be taken care of for $120-150,

As above, is this a number you derived from actual quotes or experience fixing scratches in car finishes, or are you honestly just guessing based on "common sense" ? (I'm with everyone else saying this seems like a really really low number.)

Because if it's "common sense", I'd really suggest taking the car around and getting a few estimates from actual body/paint repair places to see what the repair would actually cost for reals, and then decide whether it's worth it to get your insurance company involved.

Also re: police report - IME you're filing a report not because the cops are gonna arrest/ticket/confront the guy, but because insurance companies like to have some kind of "official record" of an incident they can refer to. Your insurance company may actually require you to provide them with a police report before they move forward, but the cops are just there for the paperwork.

(To daliachewswell: How will the insurance co. magically make this guy pay if he won't confess to the incident and the Asker doesn't have his insurance info? I'm genuinely asking because I don't know much about these things.

Not to sound all sinister, but I'm fairly sure insurance companies have a wide variety of ways to figure out who the guy's got a policy with, and TwoStride's company won't make the guy pay directly - his insurance company will pay TwoStride's company, who will quite possibly just send a check to the repair place (if she gets the repair professionally done.) The guy's company can either raise the guy's rates to get their money back, or just consider the cost of the repair one of the expenses that's part of being an insurance company. They might drop him as a customer, and I suppose it's possible they could sue him for the money. But the point is that getting the insurance companies involved removes any need for TwoStride to personally attempt to get actual hard cash out of the guy.)
posted by soundguy99 at 12:18 PM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Insurance and cops. This isn't your best buddy. He's responsible, not you and you don't have to bend over backwards for him. He should be doing so, not you.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:28 PM on March 23, 2014

Estimates are free. Stop at a body shop on the way to or from work and have them estimate a repair. You'll get an estimate detailing exactly what it will cost. There's no need for any assumptions on the "what will it cost" front at all.
posted by chazlarson at 7:11 PM on March 23, 2014

The way it works is the OP's insurance company contacts the neighbor's insurance company - but that police report is invaluable, although not necessary, just invaluable.

Then, telephone statements are taken by the insurance companies from both insured parties. Adjusters come out and assess the damage. Since the paint matches the scratches, this will likely be the determining factor.

If the neighbor is not insured (a possibility) then the damage will be fixed under the OP's uninsured driver coverage. After that, the OP's insurance company will go after the uninsured neighbor in court after making an offer for the neighbor to simply reimburse the OP's insurance company directly.

It's not complicated. The process works. It should be used here.

posted by jbenben at 10:01 PM on March 23, 2014

Response by poster: Update: I again want to thank everyone for the responses, and I flagged some different ones because I think that the different answers will work for people's different situations. For me, it was really helpful to have my feelings about the matter validated and to know that there were official means I could explore.

After polling some other residents in my building, though, who felt that our local officers wouldn't be very helpful and that the whole thing is the cost of living amidst Masshole drivers, I've mostly let it drop. I got a pretty passive-agressive apology from the neighbor and an estimate for $135 from the local detailer, and for my own stress levels I'm going to call it a day on the issue and hope for parking karma to bite my neighbor hard further down the road.
posted by TwoStride at 6:05 PM on March 26, 2014

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