sue thy neighbor
September 13, 2017 10:43 AM   Subscribe

I need help figuring out what the process will be to resolve damage to my house caused by the neighboring house.

I live in Philadelphia in a rowhouse. I am the homeowner. The house adjacent to mine needs repairs that have been neglected and now my house is being damaged (i have been thoroughly documenting with dated pics and videos). The house causing the damage is rented out, but has no license to be rented out and the property owner has no other contact address on the city's property records. I spoke with the (tenant) neighbors and they said they would contact the landlord, but I do not trust they would get their landlord involved (for reasons that aren't important to this), nor do I know if the landlord and property owner are the same person. For what its worth the neighbors are aware of the needed repairs because their house has damage as well (I'm trying to be vague with details, but if they would help I can share).
From what I an gather, my first stop with all of this should be my homeowner's insurance, but I want to know what could happen from there:
Will my homeowners be able to see if the other owner has insurance?
If the other owner does not have insurance, would i just need to sue the other owner myself?
IF the other owner never shows up to any small claims court hearings or anything, how far will things go to get me a settlement (i.e. would things potentially go as far as a lein on their property or would it just be like oh well, can't find the owner, sucks for you)?

I am trying to avoid the following: raising my insurance rate, spending a bunch of money for court and not really being able to recoup any damages, continued damage to my house caused by things that need to be fixed on their house. ANy guidance is appreciated.
posted by WeekendJen to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Definitely speak with your homeowner's insurance agent. Tell them your home is being damaged by the home next door. They will probably send someone out to look at the situation.

It's doubtful your rates would be raised because of damage caused by a second party. It sounds like the other property owner would be on the hook for repairing your home. The sticky part (at least for your insurer) is tracking-down the other property owner and compelling them to correct the problem. Until the problem with the other home is fixed (if I read your description correctly) there's no sense in fixing your home, as the other home will simply continue to damage your home.

This is one of those things that your insurer is best at handling.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:59 AM on September 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you go through your homeowners insurance, they will determine the insurance status of the other owner. They will attempt to recover their costs from the owner or their insurance through whatever means necessary, including lawsuits that you will not be involved in. This is what insurance is for.
posted by erst at 10:59 AM on September 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Until the problem with the other home is fixed (if I read your description correctly) there's no sense in fixing your home, as the other home will simply continue to damage your home.

This is correct.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:10 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Call your insurer and then report them to the city for not having a license.
posted by amanda at 11:27 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

You may have already done this but run a Property History on the address at the Philly L&I website. The history should come up if it's a legal rental. If it's not you can report the landlord directly to L&I.
posted by Diskeater at 11:32 AM on September 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you ask the tenants for the name and contact information for their landlord? Whether you contact the landlord directly or pass it on to the insurance company, this seems like it would be useful information that (in a normal situation, which this seems not to be) they should be able to provide you.
posted by yuwtze at 11:32 AM on September 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

The city's property tax department will have a record of who owns the building and they will give you that information. You might have to request via Freedom of Information. Then the appropriate agency (name varies by jurisdiction) which enforces ordinances will want to know about the deteriorating building. The tax folks will probably point you in the right direction.
posted by megatherium at 5:10 PM on September 13, 2017

You may be able to look up the property owner here, via the property tax assessment office. If it's a shell corporation you may need to do more research though.
posted by DarthDuckie at 3:13 PM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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