Do I Owe My Neighbors Money For Improvements To A Private Road?

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We live on a private road in Delaware with 13 houses on it. Some wanted the road paved and some didn’t. Only five families paid. We were asked for $3000 and we said we couldn’t pay more than $2000. Now a year later my neighbor is claiming that he put in the extra $1000 in for us as there wasn’t enough money collected and says we agreed. We didn’t and there is nothing in writing except for an email he sent to another neighbor saying that he was going to pay the extra money for the shortfall and we would pay him back. We constantly told them that we were only paying the $2000. Does he have a case?

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Setting aside any “remembering things differently” with respect to your agreement, the better case–if there is one–would be based on the parties’ obligations under either local law or any road maintenance agreement that may be applicable.

It is not unusual for joint owners of a road to be obligated to contribute to its maintenance in some stated share, and sometimes parties will have the right to front any shortfall and sue for reimbursement. If that kind of right is present, either in law or in an agreement between the properties, then your neighbor may have a pretty strong case.

Other legal theories include unjust enrichment (you got $3,000 of benefit, but only paid $2,000).

Tactically, my inclination would be to wait until your neighbor sues, and see what kind of claim he’s actually making, rather than trying to guess in advance. Once that’s done, don’t forget that you’re only arguing over $1,000. Don’t spend more than it’s worth on the argument.



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Author: House Attorney