My neighbour is having his front house wall re-plastered. Work began and our property was covered with a 1/2-inch layer of mortar dust and large chunks of “render” from chipping away the old mortar and pebble dash. We were given no warning about this work nor any advice about moving our cars. The builder was working off scaffolding and there was a breeze blowing, which blew dust onto our property. The contractor actually doing the work said that he would sweep it up before he left, so I was quite happy about that. However, my brand new, week-old, £23,000 car was parked around the corner of the house and when I went to go out in it I was shocked to see that this was also covered with a layer of mortar dust. I blew off what I could with a leaf blower but there was quite a lot remaining on the car. I asked the man working outside if I could have a word with the boss of the firm when he came to pick him up. When he arrived he shrugged his shoulders and said it was nothing to do with him, it was our problem and just wash it off. I suggested that he should consider hanging a tarpaulin from the scaffolding in future to avoid this happening again and he laughed. My son, a carpenter, said that he wouldn’t go to work on someone’s house and make a mess in the neighbour’s property, at which the boss again shrugged his shoulders and walked off. Having washed the car with a jet sprayer, there are now patches of grey on it from the sand/cement mix which will not come off.
Who is liable for this damage? Also the boss told my neighbour of 25 years that I was moaning about a bit of dust, and my neighbour really kicked off!! He shouted that we were the neighbours from hell – 25 years with not a cross word – and said that we were just jealous of him having the work done! He told the builder to ignore me and started wagging his finger in my face.
My son saw this and walked around to the bottom of the drive so he could keep an eye on what was happening – he was actually talking on his mobile – and my neighbour started shouting that he’d sort him out too. Totally flabbergasted!! We have NEVER complained about anything in 25 years, so this reaction was amazing and very upsetting. I am 70 years old and my husband is disabled having had a stroke – hardly fit for fighting in the street!! What to do about this?
First, it is extremely important to understand that our answers are based on United States law, and it sounds as if you are in the UK. So our answers apply only to a similar situation in the U.S..
That said, get the car fixed, for two reasons: One, the problem is obviously bothering you, and two, it will let you know the dollar value of the damage.
Once you know how many dollars it is, you can decide how to proceed. Technically, your neighbor and/or the contractor should be responsible for any damage in this sort of situation, on a trespass and/or nuisance theory.
However, any time anyone considers legal action against their neighbors, it’s good to remember that the two of you will still be neighbors after the fight is over. As painful as it might be, you need to consider whether it’s worth it to you to have an upset neighbor for however much it costs to clean your car.