Topic: Help with neighbor filing unjustified complaints to DOB
Help with neighbor filing unjustified complaints to DOB
Before embarking on a reno project that will likely require permits/filing, I’d like some advice on how to best deal with a nettlesome neighbor who is unfortunately gumming things up for me at the DOB. I bought my townhouse 8 years ago from a developer who had bought the property the prior year, upgrading the mechanicals and conducting light renovations. The owner of the attached townhouse next door had wanted to buy the house himself, but failed. He apparently had some legal entanglements with the developer, which were resolved before I bought the house.
A few years after I bought the house, I smelled gas in my bedroom and my kids’ bedroom. The gas company traced the source of the leak to my neighbor’s gas fireplace, which he had apparently not attempted to use for quite a few years. The gas company deemed it unsafe and ordered it shut. The neighbor, upset over being unable to use his fireplace, claimed that the developer from whom I bought the house (several years earlier) had knocked a brick out of his flue when installing an electrical box on my side, which is why it was leaking gas into my bedroom. He provided no evidence for the claim (and my house received all electrical signoffs from the DOB when a C of O was issued before I bought it).
He nonetheless insisted that I open up the wall from my side to inspect the chimney, move a small electrical box that he alleged must be intruding into the flue and replace the brick. I told him that I had no desire to stand in the way of his being able to use his own fireplace, but if he needed to inspect his chimney, then he should do it from his own home, and that if he intended to use it, it needed to be lined up to code. After all, these are toxic fumes spewing into bedrooms.
So, several more years passed, with the neighbor quite bitter that I was somehow preventing him from using his chimney. He occasionally renewed his demand that rip open my wall so he could look at it, and I have continued to refuse. Suddenly this year — years after the gas leak and 8 years after I bought the house — I discovered that a complaint had be filed at the DOB over an “illegal electrical box” (of course, no mention was made of his leaking gas fireplace). The DOB has not been in my home to inspect this (bogus) complaint; I have been cautious about letting inspectors into my house, given horror stories I have heard about homeowners being hit with high bills for whatever unrelated items an inspetor may see fit to demand. (I have nothing to hide in my home, but why invite in trouble?)
With that long windup, to my dilemma. I am contemplating a renovation that will probably require DOB filing. I have an open complaint, which I assume must be closed before I get work permits. I am not sure what that will take, and even if it were to be closed, have a neighbor who may try and cause me delays and headaches by filing XYZ complaints throughout. I have three kids and do not want to extend reno time. I would appreciate considered thoughts/advice from the community.
I think I can either a) ignore him, move ahead with my plans, try and close this complaint, and deal with whatever he may try to do when/if it arises; b) play offense, engage in tit-for-tat warfare with the DOB and make him spend money until he goes away; c) try to come up with some accommodation (though this is pretty zero sum, not sure what that could be).
This guy is quite unreasonable and not entirely rational, and I have mostly learned to ignore him. But now he’s becoming my problem.