There’s a well-known expression that “good fences make good neighbours.” But if you live in a semidetached home or a unit of a townhouse complex, that may only work outdoors for your yard or patio area. Indoors, you share walls and living space under a common roof. And if your neighbour has an issue such as a damaged roof, it could quickly become your problem too.
Here we address the most common problems when neighbours share a common roof and suggest ways to communicate your concerns effectively and, ideally, share the expense of a roof replacement.
Identify the Problem
Here are just three reasons why you may believe a new roof is necessary. Each involves a varying degree of urgency. Before you take the next step or talk to anyone, identify the problem you need to address and resolve.
Is your neighbour’s roof causing a leak? Visible signs may include water dripping from your ceiling, mould forming on your walls, shingles blown off and lying in your yard or storm damage from high winds or hail.
Is your neighbour’s roof falling apart? All roofs weather and wear out over time. Have most of the shingles’ surface granules worn away, such that the shingles’ asphalt layer is exposed? Or are there shingles missing? Maybe there are outward signs or noises heard indoors indicating an issue with animals living in the attic? If so, be proactive and have the roof repaired or replaced before such damage leads to much more significant, more costly problems that might even endanger your family’s health.
What if your neighbour’s roof doesn’t match yours? Curb appeal is essential to maintain and is a wise investment if you plan to sell your property. A new roof can dramatically boost your homes appearance and potentially its resale value.
Communicate for better PREPARATION.
Once you know precisely why you want or need a roof replacement, you must find out who is responsible for helping you get one before talking to your neighbour. However, if you and your neighbours must bear the cost, you’ll need very persuasive reasons and substantial benefits to counter any objections and obtain their financial support. It is true that ‘good fences make good neighbours’.
There are Homeowner associations (HOAs, sometimes called condo boards or co-operatives), landlords or you and/or your neighbour(s). If you find that you are, in fact, fully responsible for maintaining or replacing your roof, be sure you understand any restrictions. For example, your community or Home Owners Association may prohibit materials other than asphalt shingles.
Before you meet with your neighbour…
Anticipate any objections your neighbour might have.
Prepare answers to overcome them. The obvious one is cost, but there are others, such as possible disruption and noise, concern for protecting children, pets, pools, cars and landscaping, length of time the project may take, scheduling issues, etc.
Not only will this help you remember the things you discussed.
Share any information you may have gathered.
Share any product brochures or samples you may have obtained from your local building supplier. Invite your neighbour to keep and review these materials.
Stick to the facts.
Don’t allow emotions to derail the conversation or create conflict. If your neighbour becomes upset or angry over some detail, calmly acknowledge their feelings, empathize and suggest alternatives, if possible. This is why it’s so important to anticipate objections and think of solutions before you even meet.
Negotiate and agree on the next steps.
Ideally, you and your neighbour will agree in principle to share the cost of a roof replacement, but you’ll need to obtain quotes from a reputable professional roofer first, so you’ll both know how much you’ll be expected to pay. Ask friends, family or building supply staff for referrals.
After Your Meeting…
Set a time to meet again to keep the project moving forward.
Discuss your progress, review quotes, choose a contractor and handle other details.
Prepare an agreement.
Before hiring a contractor or having any work done, draft a simple letter of agreement between you and your neighbour(s) outlining your obligations. Have all concerned sign, date and keep a copy for their records.
Most neighbours and landlords are reasonable people and will understand the many benefits of getting the roof replacement you wish for. But what if a shared roof neighbour refuses to pay? Most importantly, be sure to know this upfront and not after the work has been done. Just as you anticipated objections, be prepared to offset your neighbour’s potential reluctance to share the cost.
Obtain your neighbour’s buy-in.
When people are involved in the decisions and the process, they take ownership. Suggest that you do a visual roof inspection together to see if it’s a matter of your neighbour’s roof causing a leak or other issue in yours.
This costs nothing but time and may show your neighbour a problem they may not even have been aware of.
Go it alone, BUT…
Perhaps your neighbour is a senior or a veteran on a fixed income; given the potential resale value of replacing your roof, doing so is a relatively minor investment. You might consider paying for the whole project yourself.
However, if you can’t afford the full cost either, perhaps you could obtain some payment. Maybe suggest that your neighbour reimburse you a manageable monthly amount until their share has been paid.
Who knows? You might even barter for services in kind that your neighbour can provide. Be creative! Just remember to get everything in writing.
You can always agree to partial payment but avoid agreeing to a partial roof
Written By: Jane Laker
Photo Credit: Veronika Kovecses