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09 August 2004

Desperate Neighbors

What on earth can we do?

Thousands of people are adversely affected in many different ways by neighbour and tenancy issues. This is one issue with advice on how to handle it.

The rented property that joins our backyard fence is managed by an agent.

The tenants of this property have two very large dogs whose faeces has been piled up for many months against our back fence. This fence is about 5 metres from our kitchen and dining room windows.

On many days the stench is sickening to the point that we can’t even hang our clothes out or swim in our pool, nor to try and prepare and eat a meal. The smell in the house is almost unbearable. I am concerned about my children’s health who seem to be suffering more bouts of asthma lately.

Recently I contacted the property manager at the agency about this obvious health problem. She contacted the tenants who made a half-hearted effort to remove some of the dog faeces. I rang her again and informed her the situation was still awful.

After a few days I e-mailed again asking her what steps she was taking to have this problem fixed. She failed to reply! I rang the agency and spoke to the man who is supposedly in charge. He assured me that he would look into the matter. I rang again on the 5th August.

It is now the 8th August and fresh dog droppings continue to be left at our back fence.

The council has been informed, but they have been slow to act.

It is getting to the stage that I am considering scooping up a bag-full of this dog faeces and dumping it onto the agent’s desk, hopefully this action of last resort can be avoided.

I believe the agent is approved by you. Any help you can give in this matter would be appreciated.

In situations such as this, I always look at two things – What is the most effective way to get the desired result? And, what would I do if I were you?

Okay, the desired result is simple – no more smelly dog poo.

Now, when it comes to fairness, I become determined (perhaps, obsessed) with getting the correct result. From what you have told me, there seems little doubt that you are in the right.

Unfortunately, the rental agent – as well meaning as she may be – may not have either the instant power to fix this or as strong an incentive as you. Many rental managers are over-worked and poorly paid. Being a rental manager is not the best job in the real estate industry. In fact, I believe rental issues and sales issues are two separate business. This is why I have urged many agents to focus on one or the other.

The person who has the ultimate power to fix this mess (excuse the pun) is the owner of the dogs. While I can well understand your rage, I feel that drastic action, such as taking the dog poo to the real estate office, is not something you should consider. It could make you look rather bad.

The first thing I would do is go and speak with the owner of the dogs. I would be both polite and pleading.

If this did not fix it, then I would go back to the owner of the dogs a second time.

If there was still nothing done (and I am not talking about waiting days, but hours, for it to be fixed), then I would go to the council AND to a good lawyer.

I would instruct the lawyer to write a polite but extremely firm letter to the owner of the dogs. I would insist that the letter be hand-delivered immediately.

Simultaneously, I would also inform the rental manager of what I was doing. If I got any objections, I would ask the question, “Well, what do you suggest?”

And, then, if I felt that I was being shunted to the too-hard-basket (where many of these sorts of issues are placed), I would say, “If this was happening to your family, what would YOU do?” If I then got an answer that was not satisfactory, I would ask, “For how long would you put your family’s health at risk?”

Another option that I would consider (at the same time) is to contact the owners of the home. The one thing that spurs agents into action is when anyone contacts landlords or sellers direct. The agent may be annoyed with you, but so what? Your family’s health comes first. You have to be determined to stop this from happening to you.

In most cases, these sorts of issues can be solved when the two main parties talk to each other. I would hope that just one polite (and pleading) conversation with the owner of the dogs will be all you need.

If not, then you need an ally – and that should be a lawyer. Yes, it is frustrating that you have to obey the strict letter of the law to obtain justice, but that’s just the way it is. You must never do anything illegal to right a wrong, no matter how upset you are or how justified you may feel.

The cost of involving a lawyer will be, at most, a few hundred dollars. Yes, it may be money you don’t have.

However, because you claim that the agent is a Jenman accredited agent and if what you tell me is correct and if you act legally, then you can make application to our protection fund and I will recommend that your legal fees in this matter be paid from the fund.

I will do all I can to help you.

I hope this advice is of some help to you. Let me know what happens.

Kind regards

Neil Jenman

Footnote: The agent involved in this matter is not accredited by The Jenman Group. However, the offer of assistance to the neighbour still stands.

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