Sue Thy Neighbor: Homeowner Spats Over Fences, Trees and Additions Get Nastier

Daniel Belzil, an attorney who represents plaintiffs in insurance disputes, has been in plenty of legal battles. None prepared him for the acrimony that ensued when his neighbor erected a chain-link fence across what he viewed as a legally shared unpaved driveway.

“This was a bare-knuckle boxing match,” he said.

Mr. Belzil said his neighbor in the upstate New York village of Fleischmanns, the Vasquez family, built an ugly fence that blocked his family from driving onto his own property.

His neighbors argued they built the fence to keep Mr. Belzil from parking on what they viewed as an easement—meaning it was their property, although Mr. Belzil was allowed to drive through it.

In November 2020, 12 days after the fence went up, he sued. The case lived on even after his neighbor sold the house. It finally settled in October. Lawyers for his former neighbor didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Neighbors have long bickered over fences, hedges and property borders. But lawyers involved in such tangles say the pandemic, which kept many people and their neighbors at home—and on one another’s nerves—far more, turned suburban sparring especially toxic. The rancor, they say, hasn’t eased up. Allegations of late have touched on topics including flying dirt, flowerpot placement and stray balls bouncing into a yard.

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