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Good Fences Make Good Neighbours

good fences make good neighbours
There’s a well-known expression that “good fences make good neighbors.” But if you live in a semidetached...
good fences make good neighbours

There’s a well-known expression that “good fences make good neighbours.” But if you live in a semidetached home or in 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 easily become your problem too.

Here we address the most common problems when neighbours share a common roof and suggest some ways you can effectively communicate your concerns and ideally, share the expense of a roof replacement.  

Identify the Problem

good fences make good neighbours

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. 

Emergency Repair.

Is your neighbour’s roof causing a leak? Visible signs may include water dripping from your ceiling, mold forming on your walls, shingles blown off and lying in your yard or storm damage from high winds or hail.

Long-term Service. 

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 bigger, more costly problems that might even endanger your family’s health.


What if your neighbour’s roof doesn’t match yours? Curb appeal is important to maintain and is a wise investment if you’re planning to sell your property. A new roof can dramatically boost your homes appearance and potentially its resale value.


Communicate for better PREPARATION.

good fences make good neighbours

Once you know exactly why you want or need a roof replacement, you must find out who is responsible for helping you get one before you talk to your neighbour.    However, if you and your neighbours must bear the cost, you’ll need very persuasive reasons and solid benefits to counter any objections and obtain their financial support.  It really 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…

good fences make good neighbours

    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 and scheduling issues, etc.

Take notes.

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 his or her 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 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…

good fences make good neighbours

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.


good fences make good neighbours

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 he or she 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 his or her 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 a partial payment, but avoid agreeing to a partial roof

If you’ve enjoyed this article, you may find more interesting tips here.

good fences make good neighbours

Written By: Jane Laker

Photo Credit: Veronika Kovecses

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Jane Laker

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