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Border Wars

iStock_000005862074XSmallYou probably thought boundary disputes went the way of the Wild West, or at least have been relegated to the suburbs where people have real plots of land to fight over.  Believe it or not, they rage still – in High Rise Society.

No, you haven’t read wrong, and you’re right to be thinking, Huh?  What’s there to fight over? There aren’t even any open borders because everyone lives hermetically sealed off from their neighbors behind walls of steel and concrete.  Except for those terrace owners (of whom I am one).  They’re always the troublemakers.

Sometimes it’s a raw land grab.  The person can see pristine roof space from his bedroom window the way that former governor could see Russia from hers, and says that space is mine. Or he already has a terrace, but wants MORE space to expand his urban oasis so he lays claim to the adjoining area.

But lately the impetus for border wars is air conditioning lust.  You heard right.  These days lots of members of High Rise Society think they’re really living in one of those free-to-do-what-you-want stand alone houses in the suburbs, not stacked in the sky squished on all sides by their neighbors. 

condensing_unitSo like their land-owning cousins, they want central air conditioning – not those window units that mar your view and can fall on someone’s head and do more harm than flower pots. (See, Don’t Put Flower Pots On Your Windowsill, 1/5/10.)  Nor those through-the-wall jobs that sometimes stick out so far they take up more than a foot of precious space.  No, it’s the real thing they’re after.  Only in order to have central air you have to have a giant condenser to do the cooling. Where better to put it than on your own terrace?

That’s too logical.  Instead the would-be air controller looks across the fence that has separated his terrace from his neighbor’s since time immemorial, and suddenly says it’s in the wrong place. Part of your turf is really my turf, or even if it’s not mine it’s common space so I’m entitled to use it to park my condenser rather than clutter my own terrace — even though no owner has any right to common space.  And to bolster his claim, he says I know the fence is in the wrong place because I’ve been living here for 25 years. 

 Probably he never heard of the doctrine of adverse possession, which says if you keep your mouth shut for ten years in the face of an open claim of ownership by someone else, you’re barred from complaining.  Really, it’s not surprising he didn’t know because the idea that a claim of adverse possession would be made in a co-op  or condo is almost too ludicrous to countenance, although such a claim to roof rights was made a few years back

So how do you protect yourself from a land grabber?  I hope not with a shoot out, though I’m a little nervous because recently I learned that several apartment owners possess guns to keep themselves safe (from what I’m not sure). Better to wait and hope the would-be grabber has an attack of sanity, which may be helped by the fact that it’s too cold to move a fence now. The problem is if he’s on the board, which is not unheard of in such cases, all he has to do is get a majority of allies to say the fence should be where he wants it to be, even if that’s not where it should be.        

Sure you can hire a lawyer to try and cut him off at the pass, but in High Rise Society sometimes peer pressure is more effective and less expensive. So you might consider letting people in the building know what’s going on because few things get owners more worked up than someone using his power to get something they can’t have. And their support may help you get the grabber to back off to his side of the fence.

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