The other night as we were asleep, a car rolled into our house. It turned out it was my neighbor’s friend’s car. The car owner (Louise) was crying, and begged us to not go through insurance, as her rates had recently skyrocketed due to an accident involving her son.
Louise promised to pay for the damages, which included broken bricks, two broken windows, a damaged windowsill, ripped sheet rock and damaged studs, not to mention an old school bell that had been in my husband’s family for four generations.
We felt sorry for her, and since she was my good neighbor’s friend, we agreed. Well, no good deed goes unpunished.
We get along well with my neighbor (Ada) who is quite the negotiator, and cheap to say the least (although I would guess she would say savvy).
Ada insisted on sending her contractor (Dan) over to give an estimate. Dan is not licensed or insured. Dan’s bid was $1,500, which he later lowered to $1,000, but the bid did not include replacing the two windows.
My licensed and insured contractor, who has done some wonderful remodeling for us, gave a bid of $3,800 that included the windows. I don’t think Dan took into account all that needs to be done.
Now Ada is relentlessly trying to nickel-and-dime every charge. Louise came to our house to lament that she would need to borrow from her sister and Ada in order to even pay the $1,000.
Louise would like to negotiate a price, and claims the accident is no one’s fault. She also has gone to lengths to conceal her license-plate number, and not provide her insurance information (which makes me not trust her).
Ada would like to browbeat our contractor to get him to come down on the price.
We are fairly well off, but we are preparing for impending retirement. We could absorb the $3,800, although it would delay our plans to fix up our house for retirement.
So I have two choices: Call the police and file with insurance, or just pay the $3,800 and write it off as a lesson learned given that we appear to be in a better position than Louise.
What is your opinion?
This is a classic codependent bait-and-switch. They’re sorry. They’re not sorry. They take responsibility. It’s not anyone’s fault. They will do everything to pay for it. They need to borrow money and your estimates are incorrect. Their problems are now somehow your problems.
Louise not only barged into your life in a metaphorical sense, she literally rolled her car into your life, and damaged your home. This has already escalated in a short space of time to the point that they are wearing you down so you just suck up the cost in the first place.
You don’t want these neighbors in your life, and the quickest way to remove them from your life is to do the right thing, something you should have done the moment she and her car caused all that damage: Call the police and your insurance company.
Don’t expect Ada or Louise to be responsive, cooperative or responsible when you do. You are going to see their true colors sooner or later, either when they slowly fade from view with the knowledge that you will not hold Louise responsible, or when you finally make that call.
Louise rolled her car into your home, and somehow she is the victim in all of this. Take your paper trail, photos of the damage, the numbers of those involved, and make that call: $3,800 is a lot of money, and there is an important principle involved.
If Louise is old enough to drive a car and involve you in all of her high jinks, she is old enough to take responsibility for her actions and pay a higher premium. You don’t need to be embroiled in any more psychodrama. You and your house have already been through enough.
You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at email@example.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.
By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.
Check out the Moneyist private Facebook
group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.