Rowhouse lines

Looking out my back window I noticed something odd about one of the houses. And it is a weird little thing that I wondered about regarding my house, and other houses around. As these are townhouses, all connected and everything, is there like an easement or something that allows part of your house to be attached to your neighbors.
To better illustrate here’s the deal: Houses A has a closed in rear porch thing that leans (possibly due to age) into what looks to be House B’s side of the property line. What’s on House B’s side from House A are the gutters, roof overhang, and flashing. There is no adjoining structure like a porch on B’s side. Another example, my house, from the front it would appear that the fence and the paint line show where one house ends and the other begins. Nope. Discovered this when making a vent for the basement, the hole wound up on the other side of the fence in the neighbor’s yard. Similar problem in the back. Where the kitchen chimneys meet is a little less than a foot on the other side of the fence and the neighbor’s AC/heat pump thing sits right on the fence.
Now back in 1870-whatever when the landlord who owned my side of the block had these houses built, the exact line of where one house began and the other ended probably didn’t matter much. He owned the whole row of near cookie-cutter houses. But in time they got sold off bits and pieces to other landlords and until the late 20th century these units were almost always rental housing, so those with the responsibility to maintain and repair, didn’t have to live with the results.
The not-exactly cut and dry line of this side mine this side yours can create problems when it comes to fences, additions, weed trees, repairs, etc when the relationship you have with the owner of the neighboring house is not the best.

5 thoughts on “Rowhouse lines”

  1. that’s why you to try to be a good neighbor.

    dc is messed up.

    to get things done, you just have to ‘be a good neighbor’.

    good? bad? who knows.

    but you can’t rely on dc regs to make things happen, that’s for sure.


    cuz they ain’t entirely there.

    so… ya roll with the punches.

    which brings into question why our community is the way it is…

  2. Yeah, that’s all good and fine when you have good relations with your neighbors but sometimes that ain’t the case. That’s when having some sort of regualtion out there is important. I think the city basically takes the approach that if something was built/adjusted a long time ago, it stays. But if you try to change it, the non-conforming whatever can’t be changed and may even have to be taken down.

  3. Well, it’s called a party wall. I don’t know the details. But it was required as part of the very first building regulations promulgated by George Washington. See:

    Hoagland, Alison K. “Nineteenth-Century Building Regulations in Washington, D.C.” Records. of the Columbia Historical Society 52 (1989): 57-77.

  4. Thanks for the citation.
    The problem comes when the other party is a jerk, absentee, impossible to reach, or just not a position to assist/chip in and whatever needs to be handled NOW (leaky roofs, rodent infestation, chimney stack about to fall in, etc). Any problems we encountered with the party wall during the renovation was my problem because the owner was being foreclosed on and hard to find. So whatever the theory was on how to handle it couldn’t be followed because of time constraints and logically I wasn’t going to find the guy.

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