What to do if neighbours are causing problems with your home sale
When selling a home, it’s normal to strain every string to show your home in the best light.
But what happens if your neighbors don’t play with the ball? All the spring cleaning and freshly brewed coffee in the world won’t make much of a difference if the house next door is in a shocking state.
After all, would you want to live with someone whose garbage-strewn front yard looks like an overgrown jungle?
Making a good impression: what happens when your neighbors aren’t playing football?
But can you do anything to improve the situation? Especially if you’re one of the 49 percent of those who, despite living close to the same people for years, don’t know the name of their neighbors?
The problem, says Micaela Dempsey, chief of dispute resolution at law firm Brown Turner Ross, is that homeowners have no “specific duty” to hold their properties to a specific standard.
‘The key question is reasonableness, that’s subjective,’ she says.
Only if the course of events leads to what is known in the law as ‘private nuisance’, you may have reason to appeal.
For example, rodents loitering uncontrollably around neighbors’ overflowing bins before making their way to your front aisle.
But once lawyers get involved, there’s a risk that a respectful request could turn into a nuclear dispute.
Going legal should always be a last resort. It will ruin a relationship with your neighbor forever, will be very expensive and can affect the value of your property
Jonathan Rolande, buy a house fast
That is why it is important, says Jonathan Rolande, surveyor and director of real estate company House Buy Fast, to act cautiously at first.
He suggests dropping in a letter or just knocking on their door and asking for a quick word.
“Going legal should always be a last resort,” he says. “After all, it will forever ruin a relationship with your neighbor, will be very expensive and can affect the value of your property – formal disputes must be settled when you sell.”
So how do you open the conversation when all you can do is smell rotten fish over the fence and you have a potential buyer on the weekend? Make sure your approach is friendly, considered and helpful.
“For example, if your neighbors are having trouble taking out trash cans or maintaining their property, you can even offer to help them with this instead of going legal,” said Joanne Ellis, head of the consumer country team at Stephensons Solicitors. .
“Even if you have to pay for things like paint or a gardener, it’s probably much cheaper and faster than going down a legal road.”
Tension: A confrontation over the garden fence is not the best way to solve problems
Some local authorities even offer a free mediation service, although both parties must be willing to participate in the process.
It could pave the way for a gentleman’s agreement, for example about not ignoring overflowing bins or putting it outside at some point.
If none of this works, there may be little choice but to appeal to the law. Making a ‘nuisance’ case, however, depends on the problems of your neighbor’s home, as the damage or interference must be significant or unreasonable. An ugly, unkempt garden does not meet the criteria.
The premise is fairness, and the judge will be in no rush to incite your neighbor to get their lawn (and house) in order.
“Alternatively, many properties are subject to covenants and a title deed check can reveal if there is anything the neighbor is violating,” says Joanne Ellis. ‘This is probably easier to determine than private nuisance.
“Some deeds contain specific clauses that gardens must be kept in good condition, and some contain specific provisions on how, for example, the exterior of a property should be painted.”
There are also provisions under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which means that your local government can serve and enforce what is called a statutory nuisance limitation.
Again, it’s not that simple: a legal nuisance can be caused by ‘some accumulation or deposition’ or be related to a resulting health problem – with experts needed to prove the case.
‘If the garden is in sufficient condition to meet the criteria, the municipality must take action,’ says Joanne. ‘That would mean that the work and the associated costs are not on you. The route is usually faster than a civil procedure through the courts.’
One thing you should avoid at all costs, despite the temptation, is to tackle the problem yourself.
Even if setting out the bins, cleaning up trash, or lashing some magnolia paint on the fence is meant in good faith.
Pranav Bhanot, a litigator at London Law Firm, Meaby & Co, says: ‘It is important to emphasize that a person should not enter the land of a neighboring property to take action themselves to rectify an unmaintained land , as this may lead to an infringement action being brought.’