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Nightmare neighbors — they happen to everyone. At least when you decide to sell your home and move, you’re finally done with them. Right?
Unfortunately, that’s only the case if you don’t have a neighbor preventing the sale of your home.
If your neighbors are problematic, they have an impact on how difficult it is to sell your home. Their behavior can even warrant a disclosure to sellers. Read on to learn what you have to disclose about your neighbors when selling, what types of bad neighbors to watch out for, and who you can turn to for assistance with bad neighbors.
What makes for a ‘bad’ neighbor?
When you have neighbors, it’s understandable if they get on your nerves from time to time. For those that live in close quarters like a condo or townhome, it’s even easier and more common to want a break from your neighbors. That being said, just because you have thin walls and hear the neighbor’s blender go off from time to time, that doesn’t make them a bad neighbor.
No neighbor is perfect, so it’s important to have some level of understanding before you call someone a bad neighbor.
What really makes a neighbor “bad”? Let’s spend some time getting to know some classic bad neighbors.
The neighbor with too much junk
Their garage overflows with boxes so they have to park on the street. They have an old car in the driveway they’ve been “repairing” for years. The kids' toys are all over the lawn. Have you met the neighbor with too much junk?
When a seller looks at a home to buy, they look at the neighborhood too. No one wants to live next to a house with an eyesore of a front yard.
The mean neighbor
Sometimes, you just end up with a mean neighbor. They complain constantly, they judge everyone’s landscaping, and they make it way more difficult than it needs to be to solve neighborhood problems.
If you just didn’t mesh with your neighbor, that’s one thing, but if they have every neighbor on the block shaking in fear when they open their front door, that’s how you know you have a mean neighbor.
The neighbor who’s up to no good
You never know what goes on behind closed doors, but sometimes you have a hunch. If you have a neighbor who commits criminal activities in their home like selling drugs, chances are this obvious law-breaking will turn off potential home buyers.
The nosy neighbor
While the previously mentioned neighbor may keep to themselves for the most part, the nosy neighbor does not. The nosy neighbor not only butts into your business far too often, but they have no problem getting chatty with potential buyers who are very eager to hear any negative complaints that the nosy neighbor has about your neighborhood.
The noisy neighbor
Not to be confused with the nosy neighbor, the noisy neighbor may be perfectly nice. They may also happen to make a lot of noise. They bring in their trash cans late at night. They fail to train their dog not to bark at the mailman. They play their music just a little too loud — on weeknights. These neighbors make it hard to get your hands on some peace and quiet. Just hope they’re quiet on the day of your open house.
What do you legally have to disclose about your neighbors or neighborhood?
It’s understandable if you feel anxious about addressing your bad neighbors with potential buyers. No one wants to have that conversation, but unfortunately this isn’t one you can avoid.
When you sell a home, you must disclose any known issues with your neighborhood that can impact the value of the home to the buyer. Sadly, you will even need to disclose neighborhood issues that you can’t do much about. You might be able to pin some of these problems on your neighbors, but you’ll still have to disclose them to the seller.
What you have to disclose about your neighbors’ behavior when selling your home depends on where you live, but generally includes:
- Noise issues
- Problematic neighbors
- Pending lawsuits in the neighborhood
- Loud or aggressive pets
- Extreme odors, including pet, farm, or chemical odors
These issues are rather subjective and it’s hard to know when a neighbor’s annoying habits warrant disclosing. If you’re unsure of how to proceed here, speak to a real estate attorney about what your best course of action is regarding obnoxious neighbor disclosures.
Most states legally require sellers to disclose neighborhood issues in detail to the buyers. You want to be on the right side of the law here, so it’s best to be upfront with buyers if you have a problematic neighbor. Buyers in many states have the ability to sue a seller if they did not fully disclose all material facts affecting the value of the property — including issues caused by neighbors. If you fail to describe the situation with your neighbors accurately, the seller can allege that you intentionally misrepresented them or attempted to mislead them.
Again: When in doubt, speak to a lawyer about your options. You may not want to spend a few hundred dollars on legal fees now, but doing so may help you avoid a very pricey lawsuit in the future.
Instead of a disclosure form, some states utilize a “Caveat Emptor” or “Buyer Beware” rule instead. For example, the state of Alabama adopted a “Caveat Emptor” rule, which means the seller needs to disclose anything that could impact the buyer’s health or safety. Let’s say that your next door neighbor is so unkept they attract bugs and vermin — the buyer can argue a health risk if the seller doesn’t inform them about the issue. If the seller gives the buyer a heads up and they decide to buy the home anyway, the seller is off the hook for any problems that arise and the new homeowner will need to deal with the neighbor on their own.
How can you handle bad neighbor situations that prevent you from selling?
If you have bad neighbors that you believe will make it harder for you to sell your house, there are some steps you can take to deal with the situation.
Try talking to your neighbors one last time
At this point, you have nothing to lose. If your neighbor is unnecessarily loud, doesn’t keep up on their lawn care, or drives too fast through the neighborhood, have one last heart-to-heart with them. At this point, you plan to leave so you don’t need to worry about being friends. If they do change their ways, it will be a lot less stressful to sell your home. Better late than never.
Turn to your HOA
If your efforts to resolve the issues with your neighbor don’t go anywhere, turn to your condominium owners’ association (COA) or homeowners’ association (HOA) if you have one. These associations don’t usually get involved over small neighborly disputes, but they will step in if there is any form of abuse, aggression, harassment, or intimidation between neighbors. When a neighbor harasses another neighbor, they risk violating regulations from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the Fair Housing Act.
These violations open up the HOA or COA for legal action, so they have good reason to step in and provide support. HOAs and COAs can start their own investigation into the issue. They may choose to bring in a mediator or lawyer to give additional assistance. One of the benefits of an HOA is the support they can provide in these situations, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Take your complaints to the city or county
If you get to the point where you need to work with your HOA or COA, then you should also consider taking your complaints to the city or county that your property resides in. If a neighbor trespasses or commits nuisance actions, you can report them. Research your municipality’s code enforcement and noise statutes to see if your neighbor regularly commits any official violations.
Hire a lawyer or involve law enforcement
If you have truly terrible neighbors that make you feel unsafe, there may come a day where it’s necessary to involve law enforcement or to hire a lawyer to assist you. At the very least, a lawyer will communicate with your neighbor for you so you don’t have to.
What if you truly can’t sell your house because of the neighbors? If your neighbors choose to cause extra problems in an attempt to thwart your sale, that’s where they can get in big trouble. Most jurisdictions don’t permit someone wrongfully interfering with a contract involving another party, such as the sale of a house. You may hear this referred to as “intentional interference with contractual relations” or a similar name.
A lawyer can help you determine if the neighbor is guilty of purposely making it difficult for you to sell your home. We hope for your sake that’s not the case and that you can move forward and move on.