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Declaring problems with the neighbours when selling your property

You might think that you don’t have to declare a problem with the neighbours if it’s never been to court. If their dog barks incessantly, but even if  you’ve never complained, you cannot keep quiet and not declare the issue?   When selling a property it is necessary to complete a Seller’s Property Information Form. This requires you to highlight any previous or current disputes with neighbouring properties. However, it also questions whether you know of any issues that could lead to a dispute?  You could find yourself on shaky legal ground if there was an obvious problem that you kept quiet about. By preventing would be buyers from making an informed choice, you’ve effectively committed fraud.  That may seem incredibly unfair if it isn’t your fault that your neighbours are dreadful. However, hiding a problem could mean you face costly legal challenges later on.  An astoundingly high number of people are falling out with their neighbours and ending up in court. A recent survey by Saga found that 28% of the over  50s have been involved in a legal dispute.  Nearly 40% of those clashes related to neighbour and property disputes, such as arguments over boundaries and noise, the study found. In fact, noise is a really common complaint.  A survey carried out by Which? last year found that 60% of people said they’d been irritated by loud neighbourly noises, from raised voices to music.

Resolving these disputes can often be a costly affair when you take legal fees and court costs into account.  However, the cost could be even higher if you’re planning to sell your home. That’s because sellers have to declare any problems they’ve had with their neighbours, even if doing so devalues their property.  How much could a problem neighbour devalue your home and what do you have to declare? If you love money, should you try to get on with your neighbours too?

It is often hard to assess how much a neighbourly dispute might knock off the value of your home. It depends on the kind of dispute you’ve had and whether it’s likely to be an ongoing problem for new owners.  It is impossible to make generalisations about the potential loss of value as it’s hugely dependent on fact and degree.   It’s hard to imagine how distressing that might be for a vendor who’s desperate to get away from such abuse. It also illustrates how difficult it can be to determine exactly how badly a property could be affected; there’s such a huge scale of possible problems. Most people would pull out if there’s a serious dispute, especially in this kind of market. It depends on the property and if it’s unique then you stand more of a chance of selling it. But if you’re buying a house that’s fairly standard then there are plenty of alternatives and most buyers would pull out of the deal.

If you’ve bought a property in the belief that there were no problems, and you’ve moved in to discover the neighbour from hell, what can you do?  After all, even if you can live with the issue, you could be hurt financially in the future.  One option is to pursue the vendor for financial compensation, to reflect the loss you will make should you sell.    However, if you can’t bear to live in the house as a result of the problem, the solution becomes trickier.  It might be possible to sell the property on and sue for the difference. You would need to demonstrate that because of the problem, you wouldn’t have purchased the house. Then you could pursue the vendors for the additional costs as well as the reduction in value.

However bad your neighbours may be it is essential to be totally honest with any potential buyers when you come to sell it. If you keep your mouth shut and hope for a quick sale, you could find yourself at the wrong end of an extraordinarily costly legal challenge.  These examples also highlight the importance of fully exploring a neighbourhood before committing to a purchase. One option would be to consider chatting to the neighbours and call in at local shops. After all, this is your home and not just a financial investment with a rising or falling value.

Leon Kaye Solicitors have been established for over 35 years in South West London with offices in Chelsea and Knightsbridge.  We are fully accredited members of The Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.  For information on our range of legal services please call us on 020 7228 2020 or 020 7095 0930.