What to Do When Nightmare Neighbors Complicate Your Home Sale
Your crazy neighbors have been bugging you for months. They don’t maintain their yard. They’re loud and stay up too late. Their dog barks any time you go near and leaves smelly “presents” too close to your fence.
It is one thing for you to put up with this. But now that you’re getting ready to sell your house, you are concerned that their bad behavior may sabotage the sale. What can you do?
Play nice, at first
“It is much better to solve a problem with a neighbor without initiating a lawsuit,” recommends New York lawyer David Reischer. Although his advice might go against his professional interests, he believes resolving neighborly issues without filing a lawsuit or involving a lawyer is the best way to go.
“Bringing a lawsuit against a neighbor for sloppy upkeep, loud pets or general bad attitude is the last resort. A court will never provide you the remedy you are looking for in a timely manner,” Reischer said.
If there are actual damages involved, Washington, DC, lawyer Thomas J. Simeone says lawsuits can be filed in an attempt to recover financial damages caused by unruly neighbors, such as those related to broken windows or fences. The court also could be asked to issue an order prohibiting similar conduct in the future.
However, Simeone notes, “If you seek damages for a lost sale, that would be hard to prove. After you prove the neighbor violated the law, you would need the potential buyer to testify that they would have bought the property at a certain price, but for the neighbor. Even then, judges may be reluctant to force the neighbor to pay for the loss of a sale, but instead may limit damages to financial losses you incurred in repairing your property.”
Instead of going to court, both Reischer and Simeone suggest trying to work out a solution with the neighbors in a friendly manner.
Simeone recommends taking a series of steps, beginning with the least confrontational option first. “Start informally and move toward more assertive means of seeking redress. Start with a conversation, then a letter, then notify the county/police, then have a lawyer send a letter, then file suit,” he suggests.
Offer your services – it’s good for your bottom line
Chad Dannecker of San Diego real estate firm Dannecker & Associates proposes simply offering to clean up the neighbor’s messy yard. “Because a poorly kept yard next door can lower your house’s sale price, it’s important to take care of the problem quickly,” he said. “Your best bet is to go ahead and pay for the cleanup yourself or offer to do it because it saves you money and a headache in the long run.”
For loud or unruly neighbors, Dannecker suggests asking them to quiet down or putting in landscaping that softens noise levels.