How to spot neighbours from hell before buying a house

You’ve fallen in love with a house and are ready to make an offer - but what are the neighbours like?

Rubbish outside neighbours house

It may look like your dream home, but living next to a troublesome neighbour can make your life a misery.  It can also make it difficult to sell you property when you decide to move. 

So how can you spot neighbours from hell before you buy a house?

Look at their house and garden

This can give you a measure of the neighbour’s levels of care and consideration. Everyone lets the weeds grow a little too high sometimes, but if you see serious disrepair or mountains of junk in the garden, this should raise initial concerns

Most people try to maintain a certain standard of care at the front of their house so as not to spoil the look of the neighbourhood as a whole, and not doing this can be a sign of a general lack of consideration

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Ask the seller about the neighbours

Obvious, isn’t it? But you’re not only looking out for what they tell you, but what they seem reluctant to tell you.

If they wash over the subject or seem cagey, that can be an alarm bell. If their neighbours are lovely, they are likely to gush about them as a plus point of taking on the property. If they’re reluctant to talk about them, there may be a reason.

Pay an evening visit to the property

Or, simply the road it’s on. This can reveal a lot that wouldn’t be obvious in the daytime when many people are at work. Are the neighbours noisy in the evenings? Is there more coming and going, is it a party house?

When more people in the neighbourhood are home, how do they interact with each other? Try visiting on a weekend night.

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Pay the neighbours a visit

If you’re really serious about proceeding with buying the house, pop next door and ring the bell. You can do this under the guise of getting honest feedback about living in the area: getting a perspective from someone who isn’t trying to sell it to you. You can ask them about the other neighbours too.

This will give you the chance to get the measure of who you’d be living next door to, and hopefully get friendly relations off to a good start. Or you may just be glad to have discovered that you couldn’t possibly get on with them.

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Properly read the Seller’s Property Information Form (SPIF)

The Seller’s Property Information Form (SPIF) will be forwarded to you by your conveyancing solicitor during the purchase conveyancing process.

This form should disclose details of any disputes that have occurred between the seller and their neighbours. This can include:

  • Written exchanges
  • Problems with maintenance of any shared areas
  • Boundary disputes
  • Complaints to the authorities about their conduct

The SPIF can even tell you whether the neighbour has any ASBOs. The list above could reveal unwanted news about noise, aggressive pets, you name it.

The seller has a legal responsibility to disclose any information about disputes when completing the SPIF.

If your seller doesn’t reveal serious disputes, you could actually sue them later on.

Of course it would be better to avoid potential legal action.  Read the SPIF carefully and raise further questions if you need more information or clarification.  Don't accept evasive a woolly answers.  Get your conveyancing solicitor to advise you if you have any doubts at all.

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In summary…

Trust your instincts: however much you love the property you want to buy, if you get a sense from the vendor that the neighbours are tricky customers, investigate fully. Read the SPIF and do your own detective work, it could save you a lot of future stress.
 

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

About the author

Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.

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