Dispute with a neighbour? What to do before selling your home
Selling a home with an unresolved dispute may reduce its saleability. What can you do to tackle boundary disputes and other problems and make your home easier to sell?
1 in 5 homeowners have problems with neighbours
It is reported that as many as one in five homeowners encounter problems with their neighbours at some time. Arguments over parking, barking dogs, anti-social habits, hedges, boundaries – the list goes on.
If you are thinking about putting your home on the market and you have, or have had, disputes with your neighbours, you may be concerned that these may impact on the 'saleability' or value of your property.
Do I have to declare neighbourhood disputes?
When you put your home on the market you will be required to complete a Property Information Form (TA6). Its purpose is to provide potential buyers with detailed information about your property by presenting facts and documents in a logical format.
As well as questions about the physical state of the property, such as building controls, electrical checks and boiler maintenance, the form also requires information on disputes with neighbours.
What information does the TA6 require about neighbour disputes?
Section 2 of the form specifically requires information about any existing disputes, or complaints or anything that could lead to a dispute in the future. It asks:
- The seller should provide information about any existing disputes. This could include the cause of the dispute (for example, complaints relating to noise) and any action taken to resolve matters.The seller should also provide information about disputes that have arisen in the past.
- The seller should provide information about anything that could lead to a dispute in the future.
It is important to answer the questions accurately and honestly so that the buyer can make an informed choice. If information is withheld your buyer could later take legal action if an issue that you knew about arises after the new owner has moved in.
The buyer could potentially claim for the cost of putting the issue right, or compensation for the loss of value (diminution) of the property.
What can I do about the dispute with my neighbour?
Depending on whether you are considering putting your home on the market immediately or sometime in the future might determine your course of action.
What type of dispute do you have?
Subjective disagreements over football or politics, however heated, are unlikely to affect potential purchasers, but any anti-social behaviour by neighbours will need to be documented. This includes shouting or excessive noise, using abusive or rude language, bullying or threatening behaviour and littering or dumping rubbish.
Disputes that have material importance to the buyer, such as parking, boundary lines or shared access, must also be reported
Can the dispute be resolved?
Since ongoing disputes may affect your home's saleability, ideally you should try to resolve any disputes with neighbours before you put your property on the market.
You will still need to declare historic disputes on the TA6 and may need to produce evidence of how they were resolved if you involved third parties such as the local council or a solicitor.
You should have documents to show when and how the issues were agreed. If the dispute is ongoing you should consider how long it might take to resolve matters and whether it is possible to do so before marketing your property.
There are various approaches to tackling the issues:
- Approaching your neighbour for an informal chat. It is far better to try and resolve disputes as amicably as possible and is often the quickest way to solve the issue. Even if you have to capitulate in order to come to an agreement, it is preferable to trying to sell your house with an ongoing argument.
- Mediation Using third party mediation may help both parties to seek an agreement. Although there is a cost involved in using mediation, it is less expensive than taking more formal action.
- Enlisting professional help If agreements still cannot be reached you may have to enlist the help of official bodies to resolve the problems. For example contacting your local council may help address some issues without resorting to legal action. The council may be able to demand that a high hedge is trimmed or serve noisy neighbours with an abatement order.
If you have material disagreements over access, parking, or boundary lines you may need to engage an expert. For example, a surveyor could be appointed to independently determine a boundary, providing both parties agree to his decision and share his cost – potentially saving money in the longer-term.
Check the deeds for information about access or rights of way across properties as this should be already documented.
- Taking legal action If you have no other recourse than to involve the law be aware that if a formal solicitor's letter is ignored by the other party you may need to take expensive court action.
There are many documented cases where the costs of disputes with neighbours have escalated when neither party will settle the row.
What about potential future disputes?
If you are aware of other matters that might lead to a future dispute you may need to declare the details. You should refer to your solicitor.
How much impact will a dispute have on the selling price of my house?
Disagreements with neighbours do not always affect the selling price of a house. Any effect will depend on the nature of the argument and how much that impacts on the buyer.
Other factors include the demand for houses in your area – in more buoyant areas there may be little impact, but where the market is sluggish you may need to lower the price to get a quick sale.
Where the problems with neighbours are serious – for example, if the police have been involved – your home might be unsaleable at its normal market value. Dropping the price significantly or selling the house at auction might be the only course of action.