Dispute with a neighbour? What to do before selling your home

Selling a home with an unresolved dispute may make it harder to sell. What can you do to tackle and resolve a dispute with a neighbour and make your home easier to sell?

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Neighbours fence

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 the dispute could affect 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 and how you have used it.

As well as questions about the physical state of the property, such as building controls, electrical checks and boiler maintenance, the form asks for information on any disputes with neighbours.

What information does the TA6 form say 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 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 resolving the problem or even compensation for any loss of value (diminution) in the property.

You can download specimen forms here:

What can I do about the dispute with my neighbour?

Depending on whether you plan to put your home on the market now, or sometime in the future, can inform the best course of action.

Subjective disagreements over football or politics, however heated, are unlikely to affect potential purchasers. However, 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?

As an ongoing neighbour dispute can affect your home's saleability, you should try to resolve any disputes before you put your property on the market.

You will still need to declare historic disputes on the TA6. You may also need to produce evidence of how a resolution was reached if it involved third parties, such as the local authority or a solicitor.

You should have documents to show when and how any contentious 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:

Approach 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.

Get professional help

If an agreement still cannot be reached you may have to enlist the help of an official body 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 get legal help, 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.

Will a dispute affect 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 - if the police were involved, for example, your home might be harder to sell at its' normal market value. Dropping the price significantly or selling the house at auction might be the only course of action.

Your next step

If you are buying, selling, remortgaging or transferring equity in a home, we can help you find an expert conveyancing solicitor.

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Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Author:
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher