You’re thinking about selling your home. The market’s in good shape and you’ve done a lot of work to increase the value of your property. It’s go time! Except…
…three years ago, a new family moved into the house next to yours, and you’re pretty sure they have never thrown out their garbage or done any upkeep. Their house has become an eyesore.
You know that even one bad home in the neighborhood can negatively impact the value of everyone else’s home. But what can you do? Don’t worry, you’ve got options. Follow these steps to deal with your not so appealing neighbor.
Try to work it out with your neighbor first:
It’s always best to visit your neighbor in person to discuss options before you take any more forceful action. Stop by their house and let them know you’re getting ready to sell. Ask if they’d be willing to clean up what is causing your concern. For best results, make sure you’re friendly and genuinely helpful when you go to chat with them.
In some circumstances, the issue may not be a lack of will; it may be a lack of funds or ability. The good news is, there are lots of community programs that exist specifically to help in-need residents with yard work, painting and general repairs. If you encounter a situation where your neighbor could use a hand, offer to help them find a good solution. Habitat for Humanity and local rotary clubs are a great place to start.
On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a situation where your neighbors are simply unwilling to do the upkeep, ask for permission to clean the mess yourself or to pay for a service to take care of it.
In the best case scenario, your neighbors will be receptive and willing to work with you. However, if your conversation doesn’t go so well, it’s time to move on to the next step. Before you do, we recommend taking photos of the property and documenting each step you’ve taken so you have a quick-reference paper trail.
Ask your Homeowner’s Association (HOA) for help:
You may not have an HOA, but if you do, calling them in to help you is a great next step. Homeowner’s Associations have rather strict rules on how homes that fall under their jurisdiction must be kept. If a home is in violation of the rules, the HOA can fine them and bring on legal action if necessary.
For best results, review the HOA rules and include photos that prove your neighbor is violating an agreed upon code of conduct. Then the HOA can address the issue by whatever means they see fit. In some cases, they may send someone out to see the issue first hand and to talk to your neighbor about what needs to be done. If you don’t have an HOA or if this step doesn’t do the trick, move on to the next step. Once again, be sure to document your efforts.
If the neighbor is a renter, contact the homeowner or landlord:
When renters sign a lease, they agree to keep the property in a certain condition. If they fail to do so or violate the lease in any way, landlords can take legal action. Keep this in mind if you find out the neighbor you’re dealing with is a renter.
If you don’t know who owns the home, you can look up the property management company, check county records to find a name or research the address to try to find a recent rental ad with contact info. A little digging will almost always produce a starting point. If this doesn’t work (or if your neighbor isn’t a renter), document your efforts and move on to the next step.
Talk to the city, county or health department:
Now it’s time to get the government involved. Contact the appropriate city office and let them know what’s going on. Most cities have a government website that lists department numbers and allows you to file online reports on a neighborhood nuisance.
Typically, there are a variety of categories you can include: unkempt exteriors, dangerous building issues, noisy neighbors, disabled vehicles and so on. If there are any issues that are attracting critters, you can also reach out to your local health department. If you don’t have much luck with the county departments, try reaching out to city and county officials.
Once again, owners can be fined if they don’t comply with the city’s demands. If the situation is bad enough, they could even be forced out of the home. Persistence pays off at this stage of the process. It’s also important to know that as with all government processes, this step can take some time, so you’ll have to be patient.
Consider building a physical divide:
If you’re permitted to, consider building a fence or planting a tall hedge that’ll remove the neighborhood eyesore from your property’s sight lines. This step will cost a little money, but can be done quickly and can make a big difference in the amount of money you’re able to make on your final sale. If your neighbors are not being agreeable and the prior options don’t produce great results, this option may be your best.
Should I just take my neighbor to small claims?
You can try to sue your neighbor for damages in small claims court, but you’ll need to be able to prove that their negligence both violated the law and harmed you in some way. Unfortunately, the likelihood of winning a case is very unlikely. Why? Because though it stinks to have an unruly neighbor, in most cases it’s not illegal to be an unruly neighbor.
Your neighbor’s mess may be hurting your home’s value, but they technically never had any legal obligation to you in regards to supporting your efforts to maintain the value of your property. Therefore, your county court will likely rule in your neighbor’s favor, so long as they haven’t violated any laws. In most cases, the best you can do is follow the steps outlined above in an attempt to improve the situation, then hope for the best on your sale.
Dealing with messy, noisy or unsightly neighbors is certainly a nuisance, but there are plenty of steps you can take to attempt to alleviate the issue. And if you’re successful, you’ll be the neighborhood hero!