No matter how close your friendship you might have otherwise, living in close proximity to someone is bound to cause some sort of discord at one point or another. Surveys have shown that as many as 1 in 5 homeowners has had disputes with their neighbours in the past.
Beyond affecting your personal life, disagreements with neighbours can even be a hindrance in selling your home.
Though you may think that only legal disputes, such as an argument over property boundaries, would be relevant when it comes to putting your home on the market, this is actually not the case. Anything from a loud, constantly barking dog to a squabble over the height of a hedge could be considered a dispute.
Since you are legally required to inform potential buyers about past and present disputes with neighbours, solving these issues before you put your house on the market can save a lot of time and hassle for all parties involved.
Why disputes are relevant to the sale of your property
When you put your home on the market, you are required to complete a Property Information Form (TA6). The TA6 provides prospective buyers with detailed information about the property, and that includes any and all disputes with neighbours.
Section 2 of the TA6 asks you to explain the circumstances in further detail if you answer ‘yes’ to the following questions:
Have there been any disputes or complaints regarding this property or a property nearby?
Is the seller aware of anything which might lead to a dispute about the property or a property nearby?
Obviously, these questions cover disputes regarding the property itself (parking spaces, boundary lines, and any shared-access spaces), but it is important to remember to document any disruptive or discourteous behaviour as well. This could include noise complaints, parking in front of driveways, littering, using rude language, or anything that could fall under the category of anti-social behaviour.
You should not include simple disagreements over topics such as politics or sports unless these disagreements turn into arguments that involve rude behaviour.
Being honest and accurate when answering all the TA6 questions is important, as the purpose of this document is to help buyers make an informed purchase.
If you have knowledge of a dispute and fail to list it on the TA6, it is possible that a buyer could take legal action against you if an issue comes to light after their purchase. Legal action could involve compensation for diminished property value or the cost of resolving the issue (such as the cost of hiring a surveyor to determine property lines or legal fees).
In order to increase the saleability and value of your home as well as reduce the risk of legal action after the fact, it is best to resolve neighbourly disputes prior to placing your house on the market. Keep in mind that you will still need to list any and all past disputes on the TA6 even if they have been resolved. However, a resolved dispute looks a lot better than an ongoing one as its one less thing the buyer has to deal with. It also portrays the neighbourhood in an amicable light if its residents are willing to work together to reach a compromise.
The best way to resolve disputes with your neighbours varies depending on how well you know your neighbours, how deeply rooted the issue is, and what the issue in question is in the first place. The following is a list of resolution strategies you may want to consider.
Having an informal conversation
Unless your neighbour has shown to be entirely discordant in the past, the best place to start for the majority of issues regarding your property is simply to have a casual chat with them.
Whether this means giving them a call, stopping by their house, or inviting them out for a drink depends on your relationship with them and what you think they will best respond to. It might be a simple misunderstanding or an issue that they wanted to solve as well.
Using a mediator
If the dispute can’t be resolved with a quick chat, you might consider bringing in an unbiased third party to help the two of you reach a compromise.
Since it may be difficult for both parties to find or agree upon an unbiased mediator from their social circles, hiring a professional might be necessary.
Professional mediators can often be the better route to choose as it ensures the third party does not have any prior knowledge or biases about either person.
Consulting an expert
For certain disputes, enlisting the help of a professional may be necessary.
This is similar to hiring a mediator in that they will be relatively unbiased, except the professional in question is an expert in a certain area pertaining to your disagreement. For example, an independent surveyor could be hired to determine boundaries (granted that both parties agree to his decision).
If you have exhausted all other options, taking a neighbour to court might be your only route left. This option will likely be expensive and stressful, so it is best to think long and hard about whether or not it will be worth your time and money, or if the issue is something that will be easier and overall less costly if you compromise in some way.
No matter how you eventually resolve the problem, make sure you keep any relevant documents regarding the resolution as you may need to include these on or with the TA6 form.
It can be difficult to determine how much a disagreement with a neighbour will affect the price of your home as it depends on the nature of the dispute and its possible effects on the buyer.
For that reason, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and handle any disagreements before putting your property on the market.
Selling a home can already be an arduous process, so why not make sure there are fewer surprises down the line?