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How to sell a house with neighbour disputes

While everyone’s property-hunting wishlist will include non-negotiables and nice-to-haves specific to them and their situation, one thing we all have in common is the desire to co-exist happily with our neighbours. Good neighbours are indispensable, and whether you rely on them for small favours like pet sitting, holding mail or taking the bins out while you’re on holiday, or you develop a real friendship with them, getting along with next door is a relief to homeowners – especially because the alternative can be so disastrous. 

An issue which can impact your everyday life and turn an otherwise perfect home into a place to avoid, having to deal with problem neighbours is a fear every homeowner shares. From arguments over land borders to frequent noise complaints, neighbour disputes come in all shapes and sizes and can even become serious enough that authorities need to get involved. What’s more, if you’re in a dispute with a neighbour and want to sell your house, you can run into trouble when declaring the issue to potential buyers.

Though tricky, selling a house with an ongoing neighbour dispute is possible. If you’ve found yourself in this boat and are wondering what classes as an official dispute and when you have to disclose it to interested buyers, or if it’s even possible to sell with unresolved issues blocking your path, read on as our experts take you through the latest guidance.

What constitutes a dispute with a neighbour?

A neighbour dispute occurs when two (or more) neighbouring parties disagree on something. Of course, brief arguments over small, one-time offences are all but inevitable, but if these clashes are unresolved or lead to considerable frustrations and repeated inconveniences, they would be considered a neighbour dispute. These disagreements could occur over a range of things, but the most common types of neighbour disputes include:

  • Noise complaints 
  • Parking spaces, blocked access and rights of way
  • Property boundaries
  • Breach of shared responsibilities 
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Anti-social behaviours
  • Mistreatment of shared amenities
  • Unkempt or encroaching trees or hedges
  • Planning permission disputes 
  • Pet noise, misbehaviour or fouling.

Do you have to declare neighbour disputes when selling a house?

Yes, in the majority of cases you are required to declare neighbour disputes when selling a house. A record of these disputes should be included in the ‘disputes and complaints’ section of the Seller’s Property Information Form (SPIF), which is made available to buyers before the sale is completed. In auction sales, the SPIF form (also known as a TA6 form) is included in the auction legal pack and can be viewed before bidding. 

While major, unresolved disputes must always be shared with the buyer prior to completing the sale, minor issues or those which have long-since been resolved through proper communication and mediation don’t need to be disclosed. The best rule to follow when deciding whether or not to disclose a neighbour dispute is to judge if it’s likely the new owner will have to deal with the same issue. You can also seek advice from your solicitor to see whether or not they would advise including a dispute. 

What happens if you don’t declare a neighbour dispute?

While it can be tempting to sweep these disputes under the rug and not acknowledge them, the consequences of doing so can be dire. This is because a buyer has the right to accuse you of misrepresentation of sale, and take legal action against you. If they can prove you knew about the issue and didn’t disclose it, you could be liable. As such, it’s always safer to err on the side of caution and be upfront about any problem-neighbour spats, or do all you can to resolve the dispute before selling.

How to deal with neighbour disputes

According to official advice given by the government, there are six steps you can take on your way to resolving a neighbour dispute peaceably, starting from trying verbal conflict resolution and ending in taking legal action if all other approaches prove ineffective. To help you stay on the right track for resolving any issues as quickly and efficiently as possible, we’ve detailed these six steps below, along with our own advice and tips we’ve picked up from helping sellers in the same situation.

  • Step 1: Talk to them

Your first step in resolving neighbour conflict should be to talk to them politely. There is every chance that, if the issue is minor, your neighbours may not have realised that their behaviour was causing any distress, and will change their ways without any further action being taken. While this is the best way to put a stop to disputes before they escalate, if you feel threatened or intimidated by your neighbour, or feel in any way unsafe talking to them in person, you may want to take another approach such as writing a note. If you take this approach, be sure to keep a record of the written communications you share or receive in return, as they may be required later down the line if the issue persists.

  • Step 2: Contact their landlord

If the neighbour in question is a tenant rather than the owner, you may be able to contact the landlord and ask for their assistance in the matter. In cases where the tenant is breaching their contractual terms and conditions, the landlord may be better placed to help resolve the issue by enforcing their powers or contacting mediation services on your behalf.

  • Step 3: Use a mediation service

If you can’t come to an agreement with your problem neighbour, you could enlist the help of an independent mediator to help you sort things out. This will come with some cost, but mediators are often more affordable than hiring solicitors in order to carry out legal actions through the courts. You can find conflict resolution mediators by searching on the Civil Mediation Council site if you’re based in England or Wales, or through the Scottish Mediation Register if you’re in Scotland.

  • Step 4: Make a complaint to your local council

If your neighbour dispute can be classed as a ‘statutory nuisance’, meaning it “unreasonably and substantially interfere(s) with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises” or could “injure health or be likely to injure health”, you can report the issue to your local authority. The council then has the duty of investigating your complaint, and could help with resolving the issue.

  • Step 5: Contact the police

Only something which should be done if the dispute in question includes your neighbour breaking the law through abusive or violent behaviour, getting the police involved can help to force the offending party to change their behaviour. It’s also an important safekeeping step to take, especially if you feel threatened or intimidated by your neighbour. If you do go to the police, it’s a good idea to share any information you’ve kept track of to help their case for taking formal enforcement actions. 

  • Step 6: Take legal action through the courts

Usually saved as a last resort due to it being an expensive and lengthy process, you may want to take legal action against your neighbour and take the issue to the courts. To do this, you’ll need to contact a solicitor, who will be able to advise on the right course of action for doing this.

Sell your property through SDL Property Auctions

Selling your property in the midst of a neighbour dispute can prove to be a real challenge, especially when selling on the open market through an estate agent. This is because the prolonged negotiations which take place in these sales allow enough time for the buyer to argue for a reduction in offering price, and there’s nothing protecting you from the buyer pulling out at the last minute if they decide it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

By contrast, auctions attract a wide range of buyers, from developers to landlords, who aren’t dissuaded from a purchase by neighbour squabbles. If you’re considering selling your property, whether you want to resolve the dispute officially first or not, you can contact our team to request a free, no-obligation valuation. Our experienced auctioneers are also available to provide advice on how to proceed with your sale, simply call us on 0800 046 5454 or send us an email at enquiries@sdlauctions.co.uk and we’ll be in touch.