Sam Dunn: ‘Will noisy neighbours prevent us from selling our home?’

House Doctor
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The Independent Online

Question: We’re trying to sell our house and are very worried that our problem neighbours could scupper a sale; we’ve had constant issues over noise and rowdiness, as well a few personal run-ins, which we’ve let the council know about. Do we have to mention this to our buyer’s solicitor or in the HIP? We really don’t want to dredge up such a difficult topic to potential buyers. DV, Lancs.

Answer: No-one likes a noisy neighbour but nasty ones can do untold damage. When home life becomes unbearable because of rotten relations with next door, it can cause stress and sleeplessness. While Annual research by Halifax suggests as many as roughly one in six has suffered serious problems with neighbours this year – its highest number in 12 years and down to higher unemployment caused by the recession and a spike in short-term rental leases.

Excessive noise, vulgar or aggressive behaviour and ‘hijacking’ of boundaries through illegal building or structural work were the three most common causes of conflict, it found. You, at least, hope to move away from your nightmare neighbour but they could – still – sadly be disruptive: you’ve a legal duty to report their behaviour to any potential buyer. When you sell a house, a document called the ‘Property Information Form’ must be completed, says property lawyer Richard Atkins at Taylor Walton solicitors; this is where you must spill the beans. “In this form, in which you must give upfront information to the buyer’s solicitor, it poses a question about any disputes you may have had with your neighbours,” he says.

“While a few cross words won’t merit mention, any official complaints or disputes logged with the council must be included.”And although it may be tempting to omit details of disputes to protect your sale, warns Richard Morea at broker London & Country, any omissions could cost you.“

The form also states that the buyer is entitled to rely on the information you give, so leaving out potentially harmful information such as neighbour disputes, would leave you vulnerable to a claim of misrepresentation or breach of contract.” This is where it gets messy and see you end up in court.

First, if your buyer were to uncoversuch missing information prior to completion, they could refuse to complete the purchase - leaving you out of pocket.

Second, imagine the sale goes through and the buyer later runs into the same neighbourly difficulties you’ve encountered and subsequently discovers you withheld this in the forms – the actual cost of being caught withholding information can be considerable, Morea adds. “You’re faced with a tough situation, but the best course of action is to be honest, as by doing so you are more likely to see a sale,” says James Brooks at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward.