Most of us enjoy a healthy relationship with our neighbours – whether this is just knowing there is someone we can call upon in an emergency, or we can rely upon to supply a missing essential ingredient mid cake-baking, or with whom we can share an impromptu bottle of wine on an otherwise uneventful Saturday night. However, for some homeowners, the primary reason for a house sale is to escape problem neighbours.
Sellers are encouraged to declutter and redecorate to make their home as attractive as possible to encourage prospective buyers. BUT how does a Seller deal with the dilemma of disclosing the fact of nuisance neighbours when their Conveyancer sends them the protocol Seller’s Property Information Form (SPIF) for completion carrying the following warning:-
“If you give incorrect or incomplete information to the buyer……the buyer may make a claim for compensation from you or refuse to complete the purchase”.
The SPIF specifically asks for information about disputes with neighbours. What amounts to a dispute is open to interpretation, but in general, if your neighbour has behaved in such a way that it has been necessary to involve the Authorities then the dispute must be declared. If the dispute was a “one-off” that has been resolved amicably then it may not necessarily need to be declared.
The SPIF form is a part of the contract between the Buyer and the Seller and a Buyer is entitled to rely on the information given by the Seller. Therefore, if issues that should have been declared come to light after the sale completes, the Buyer can take legal action against the Seller for false information / omitting to provide truthful replies. So, even if you move away, the problem is unlikely to go away.
Whether a claim brought by a Buyer would be successful raises other questions, but these situations can be stressful and also very costly. Therefore, it is recommended that a Seller deals with enquiries honestly – the Buyer can then decide for themselves how to proceed.
Quite often disputes are nothing more than a clash of personalities between homeowners, but a new buyer may find that the same neighbour behaves in a completely different way towards them. Furthermore, some people feel that certain things that their neighbours do are problematic, whilst others may not.
Some properties are subject to covenants imposing an obligation on homeowners not to do something/act or behave in a particular way so as to cause nuisance or annoyance to the owners and occupiers of the neighbouring or adjoining properties, but whether enforcement of the covenants or a claim for a breach of covenants can be brought, depends on a lot of factors.
If you are considering a house move and you have any particular queries or questions relating to your sale or purchase, please give us a call. We are here for you, when you need us.
Partner, Head of Residential Conveyancing Department