For any property seller, a smooth, hassle-free transaction is what you are after above all else. There are a number of things that must be done to ensure this is the case, but one thing that may be overlooked or ignored is neighbourly disputes.
There are certain protocols sellers must follow when it comes to declaring neighbourly disputes. As a seller, you have a duty to inform potential buyers about any disputes you've had with your neighbours that have involved official bodies. If you fail to do so, you could be sued at a later date, so it’s not something that should ever be skirted around.
That said, what needs to be declared and what doesn’t is somewhat of a grey area, left open to interpretation.
Nevertheless, given the financial implications you could face if you don't inform your buyers of neighbourly disputes, it's a wise move to have a good understanding of what exactly your legal obligations are.
If you’ve been involved in a full-on dispute with a troublesome neighbour, a dispute that official bodies have had to step in to mediate, then you are obliged to declare this on the form your solicitor sends you. This form is known as the Seller's Property Information Form (or SPIF), which sellers have to complete carefully, honestly and fully before any house sale can go ahead.
As we said, what constitutes a dispute and what doesn't is left open to interpretation, but there a few general rules that are useful to abide by. If you’ve made a complaint to the council or another authority about the behaviour of your neighbours, then you must declare this on the SPIF. What’s more, if you have contacted them directly in writing, this too must be declared.
The majority of issues revolve around boundary disputes (disputes which involve land or fence/hedges) or disputes to do with shared house maintenance (usually concerning repairs to shared facilities such as gutters, communal space, gardens or drains). In the latter case, this is far more of an issue for leasehold properties, of the sort you find in apartment and flat blocks and new-build housing estates. Most disputes on a SPIF are likely to concern the above.
There are, though, things that prospective buyers don't need to be made aware of. For example, if you’ve had an issue with a neighbour which has been resolved amicably, you are under no obligation to declare this on the SPIF.
By the same token, you might have once had a neighbour who was prone to holding really wild, noisy parties well into the early hours of the morning. This, however, is no longer a problem, with such parties no longer held. In this scenario, you don’t need to declare anything to would-be buyers.
Additionally, and just to make things a little bit more blurred, there are certain neighbourly issues that are entirely subjective. This includes noise, pets and children. While you may have been sent stir-crazy by the crying of your next-door neighbour’s baby or the loud barking of their dog, your buyer (who may have pets or young children themselves) may not have any issues with such things. As a result of the subjectivity of the issues at hand, you are under no obligation to inform would-be buyers of any of the above.
If you are still unsure about any of this, please speak to your solicitor or estate agent for further advice and reassurance. They will point you in the right direction as to what definitely needs to be declared and what doesn’t.
The SPIF is a major part of the legal contract between you and your buyer. As such, it’s important to get it right first time to ensure there are no complications or issues at a later date
A buyer can still sue you years after you’ve moved out, if you sold them a home and didn’t declare any neighbourly disputes, so it’s not something that you are able to run away from. There’s no point in cutting corners or taking any gambles where the declaration of neighbourly disputes is concerned.
At Kings Group, we’re on hand to offer expert advice and local knowledge to ensure your house sale goes off without a hitch. To find out more about selling your property in North London, East London, Hertfordshire or Essex, please get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook. Or, alternatively, contact your local Kings Group branch.
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