Saturday, 13 June 2009

Nothing to declare?

When selling our homes, we, naturally, want to emphasise the positives: the new boiler, the great local school, the deceptively spacious shed. And one thing we do not want to discuss is the awful neighbour who has driven us mad moaning about access to his back passage and deliberately, probably, broke our downpipe when he was cleaning out his guttering last autumn.

But what about truly apalling, psycho neighbours who actually drive you from your home? There is a form in the HIP bundle to cover disputes with neighbours and, theoretically at least, we have a legal duty to warn buyers that Fred next door plays thrash metal from six til six and, when remonstrated with, has threatened to cook and eat the livers of our children.

I've been in this situation once, when living in a flat in Clapham North. The terribly helpful (read desperate to sell to anyone at any price) vendor assured us that the neighbours were a very nice young couple. Well, I have to admit that they were relatively young, sometimes a couple, and I didn't really get to know them well enough to appraise their characters. However, the report she gave didn't really prepare me for living next to a prostitute and her crack dealing pimp. We lasted about a year, then moved out, and we didn't, I will admit, tell the people we sold to anything about the neighbours.

But a recent court case would suggest that the law in this regard is completely toothless anyway.

Poor Sophie Duffy, from Amersham, was assured that the nextdoor neighbour, a Mr Mack, was 'quiet as a mouse'. The owner even filled in an official form saying she did not know of any dispute with neighbours. Which was a strange oversight as the owner had, in fact, been to the police several times saying that she was 'concerned for her safety' after her neighbour had thrown stones and her window, kicked the fence separating their gardens, and threatened to kill her.

However, Judge Andrew Rutherford ruled that the disturbances caused by Mr Mack were not 'ongoing', and so the vendor did not have to mention them on the form. Which left Miss Duffy with a legal bill of £29,000.

One positive, however, was that the said noisy and agressive neighbour decided to go home and live with his mum, who, one hopes, can put up with his youthful high spirits, and will not be forced to sell her own home to get away from him. However, if you're thinking of buying and the neighbour is a Mrs Mack, don't necessarily believe what it says on the form.

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