How your neighbours can reduce the value of your home

Everyone needs good neighbours - but not everyone has them

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How neighbours can reduce the value of your home

Forewarned is forearmed so before you next come to buy or sell a property, take a look at these 10 ways that neighbours can reduce the value of your home:

1) Causing subsidence.

Building work by your neighbours can cause your property to subside, especially if you live in an adjoining building. This can cost £50,000 or more to put right, reduce the value of your home dramatically, and even make it impossible to sell. If your neighbours are planning to excavate their cellar or digging near your property, check whether you are entitled to ask a party wall surveyor - at your neighbour's expense - to ensure the work is carried out safely and any damage caused is put right by your neighbours.

2) Objecting to building work.

One of the easiest ways to add value to your property is to build an extension and the good news is, the Government recently introduced new legislation which makes it much easier to do this - as long as your neighbours don't scupper your plans. The legislation entitles house-owners to extend their properties by six to eight metres (depending on the property) without planning permission, but only if neighbours do not object. If your neighbours do object, the council can refuse to give permission you would otherwise be automatically entitled to.

3) Noise disputes and 4) Anti-social behaviour.

Unfortunately, if you have made a formal complaint about your neighbours' behaviour (for example, to the council, the police, a solicitor or the landlord/managing agent of the building), you may find it more difficult to get a good price for your property. This is because, when you come to sell, your buyer's solicitor will ask you to fill in a Sellers' Property Information Form and declare any previous or current disputes with neighbours, as well as any issues that could lead to a dispute. If you refuse to fill in the form, then the buyer's solicitor will probably advise the buyer to threaten to pull out. If you then fail to mention a relevant dispute, particularly when there is clear evidence it has occurred, then you could be sued by your buyers at a later date (as one homeowner did recently). Any dispute you do declare could affect how much a buyer is prepared to pay for your property. It is best to be honest but also to be able to emphasise that the matter has been resolved, ideally amicably. Another approach to resolve noisy neighbour problems is to soundproof your ceiling and walls, which will reassure buyers.

5) Making the neighbourhood look unsafe.

According to a study of estate agents by Churchill home insurance, broken or boarded up windows in the house next door is "the number one neighbouring property price killer". Similarly, if your neighbour has bars on their windows or even a burglar alarm, it sends out a very clear message that the neighbourhood has been targeted by thieves, which is likely to make buyers think twice about paying the asking price.

6) Creating an eyesore.

"Although the adjoining property won't be your responsibility, if it is in disrepair or is not being maintained as it should be, it could affect the value of your property," warns Laura Hamilton, presenter of Beat My Build on Channel 4. Indeed, the estate agents surveyed by Churchill estimated that an unsightly or poorly maintained neighbouring property could reduce the price of

a home by 13% on average. If you are doing work to spruce up your property before you sell, why not offer to get your neighbour a quote for the work they need at the same time? If it's something simple like an overgrown garden, it might be worth your while to offer to help fix it yourself for free. Just bear in mind you can't force them to do anything unless the problem is damaging your own property, and you can prove it.

7) Hoarding or fly-tipping rubbish in the garden.

This is particularly problematic for buyers, not least because it can attract wild animals and rodents. It could massively reduce the value of your home but it's difficult to get resolved. You can report the problem to the Environmental Health department of your local council but even if the council serves an enforcement notice to clear the garden, your neighbour can successfully appeal this - as this hoarder found to his delight. You can pay the council to poison any rodents in your property, but you may find they keep coming back if the problem next door isn't resolved.

8) Leaseholder problems.

If you are a leaseholder, your fellow leaseholders can devalue your home by failing to pay their share of the buildings insurance or refusing to keep the common parts clean and tidy, which can make it difficult to sell. Your freeholder is responsible for forcing each leaseholder to pay up, so take them to court if they don't manage this properly.

9) Growing nuisance plants.

Watch out for large conifers and Japanese knotweed in neighbouring gardens, which can cause subsidence. Similarly, some hedges, such as leylandii, can grow to 40 feet high and significantly block out all your sunlight. What's more, you have no right to direct sunlight (only daylight) so cannot force your neighbours to remove a tree, unless you have firm evidence it is damaging your property.

10) Boundary disputes.

Boundary disputes can seriously undermine the value of your property. "Make sure you are clear on where the boundary lines of your property are and also which side of the boundary is yours to maintain," says Hamilton. "All of this information can be found on the deeds." If you do get into a boundary dispute, be wary of getting drawn into a legal battle where you run up thousands of pounds in legal costs. For example, a couple from Solihull recently ran up £140,000 in legal bills arguing about a fence, only to agree in court it could stay where it was. Bear in mind any future buyers will find out about the dispute and try to be realistic about how much the problem is likely to devalue your property before you start spending money trying to resolve the issue. Use a mediation service as a first step or contact the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) boundary dispute helpline on 0870 333 1600.

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