There Goes The Neighborhood -- When A Neighbor's Dilapidated Home Begins Depressing Your Property's Value
Real estate agents will often tell you that you're better off to purchase the worst house in an up-and-coming neighborhood rather than the best house in a neighborhood on the decline. If you've followed this advice with your last home purchase, you may be surprised and dismayed to discover that a neighbor is allowing his or her home to fall into disrepair -- or even actively accelerating this process by storing old cars or appliances in the yard. What should you do when your neighbor's negligence is beginning to affect your neighborhood's desirability (and your own home's value)? Do you have legal recourse to protect your investment? Read on to learn more about your options in this frustrating situation.
What options do you have when it comes to enforcing maintenance of your neighbor's home?
There are a few situations in which you may have some recourse against your neighbor without going to court.
If your neighborhood is governed by a homeowners association (HOA), there are likely a number of rules to which you (and your neighbors) agreed upon the purchase of your homes. While the HOA doesn't have the same enforcement authority as city, county, or state governments, it does have the power to levy fines against homeowners who fail to abide by HOA rules. These fines can be assessed for everything from keeping one's grass too high to painting one's house a non-approved color or allowing a broken fence railing to go unrepaired for more than a brief period of time.
In other cases, your neighbor's clutter or deferred maintenance may actually present a safety or environmental hazard. Inoperable vehicles left outside can leach oil, gasoline, and heavy metals into the groundwater, while trash bags of used diapers or other waste may be considered biohazardous. You'll want to research your city or county's building and environmental codes, and then contact the local division of code enforcement to pay your neighbor a visit. Like the HOA, code enforcement authorities can levy fines and civil penalties for failure to comply with orders. However, unlike the HOA, these code enforcement officers can summon your neighbor to court and even hold him or her in contempt (with a potential jail sentence) if he or she fails to clean up the home or pay these fines within the time period prescribed.
When should you consult an attorney about your neighbor's actions?
In some cases, code tickets and HOA fines may not be enough to prod your neighbor into cleaning up his or her home in a timely manner. If so, you may need to file a civil lawsuit using a company such as Jack W Hanemann, P.S. to prevent your neighbor's neglect to cause the property value of your home to depreciate even further. If you can show genuine economic damages (such as a drop in assessed value coinciding with your neighbor's accumulation of junk), you may be able to recover a financial judgment or a court order requiring your neighbor to clean up his or her home.