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How to spot a difficult neighbour before buying a home

With more than 20 years of finding homes for clients throughout the UK, Jonathan Haward, founder and chairman of County Homesearch, says: “All our home buying agents are required to carry out discreet checks on neighbours, who may cause misery later on or in the worst scenario could actually reduce the value of a home by many thousands or even make it unsalable.”

According to the County Homesearch archive, the main causes of disputes are:

Hedges and trees – leylandii are a particular cause for disagreement as are overhanging trees and bushes
Shared access drives can lead to disputes over who is responsible for maintenance
Noise – an increasing problem as modern day sound systems and televisions are so powerful
Parking spaces – driveways obstructed or selfish parking in shared drives
Party walls – disputes arise over who is responsible for maintenance
Noisy pets – barking dogs left unattended are a frequent cause of disputes
Smells – blocked drains or broken septic tanks
Carol Peett, director for West Wales, comments: “I always make a point of visiting a house at different times of day and listening out. On one occasion a lovely house seemingly in a secluded position suffered from periodic noise from a quarry and when the wind was in the west you could hear the crashing of machinery.

“Another lovely river-side house had shared access and I heard that the neighbour was difficult and so warned my client. On another occasion I was looking at a property on behalf of a retired couple and noticed the house next door had a large trampoline in the garden. This set alarm bells ringing as it probably meant noisy children – who in law can not constitute a nuisance.

“I regard it as part of the job to find out everything I can about a property. I ask in the pub about the neighbours and will always inform our clients if there is a problem. Sellers are duty bound to reveal to their buyer if they have had a problem with a neighbour but only if the neighbour has been reported to the police or the local authority.”

Jonathan Haward adds: “We can carry out official checks on neighbours for a small fee if clients request this, but all our directors invariably try to find out what they can through informal enquiries and observation and visit a property at different times. It’s amazing what you can discover – that a house is situated on a rat run to a school or a motorway. Doing the homework on a house is vital if you want to preserve your sanity and protect your privacy.”

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