Disclosing a neighborhood nuisance

New owners may have little legal recourse to quell rowdy partiers

Barry Stone
Inman News™

DEAR BARRY: Our home inspector was a gem and saved us a lot of money by finding defects that should have been disclosed by the sellers. But now we’ve realized a problem that was beyond the scope of a home inspection, and which the sellers definitely should have disclosed: The family across the street has two delinquent kids who are on drugs, have drinking/pot parties on the porch and screaming fights on the front lawn, etc.

The house has a changing cast of seedy characters, and the police are there frequently. The neighbors are sick of it and say it has been going on for years.

Our sellers obviously knew about this, but said nothing. I realize this is not a home inspection question, but it does involve disclosure, so we’re wondering what you would advise. –Carolyn

DEAR CAROLYN: People often assume that disclosure requirements are limited to physical and functional defects, such as plumbing, roofing and foundation problems.

This assumption misses the purpose and intent of real estate disclosure. The essential idea is to inform buyers of any and all known conditions that could adversely affect the value or desirability of a property; anything that might influence a buyer’s decision to complete the purchase.

Common examples are noises caused by a nearby factory or by low-flying aircraft, unpleasant odors from a local sewage treatment plant or a feed lot, frequent burglaries in the neighborhood, or a registered sex offender known to be living on the block. Such disclosures would definitely be of concern to a prospective homebuyer.

The nuisance situation in your case clearly reduces the value and desirability of your property and could eventually affect your ability to sell the home to someone else. Legal recourse, however, is not a clear-cut consideration.

When someone fails to disclose a plumbing or roofing problem, the issues are readily solvable for measurable amounts of work and money. Your problem, however, is far more complicated. An adequate solution may not be attainable, but there are some possibilities.

The disgruntled members of your neighborhood could form a community action committee to address the problem collectively. You could begin by having the neighbors over for coffee and an exchange of ideas. Someone from the police department could address the meeting, offer advice and answer questions.

An attorney should be consulted regarding options available under law, and the matter should be discussed with your city council representative. This situation involves violations of law and should not be allowed to continue.

As for the sellers of your home, have your attorney send them a letter of warning; not as a preamble to legal action, but just to waken them to the serious nature of disclosure responsibilities.

DEAR BARRY: Our skylight was never fastened properly and has begun sliding down our roof. Some repair guidelines would be appreciated. Should we remove some of the shingles before reinstalling it? What kind of fasteners should we use? –Darin

DEAR DARIN: Repair prescriptions of this kind cannot be made without inspecting the problem at hand. Your best bet is to hire a licensed roofing contractor or a general building contractor. A qualified professional is more likely to install the skylight properly and ensure against future leakage.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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Copyright 2011 Barry Stone