10 Common property disputes (and their resolutions)

Whether it's neighbours from hell or issues over joint-ownership we delve into these 10 common property disputes and their resolutions.

7
minute read
Last updated:
August 24, 2020

Have you taken the plunge and purchased a piece of property?

Congratulations!

You’ve found yourself a true home.

But wait.

With property ownership, unfortunately, comes property ownership disputes. Whether it be from neighbours, estate agents, the council or even the previous owners, property disputes and problems naturally arise as the years pass.

The first thing you should know is that, if absolutely necessary, we can help. We buy any house - meaning we won't be scared off by any of the issues covered here.

Hopefully though we can help you fix these issues yourself. Have a read through this before making any major decision.

So what are these property disputes and what can you do when they bubble up?


"This is not my beautiful house!"

Let’s start right at the beginning of property ownership by examining some of the conflicts that can arise immediately after you've bought your home.

Dispute #1: The property you bought is dirty, full of damp, or has other serious issues.

This is a very common dispute. You agree to some type of sale, and when you move in the place looks like a student house after a big night. At the viewing it looked great - but the issues may have been cleverly concealed.

RESOLUTION

Unfortunately, there’s not much to be done here. Unless specifically detailed in the contract the seller doesn’t need to provide a spotless domicile it was also on the onus for you to find any serious issues prior to purchase.

The best advice? Get in there early and clean it before you start the move in process to prevent any disputes with the previous owner - which you're unfortunately unlikely to win.

Dispute #2: Some of the vital elements that you expected to come with the property aren’t there.

On day one, when you move in, you were expecting the washing machine to be there in the corner, or the dining room set that was promised from the previous seller is gone.

RESOLUTION

It’s a legal one - go and get the contract that you signed with the seller. In that contract, the seller should have specified which house fixtures - washing machine, oven, microwave, furniture - would come along with the house. If those are missing, it’s the seller’s obligation to provide them to you, the buyer. Go back to your solicitor and let them know. They'll get in touch with the seller's solicitor and start sorting it out with them. They either need to give you the things if that's what was promised, or compensate you for them.

Dispute #3: Wait, this place is damaged!

You’ve moved in, and there’s some portion of the property is significantly broken, battered or bruised - maybe a portion of the roof, or a door, or a broken window or something similar.

That’s certainly not ideal.

RESOLUTION

Again, check the paperwork. If the damage occurred in the period between when you signed the contracts and when you moved in, you should be covered by insurance. Make your claim, and retrieve the money that’s owed to you. If it was there when you agreed to buy but you'd missed it, then unfortunately it falls on you to fix the issue.


That's not neighbourly!

Odds are, your neighbours will be perfectly lovely people that you’ll be excited to share a pint, cup of tea or even a bag of sugar with if the need arises. However … with property ownership there’s always the chance that there’ll be a tiff with one of them over some situation or another that occurs.

That’s just a fact of human nature.

Here are some of the common property disagreements that may come up with your neighbours.

Dispute #4: There’s some type of nature - a tree or a bush - on their property, and you don’t like what it’s doing to your property.

Boundary disputes are common one.

Let’s say your neighbour has a massive tree in their backyard, and it’s blocking the view or the sunlight that’s on your land, therefore disrupting the view or the atmosphere of your dream house.

RESOLUTION

First, check with your local council. Make sure that there’s no historical preservation order on that piece of nature that’s blocking your view. If there is, no-one can touch it. If there’s not, then you speak with your neighbour about removing it, or having it trimmed back. Hopfully they agree - but if they don't there's not much you can do.

Remember that - you can remove the piece of the tree or bush that resides on your property.

Check the contract, and double-check the boundary limits of your property before you arrange for any cutting. Also, be aware that it’s at least neighbourly to engage in a conversation between your neighbours before you do any sort of chopping. That tree that's a nuisance to you could be part of your neighbour's view that they enjoy... So communication is usually a good idea.

Oh, and one more note - if a tree from your neighbour's land is cut down, they have the right to keep all of the branches that are cut down - so don't start making a grand victory bonfire with them just yet.

Dispute #5: My neighbour and I share something that’s in need of repair. Who pays?

Let’s say you’re on a piece of property with a neighbour, and you share a backyard / step / fence or some other element that may get damaged. What happens when those need repairs?

RESOLUTION

This is one in which communication is absolutely essential to prevent property disputes. Engage with your neighbour and determine who is responsible for the damage (if any), and then work up a contract with the company or service provider that will work the repairs, outlining exactly what each party will owe for the repairs.

Dispute #6: I have to get onto that land to fix something!

What happens if you need to get on to your neighbour’s land to fix a busted pipe or something vital for your own property, and they’re hesitant?

RESOLUTION

The law responds to this one! Let’s look at the language for 1992’s Access to Neighbouring Land Act, detailed so very well by the government themselves: If you have need to the land for any of those basic “preservation works”, then the court can order the access. Solicitors may have to be involved in this effort if your neighbour's unreasonable - but hopefully you'll have a helpful neighbour happy to let you make the fixes you need.

Dispute #7: Hey, wait, I think that’s on my property!

Disputes about the exact limits of your property can often arise when either you or your neighbour want to erect a wall.

RESOLUTION: Again, check the documents. The government has a fine primer on the subject here and you can also get more information on boundary disputes here on the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyor’s website.


"All those agents!"

If you're looking to sell your home then it's probably necessary to get an estate agent involved. Unfortunately there’s always a chance you’ll have some type of dispute with them that may bleed over into your daily life.

Here are some of those common scenarios, and what to do about them.

Dispute #8: Wait, I was sure that piece of property was worth more.

What happens when you’re ready to sell and you’re astonished at the low price they value your home at. That piece of news can do serious damage to your bottom line.

RESOLUTION

Do your research. Check similar prices in your neighbourhood and for your piece of property and plan likewise. Additionally, don’t just go with the first valuation from the agent - engage multiple agencies and choose wisely.

The other option?

Don’t use an agent at all.

Check for other options. You can bypass the estate agent process entirely and just sell your house fast (we want to buy it). By coming to us you don’t have to deal with the pains of the process - no viewings, no hassle, no fees, no relying on the property chain, etc. Although in exchange for the speed, certainty and peace-of-mind, you can expect to receive a lower price.

Dispute #9: So, I switched estate agents in the middle of the process. Am I going to have to pay my old agent?

Let’s play this scenario out.

If you’re selling a property you engage one agent. They do a couple of viewings buy there are no offers. You decide to switch to a different agent for one reason or another. Later on, those people the original agent showed the property to decide to buy.

Do you have to pay commission to both the original agent AND the current agent?

RESOLUTION

Well, this is a tricky one, and there’s actually no perfect answer for this.

The best advice?

It takes careful consideration and study of the contract signed and the local regulations. What should probably happen is that the original agent who found that buyer in the first place should get their fee. This means the new agent - who failed to sell - should step aside.

But it can be more complicated. What if the 2nd agent also showed those people around, and got the offer from them and negotiated the price? In that instance it might be the original agent who needs to step aside. After all, they showed them around and didn't get you an offer - whereas the 2nd agent did.

It might be one for the agents to sort out between themselves... Sometimes a 50-50 split between them is the fairest way. It means you only pay one fee, and each agent gets paid a share of their fee for doing half the job.


"Joint ownership, what's my share?"

Let’s say you’re jumping in a buying a property with a friend or a partner. If this happens it opens up a whole new can of property dispute worms.

Dispute #10: Wait, what type of ownership should this type of ownership be?

Let’s start off at the beginning - if you’re going to own property with someone, what is the type of ownership that you’re in?

Here they are:

  • Sole Proprietor - one person is named on the title as the sole owner.
  • Joint Tenants - If one of you passed away the other person automatically gets 100% ownership of the property. This is also known as "right of ownership". Wills are void in this scenario and this is most common with married couples and civil partnerships.
  • Tenants in Common - A share of the ownership of the property is divided between the owners. If one person passes away then their share of the property passes on through their will.
RESOLUTION

Getting it right in the first place is the best way of resolving property disputes. Hopefully the information above will help: Match the different ownership types up with the right one for your relationship.

Wait, that could get sticky...

What if we chose Tenants in Common but now one of us wants to sell?

Preparation is key in this case. Make sure that the contract is clear on the terms for all parties in case someone wants to offload the property.

You can check out the government’s page on this relationship here.

Remember, it is possible to change from the Joint Tenant relationship to a Tenant in Common Relationship and vice-versa if you need to.

I'm done with disputes - I just want out

Well, depending on your issue, feeling that way may be justified. So what are your options? 

You can sell the traditional way - through an estate agent. Just remember that many of the issues discussed here will need to be disclosed to your eventual buyer. This may make the property a little harder to sell - but it's necessary. (The last thing you want is another property dispute a year down the line when your buyer finds out what was concealed and starts pursuing you).

An alternative is our service. We buy any home - meaning we're not deterred by any of these issues. This is perfect if you just want to get moving quickly and be done with it. We can make you an offer quickly, then buy from you in a timeframe to suit you (as little as 2-3 weeks).

Click that link to read more about our service, or get in touch by hitting one of those big blue "Get An Offer" buttons and entering your details. If all else fails, we can help.

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