Most neighborhoods have one. That house. The ugliest house in the neighborhood. The eyesore on the block that all of the other neighbors call “that house” when you discuss the owner and what is happening on their neighborhood. The ugliest house in my neighborhood is right next door. The paint is chipping off, peppering the foot high lawn that are slowly swallowing randomly left behind toys, empty bottles and aluminum cans. The garage door the owner ran into last winter that once hid the disarray kept inside broken and exposing all of its content through the cracked wood and broken glass. Of course, the external beauty of the house could only pale in comparison to the chicken coup they put together out of scrap wood, plastic containers and a roll of chicken wire. Before we knew it, the only sound louder that the rooster in the chicken coup next door was the sound of my property value dropping.
What can you do to protect your investment when someone in your neighborhood is clearly not concerned about his or hers? Depending on where you live, it can be a complicated and lengthy process. This is one reason many people opt to buy where they are under the covenants and restrictions of a homeowners association. Although it can be frustrating to have to ask permission to make changes or improvements to your own home, it offers the security that your neighbors have to maintain their property to a certain standard that you know when you buy.
Those of us who chose to live restriction free could have a lot more work ahead to protect our property when our neighbors are restriction free as well. A good relationship with all of your neighbors is always helpful. If you are all on the same page, you can present a united front. If your neighbor is receptive, you could address them directly and try to resolve the issue. However, if you are like me and your neighbor is not at all interested in anyone’s opinion of the condition of his property, you may have to escalate things further.
It does not require specialized knowledge, nor a real estate license to find a solution to this particular type of problem. However, an effective solution might require research and a little creative thinking.
You should research the building codes in your city, county, or township. Most areas have restrictions against things that could help you force a cleanup of your neighbor’s property. If the lawn is too overgrown, they may be putting the other homes in the neighborhood at an increased risk for fire, or possibly a vermin infestation, especially if there is garbage left around. Building codes in your area may require them to repair broken windows or doors. Circulate a petition in your neighborhood and seek the help of your city councilman, township supervisor, or other elected official.
My neighbors and I were able to get the ugliest house on our block cleaned up some. The lawn was mowed and the garbage removed. We could not get rid of the rooster, but a call to our local humane society motivated them to provide proper (and a bit more attractive) accommodations for the chickens. A victory for our property value, a loss for sleeping late on Sunday mornings.
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About David Goldstein — David Goldstein is an Owner and Founding Partner of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.