Rule Breaking Neighbors Going to Sell

by Athena

Visitor Question: How do I get the neighbors to fix /comply with our rules before they sell? I do not want to start any bad relationship with the next owners, so I want the issues fixed before the owner can sell.

Editors Reply: In this situation, you are correct in wanting to figure out how to have your current neighbors address any violations of the deed restrictions in your development.

As we constantly try to teach on this website, the only way to enforce deed restrictions is to go to court, either seeking an injunction (an order from a judge) or filing a lawsuit to push for compliance.

In your case, there may be an easier and much less expensive way. We suggest that you contact the real estate agent involved and make sure that he or she will well aware of the deed restrictions and the fact that at least from your perspective, the restrictions are being violated.

If you call the agent and you encounter any resistance at all, we suggest sending a certified letter. In that letter, you can copy and send your entire master deed or if that is lengthy, just the restrictions that you believe your neighbor is violating. Then also sending photos or whatever other evidence you can provide that the current owner is not complying with the rules of your subdivision.

If the agent is cooperative, we would hope that would be enough, but if these violations are important to you at all, you may want to follow up with a written letter to the agent anyway.

The second free or inexpensive thing you could do is to make your local government (county, city, village, or what have you) aware of the situation. Some local governments could not care less, as they insist correctly that it is not their legal responsibility to enforce deed restrictions.

But some governments will try to help. If you find your government is sympathetic, perhaps someone from the staff could contact the real estate agent on your behalf. We do not suggest that you rely solely on the staff member's word that they will do this, as sometimes good intentions are not followed through. But if a government employee reinforces the request, the real estate agent is more likely to take this seriously.

Another entity that might help with enforcement is the title company, but unless you live in a very small community where almost all legitimate sales are handled by the same title company, you are unlikely to be able to find out who that is unless the real estate agent involved tells you.

Hopefully by working with the real estate sales agent and your local government, you can avoid having to take this matter to court to force compliance with the deed restrictions in question.

Finally we will address what happens if you are not successful, and a new owner moves in without the situations being corrected. In your shoes, we would suggest that you very politely inform the new owner of the violations of the deed restrictions. Keep it non-confrontational, and be sympathetic if you think the new owner genuinely does not know about the situation. But we suggest a very early conversation about this matter with your new neighbor, because there is the possibility that the new neighbor would be able to sue the former neighbor or others involved in the real estate transaction, providing you don't let too much time go by after the sale.

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