Are Your Neighbors Costing You Money? Here’s How They Might Be

By Melissa Brock

You might be aware from personal experience that next-door neighbors can be the most wonderful BFFs or they could be a huge nuisance. But did you ever stop to consider how they might cost you money? From kids who wander over to your house uninvited (hello, liability!) to pets who wander untethered, here’s how it’ll cost you and how you can avoid it. 

Free-range next-door neighbor kids

Are you surprised? Sweet little Minnie from next door showed up again — unsupervised — in your backyard. You have to leave to take your own kiddos to piano lessons and she wanders onto your trampoline, cannonballs off of it and breaks her leg. Guess who could be liable? Yep, you. (Trampolines, tree houses and other similar features in your yard may not fit neatly into a homeowners insurance claim, due to safety issues.) 

Injured trespassers can bring a personal injury lawsuit against you, depending on how they are injured. Court awards and settlements in these types of cases typically range from $3,000 to $75,000, according to lawyer.com.

Read your homeowners insurance policy carefully to find out what it covers. Consider getting a personal umbrella policy to protect yourself if you have less-than-eagle-eyed parents next door. Things happen, even if you are home to make sure the kids aren’t doing anything they’re not supposed to be.

Ms. Sue Happy lives next door

Did you move in next door to Ms. Happy? That is, Ms. Sue Happy? You might be bewildered to learn that you’ve moved next door to someone who has her civil litigation attorney programmed into her phone. But if you did — watch out. Here are a few common ways your litigious neighbor might cost you money.

Property lines

Have you started hammering up a fence — and Ms. Sue Happy isn’t — you guessed it — happy about it?

Be sure you know exactly where your property lines are. Within centimeters. Think you’re 100 percent sure you know exactly where the property lines fall? Even if do, hire a surveyor anyway. He or she will be able to provide you with documented proof of where your property lines are. It’ll cost anywhere from $100 to $900 to hire a surveyor — but that could be cheaper than getting involved in a lawsuit.

Your beloved (problem) dog

You love Zeke, your French bulldog, but he’s got a bad habit of barking all day — and all night. Your neighbors may have tried to be neighborly about it, even offering to pay for a shock collar (gasp!) but they’ve reached the end of their rope. Ms. Sue Happy may try to sue you through small claims court. 

There’s no formula for what this might cost you. You might pay for Ms. Happy’s sleep loss or other intangibles. Besides barking, you might even pay for Zeke’s other transgressions — the cost of six dug-up peony bushes or chewed-up siding. These annoyances can add up. 

Try to work with your neighbor if he or she is anything like Ms. Happy. Promise to keep Zeke from barking, scratching and digging — and stick to your pledge. 

Water damage

Did your youngest leave the sprinkler on all night and flood Ms. Happy’s yard? Or did your husband carefully landscape the entire side yard and as a consequence, quadruple the amount of water on Ms. Happy’s property? 

Unfortunately, you’re liable if the damage is “unreasonable,” which means a judge could decide that you’ve done something unwarranted or unnecessary and award her damages.

Your kids

Be sure your kids are constantly supervised whenever they’re in the neighborhood. Keep them out of Ms. Happy’s yard and make sure they respect Ms. Happy’s property and other belongings. Ms. Happy could get litigious with you over your kids, too.

The Two Extremes: Sloppy Sam and Perfect Pat

You might lose money if you have neighbors like Sloppy Sam or Perfect Pat — and here’s how.  

Sloppy Sam

Does Sloppy Sam have a hard time remembering to mow his yard, prune his bushes and keep the paint on his house fresh? 

On the one hand, you might think, “To each his own,” and not get too annoyed when you see it out your window every day. 

But what happens when you try to sell your house? Potential buyers might not love the view of Sloppy Sam’s rusty tractor sinking into the ground from your kitchen window. 

Perfect Pat

On the one hand, Perfect Pat may seem like the ideal neighbor. Her gorgeous flower beds never sport weeds, she maintains perfect hedgerows and makes sure her home is spotless. And you — you’re just trying to hold it together. Your front porch is a little cluttered, your flower beds are weedier than you’d like and your roof needs replaced.

Potential buyers might do a mental comparison between your house and Perfect Pat’s right off the bat — even as they pull into your driveway to tour your home. 

Perfect Pat and Sloppy Sam might (in different ways) affect your ability to get the most money out of your home. Either way, you could lose out on the best offer possible — whether you have a neighbor who doesn’t take care of his home or if yours is the most unkempt in the neighborhood.  

Know How to Protect Yourself 

So, what’s the best way to make sure you avoid these situations? From the very beginning of your neighborly relationship, have open, honest communication with your neighbors. Be as respectful as possible of your neighbor and his or her property. You may spend a lifetime living next door to this person, so it’s important to make sure that you develop a good relationship. 

Melissa is a Midwesterner with a penchant for travel (the further away, the better!). She's the Money Editor at Benzinga and likes to write about personal finance and entrepreneurship.

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