Don’t wait until you’re ready to sell to try to fix neighbors’ homes

03/22/2014 11:23 AM

08/06/2014 10:26 AM

If your neighbor’s house has knee-high grass, dilapidated siding or a car up on blocks in the backyard, don’t wait until you’re ready to put your house on the market to try to get theirs fixed up, said Janet Johnson, supervisor of the Office of Community Engagement for the city of Wichita.

“I can’t tell you how many calls we get” from people who expect instant results from a complaint against a neighbor when they’re ready to put a for-sale sign in the yard, Johnson said.

“The No. 1 thing if you have a neighbor in violation of city ordinance concerning a house or a yard, you have got to report that early,” Johnson said. “… It’s a judicial process, and the people have to have due process, and it can take months. If we don’t get a compliance, it has to go to court, and the wheels really slow down at that point.”

And if there’s a big problem with the house, such as with a roof or siding, the court will require only that progress is being made on the repair, not that it be fixed all at once, Johnson said.

“For major housing things, people often don’t have the finances to make repairs all at one time. That doesn’t help you when you’re trying to sell the house next door.”

Easier-to-fix complaints include trash in the yard and a lack of mowing, Johnson said.

Grass must be maintained at a height of no more than 12 inches, for example, and inoperable cars are not allowed on property except in an enclosed structure, according to Wichita ordinances.

For most complaints, the homeowner has 30 days to respond, Johnson said.

One violation of city ordinance that people often are not aware of is leaving trash cans or carts on the curb, Johnson said. According to ordinance, the cans need to be pulled back the same day the trash is picked up.

Another point of confusion for people is that the city cannot enforce homeowners association bylaws; the association has to do that, Johnson said.

If you have a good relationship with your neighbors, it’s best if you approach them first yourself and ask them to correct problems, Johnson said. If not, though, the city prefers to be contacted. “We don’t want to start neighborhood feuds.”

If you are shopping for a house, you can go to the city website https://business.wichita.gov/CRM/CustomerService/default.aspx and enter addresses of houses to see if there’s been enforcement activity there, Johnson said.

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