Trying to sell a property with nightmare neighbours

Our family inherited a property in a tiny rural hamlet. The property is in a no through road, and is attached to the neighbours’ property. The neighbours are extremely unpleasant people who took huge advantage during lockdown when we were unable to visit: fly grazing their horse on our land and stabling it in our barn; using our water [while we cannot prove this was them, it 100% was]; and fly tipping in a hangar on our land.
When we finally were able to go to France, we obviously insisted that they clear away the huge pile of their debris in our barn, and they (finally) agreed they would. The house is on the market and not only is the rubbish compromising it aesthetically, it obviously sends a red flag to any potential buyers that the neighbours could be an issue. However, our estate agent reported today that the pile has actually got bigger in the five months since they agreed to move it, sending us photographs as proof. The man actually owns a digger and a flatbed truck, and the local dump is just a few km away.
My understanding is that the French government has become extremely hot on fly tipping, and the standard thing to do would be to report it (I believe you report issues like this to the local mayor’s office in the first instance). However, I am also aware that after a recent law change, if you have any official disputes with neighbours in France you now have to declare them when selling (as in the UK).
So what to do?
I would be grateful if anyone can advise me on the best way forward. And, please, don’t suggest a heavy mob - that’s definitely not us!
Many thanks.

I’m afraid that if you intentionality cover up or fail to disclose problems with neighbours this might be considered a “dol”, intentional dissimulation or fraud. Which could cause the new proprietors to get the sale cancelled. Doesn’t have to have gone as far as a court case.

I know that appallingly noisy neighbours is included in this, so you need to check with a reputable source whether this extends to litter and nuisance behaviour. Because if so it could make no difference if you lodge a complaint against them as you would have to tell any prospective purchasers anyway.

My personal opinion is that better to try to get the place cleaned up, maybe do some work to define your boundaries if that’s an issue, and then tell purchasers that there was a problem but it has been resolved. But could be worth €100 on serious legal advice.

As you say, a huge pile of rubbish will be a red flag so most buyers would walk away.

This from website of avocat specialising in housing is what you need to ask about

2) Les vices du consentement : si l’acheteur avait connu l’existence de ce défaut lors de la vente, il n’aurait à l’évidence pas acheté le bien. Il faut distinguer l’erreur du dol. Pour l’erreur, le vendeur ignorait l’existence du vice. Pour le dol, le vendeur connaissait le défaut et a tout fait pour le cacher à l’acquéreur. Il peut s’agir de manœuvres positives ou d’un mensonge par omission.

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Good fences make good neighbours. As @JaneJones says, is it possible to get it cleared, redefine boundaries and get it fenced? The money spent now may well make the sale easier and you may get a better price. Otherwise, someone will always buy a property if the price is right. You may just have to manage your expectations about what you will sell the property for.

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I would agree on spending a little (dosn’t have to be a great deal ) and defining your boundaries so that it can send a signal to these people you mean business. However, France is notorious for neighbour disputes and can rumble on for years and years without ever being settled. Have you approached them and offered an olive branch in so much as an invite for an apero to discuss amiably what you intend to do, they maybe pleased you are selling and you could invite a third party along to observe and help. People are defensive when they are afraid of the unknown and yes, the neighbour maybe the most obnoxious person but they ought to be approached and not attacked. Legal costs will wipe out anything you make on the sale as you will be most likely paying inheritance taxes too so tread warily and always remember than in small hamlets/communes people are often all related to each other so watch who you complain to. There is a mediator who works as a neutral party and can summon or visit both parties together to try and sort disputes out before going the legal route.


Hi @Esther and welcome to the forum

I’m wondering if you can rethink your plans.
Perhaps take the property off the market, while you sort out the boundaries and get the place tidied (and hopefully make peace with the neighbours).

Is there any member of the family who could be on-site for a reasonable length of time?
It can help enormously to have someone actually on-site, rather than the overseas-absent-owner trying to arrange things from afar.

and it’s quite possible that the neighbours are interested in acquiring the property, but on their own terms… hence the increase in rubbish…

best of luck


Would be interesting for someone to be able to ask around about this family, find out who they’re connected to and their general reputation.

As Shiba and Stella have kind of said, they could be well known as a problem family in the area and if not, this could be a tactic.

As an architect, I’m sure that a “dol” in a house transaction can only exist if there is an actual and huge problem on the construction itself, first, and second, if the vendor actively hid the problem, by maneuver, lie or omission.

The potential lack of sociability of the neighbours is not part of the contract. About neighbours, what can make part of the contract is a shared path, a shared wall, a shared fence, a passage permit to the neighbour on your own land… You should NOT hide this kind of feature to your buyer knowledge, here you can have a “dol”. By the way, this is also the work of the “notaire” to check exhaustively this kind of requirements that come with the land and the constructions.

When the law mentions a defect that can affect the loyalty of the contract, it must be about something that is actually part of the contract. Your neighbour is not.


Yes it is. Lots of case law about these sorts of issues, tied up with your right to Jouissance. For example:

Many thanks for your considered responses – and your kindness in taking the time to write them.

Just to clarify a few points raised.

• The neighbours are actually British, not French.
• Our initial approach was polite and friendly. As time wore on, we became more business-like. Finally, when the rubbish was still piled up on the day they knew the estate agent was coming to take pictures, I did descend into full-on fish wife.
• It would be difficult (although not impossible) to fence in the area where they dump (it is located across the road from ours and the neighbours’ house). It would, however be expensive as it’s a fairly extensive plot. Anything less than robust I imagine they’d just “accidentally” knock down.
• Unfortunately, we are unable to, nor do we know anyone who would be able to, stay at the property for an extended period of time in order to try and resolve the situation.
• The house is as market ready as possible. We spent a week working practically non-stop on it and left it in very good order.
• The neighbours are interested in buying part of the property: the hangar and land opposite the houses. However:
a) The estate agent warned us against parcelling off the plot as it would make it less attractive to potential buyers.
b) If we agreed, the neighbours would then have even more free rein to dump as much as they like on the land opposite the property, and our chances of selling would be further diminished.

The last thing we want to do is deliberately mislead potential buyers. I am now thinking we should write to the neighbours, telling them our estate agent has sent us photographic evidence that they have failed to remove the junk heap as agreed, and that they have X days to remove it or we will report them to the mayor’s office in the first instance.

What do we have to lose? If they do move it, we can tell potential buyers there had been an issue which has now been resolved. If they don’t, it’s going to be blindingly obvious there’s a neighbour issue anyway.

Shiba, this “mediator” you mention - is that an official service?


Hello Esther,

Seems to me that what you need is a bit of leverage. You mentioned that your neighbour has a digger and a flat bed truck. Do you know what he uses these for ? Is he involved in some sort of business ? Does he keep the vehicles at his home ? Is the property in a zone where running a business from home is permitted ? Does he have a swimming pool that has been declared to the Taxe Foncier folks ?
How long has the neighbour lived there ? What is his apparent means of financial support ? Does your neighbour appear to live in a style beyond his apparent financial means ?
I suggest doing some homework to try and discover something that your neighbour would not wish to be made known to certain authorities so that you have some bargaining power.
In the meantime put up some sort of fence and a video camera (even a dummy one), and make sure that the neighbour sees you doing it. It’s possible to obtain movement activated video systems that can be viewed remotely on your smartphone wherever you are.
Finally, don’t get mad ---- get even. :slight_smile:


Médiateur de la République I think they are called and are an official body who are often retired legal people working to help ordinary people in disputes find some sort of middle way and sort it out because (and I have personal experience) legal matters in France are very very expensive and take years during which you have to continue to fight and pay out to legal people and courts. We discovered too late this service as the other party denied us the chance but I also saw a programme on french TV about them and how they manage to stop a lot of unecessary suffering and loss of money where a simple dispute can be overcome. Sorry and this may sound racist, but I have found british people in France fall into two camps, one lot continue as though they are immune from the law here because they are british abroad,moan about everything french and do what they want regardless and the other sort will be law abiding citizens who love and get immersed into Frenchculture and lifestyles. This family seem to be the first type - fists over reasonable discussion and so are probably unaware of legal repercussions on what they are doing. Fly tipping is also a very punishable act here too and as I doubt they are not connected to themaire, you could report them but it sounds as if they would take retribution fromhow you have described them. Another way forward is to engage an Huissier de Justice to come and do a report for you, he will take photos and then ask him to send an official letter to this lot which may scare them when they see a legal body has got involved and you mean business. My neighbour here did this a few months back because the builders of our two houses left the site in a bad state and he wanted to sell and the huissier came, took photos and it went to the builder who came within a few days and cleared up as the threat of litigation against them was mentioned if they did not. From using a Huissier against clients who did not pay, I seem to remember it was around €400 but money worth spending as it had the desired effect and they coughed up what they owed . You can find an Huissier in every town, just google for the nearest to you and they will come out once you make a rdv.


perhaps add to that does he have a visa or CdS to cover their stay in France and UK regn vehicles being used on French roads…

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Do you mean the conciliateur de justice? A good idea!

Well this may surprise you, but there is at least one other British ‘camp’.
There are many of us who are law abiding and respectful, pragmatic and realistic about living in France, but who for the most part keep themselves to themselves enjoying their quiet retirement!

Getting back to the OP’s issue.
My suggestion is to write to the maire asking for advice.
I suspect that he will arrange for the municipal / rurale police to have a word with the nightmare neighbour.

Finally the comments from @Robert_Hodge echoes my sentiments.


When we were shown round our house the neighbours just had stakes and plastic chain link fencing around the gravel patch in front of their house. We were told that this is enough of a barrier and should not be crossed. If this is correct (and I’m sure others on the forum will know) might this be a cheaper option for securing the plot? The neighbours then won’t just be able to say they thought it was waste ground.

Simple stakes and single strand wire would show what’s where… although care must be taken that said line is actually not encroaching on t’other’s land. Not always easy to tell where one ownership stops and another starts… the Mairie might well help… however a geometre will do the job properly (at a cost) and you’ll still have to string the wire…
Possibly/probably for the Sale… the boundaries will need to be clarified anyway…
EDIT: I have seen coloured posts (wood/plastic) used to identify the 4 corners of a plot within a field … just on the outskirts of our village. Obviously if your plot is huge… it might need a few more, but if it runs in straight lines, then 4 might just do…


Worth a try, and whilst that may be true for those who respect the French way of things, an arrogant Brit will probably just laugh in the face of the “feeble and cheapskate” attempt sadly.
They really don’t deserve to remain in France and give those who respect their French hosts a really bad name.

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Esther I am sorry for your troubles. Even more embarrassing that these people should actually be British.

Can you please keep us informed as to how you proceed and what happens?


@Esther are you in Department 24 ??? (don’t feel the need to say where you are… unless you want to…)

Jane, I think that was it also there is a Médiateur as well who can be appointed by a judge and works more when something is already in litige. With age, the brain becomes flooded with so much info over the past 32 years of France!

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