What can I do if my neighbor is trying to sabotage the selling my home?

I live in one state and own a home in another. The property is managed by a real estate company. I am in the process of selling that home. I already have a potential buyer in contract and my neighbor is now treating to sue us for damage to the fence between our properties. The fence is over 20 years old and is in need of repairs. Does she have any legal ground to stand on? Also, she is telling the potential buyers false information and lies about the home. They are now unsure about continuing with the sale. Do we have any legal rights to stop her from sabotaging the sale of our home?

Asked on May 3, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) Regardless of whether the fence is old, IF you damaged it, they can sue you for the damage you did. The issue is: did you damage it, and can they prove that? You are not liable for ordinary wear and tear, damage from elements, or damage from third parties not under your control.
2) If they are telling people untrue factual statements as you indicate, that is defamation; since it is a tortious (wrongful) act interferring with your selling an asset, it would also be "tortious intererence with economic advantage." You could sue the neighbor for either/or monetary compensation (to reflect any delay in selling and extra carrying costs, for example) and/or a court order barring them from doing this.
Only untrue facts are defamation and wrongful; opinions, no matter how harmful, are not. So, for example, if they say that you stole from them or attacked them physically (e.g. shoved them) when you did not, that is defamation; or if they say your home floods when it does not and that you are lying about the flooding, that is defamation, too.  But if they say you are awful neighbors or nasty people, that is an opinion, and they are legally entitled to it--you could not sue them or take action over it. Or if they said your house is overpriced--that is also an opinion. Only untrue facts are potentially actionable.


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