What are our options regarding property that is an eye sore?

Our neighbor fenced off their yard and left a 10-20 foot wide section of land outside of the fence uncleared. This section borders the entire left side of our property. The problem is that this piece of land is an eye sore. The neighbor throws their dog waste bags over the fence into this strip of property, as well as yard waste and other trash. I understand that it is their property but it looks disgusting to us and the rest of the neighborhood. We wouldn’t mind purchasing the property but don’t want to pay a lot for it. We would like to clear it yet don’t want to pay to clear property that is not owned by us. I have heard that the legal/administrative fees and paperwork to purchase the land might not be worth the benefit. I am also concerned that if we do purchase the land from them, they might have less than the square footage required by the town. Any suggestions?

Asked on May 19, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If the neighbor owns the land, while you can buy it from them, that is voluntary on their part: their is no way to buy it if they won't agree to sell it. And if they do agree, it's like any other land/property sale: you negotiate to a price, and decide if it's worth it for you. If there are town ordinances requiring that lots be a certain minimum size, then that could moot the sale--they might not legally be able to sell in that case. But first, they'd  have to be willing to, at a price you'd be willing to pay, or else there's no point in looking further.
If it is their land, you can't force them to clean it up unless they are violating health ordinances--which they might be, if they are leaving dog waste and other organic garbage around. Contact the town and/or county health department to see if this is a violation: if so, the government may be able to force them to clean it up. But this is only if it violates some ordinance or regulation: you can't force someone to clean up simply because the way they keep their land is unattractive or disgusting. 
The fact that part of the land is uncleared or outside the fence is irrelevant: it's still their land, and what they cleared or where they put the fence has no bearing on their rights or obligations, or on how the law applies to them.

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