, Derry, New Hampshire


August 8, 2013

About the Law: Trust the law, not the agent

We made an initial offer on a house that has an unpermitted addition. The present owners built an addition which goes within 7 feet of the neighbor’s lot line. It’s in a wooded area, but the zoning ordinance requires 15 feet clearance.

The Realtor isn’t concerned, but should I be?

There’s much reason for concern. The offer should be taken to an attorney for review before signing.

Insist on a condition that the sale not be completed until nonconformance with the setback requirement be addressed by the seller. Place the burden on them.

There’s a law called an equitable waiver that you might be able to get away with later, but why put the burden on yourself? This law requires that you prove that the violation was not noticed until substantially completed, that the violation was not in bad faith, that the violation does not constitute a nuisance and that the cost of correction so far outweighs any public benefit to be gained that it would be “inequitable” to require the violation to be corrected.

Trumping the above conditions, waiver can be granted if the violation is over 10 years old. But, the burden is on the property owner. Why buy a problem? Insist that the sellers make it right. Otherwise, the municipality can demand removal of the nonconforming use and charge daily fines.

Why would the Realtor care? Your name will be on the deed. You will have bought the problem. Insist on correction by the present owner or look around for another property.

After being rear-ended in traffic on the Interstate, I was taken to the hospital. I’m OK now, but the other driver’s insurance company is questioning whether I was wearing a seat belt.

I was stopped in traffic and their driver admitted fault. Does my wearing or not wearing a seat belt make it OK for them to deny my claim?

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