People Buy for the House, But Leave Due to Difficult Neighbors

dogcatIt shouldn’t surprise us, but this quote from Rhonda Duffy, an Atlanta real estate agent who has sold more than 17,000 homes, is a bit of a bombshell nonetheless:

“The No. 1 reason people move – besides downsizing or upsizing — is because they don’t like their neighbors.” (See “Check neighborhood before buying house,” by Marni Jameson, June 29, 2015.)

Her phrase “don’t like” is probably an understatement. Ask any homeowner about relations with neighbors. For every tale of casseroles and newfound bookclub comrades, there will be at least one about a vendetta, civil restraining order, or all-around craziness. I know someone whose mentally ill neighbor delivered a live cat to her front doorstep in a box, telling her that it was her “daughter” and she needed to start taking care of it.

A number of the neighbor-related Q&As you’ll find on Nolo’s website come from actual, real-life fact patterns. Check out these doozies, for instance, “My neighbor shot my dog for trespassing. What can I do?,” “What should I do if I think my neighbor is stealing my Wi-Fi?,” and “Can I file a small claims court action against a neighbor who trespassed on and damaged my property?“.

The possibility for neighbor disputes is approximately the last thing anyone wants to think about during the excitement of homebuying. As if it weren’t enough to make sure that the home passes inspection, appraises for the right amount, and is within one’s financial means.

But there’s obviously a reason that at least one state includes a “neighborhood review contingency” in its standard real estate contract. A homeowner is at relatively close quarters with neighbors, and might see them every day. If said neighbors are dealing drugs, making noise, leaving piles of garbage or junk out, and so on, it’s going to directly affect your enjoyment of life.

Fortunately, even without a clause in your purchase contract, prospective homebuyers can do a lot to research neighbor issues before buying. Driving and walking around the neighborhood at different hours of the day or night is a good start, as is chatting with as many neighbors as possible in the vicinity of the home you hope to buy.

We also suggest asking the seller about neighbor issues, as described in Nolo’s (free!) “Questions for Seller” worksheet. And for more tips on this and other aspects of choosing a home, see Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home.


As Congress contemplates its usual August hiatus, taxpayers wonder what fate will befall late 2014 “extender” provisions of the law which won’t apply to 2015 unless action is taken. Among the more important provisions whose 2015 fate is still unlearned are:

~Deduction for state and local sales taxes
~Deduction for mortgage insurance premiums treated as qualified interest
~Exclusion from gross income of up to $2 million of discharged principal residence indebtedness
~Deduction of up to $500,000 in cost of certain otherwise depreciable business property, and applicability of 50% “bonus depreciation”
~Tax free distributions for charitable purposes from IRAs of taxpayers age 70-1/2 or older

“Sanctuary” Cities Aren’t What They Sound Like

sf aerialTo hear the media tell it, you’d think that various cities around America were, for undocumented immigrants, like home base in a game of tag — just show up and you’re free, untouchable by law enforcement authorities. Such has been the rhetoric since the awful murder of Kathryn Steinle, killed on July 2 in San Francisco, apparently by a five-time deportee from Mexico.

For instance, the BBC News said that “San Francisco’s ‘sanctuary’ law means city authorities don’t co-operate with immigration officials,” the Associated Press referred to them as “cities that harbor immigrants in the U.S. illegally,” and CBS News quoted Kentucky Senator Rand Paul as saying, “I don’t think you can have whole cities or whole states just not obeying the law.”

No, no, and no. As usual for anything having to do with immigration law, so-called “sanctuary” is a lot more complicated than that.

First off, sanctuary cities don’t shield anyone from federal law enforcement. Immigration enforcement agents have the same powers in a sanctuary city as they do elsewhere. They can arrest and deport people in the U.S. unlawfully — in fact, no one can figure out why they didn’t arrest and deport Steinle’s alleged killer, rather than turning him over to local authorities for prosecution on an ancient drug charge.

Second, San Francisco’s sanctuary law is plenty strict on the topic of dealing with immigrants who have committed serious crimeS — it says, “Nothing in this Chapter shall prohibit, or be construed as prohibiting, a law enforcement officer from identifying and reporting any person pursuant to State or federal law or regulation who is in custody after being booked for the alleged commission of a felony. . . .”

What is a sanctuary city, then? In most cases, the purpose of local sanctuary laws is twofold:

  1. to draw a dividing line between local law enforcement and immigration enforcement, such that police and the like don’t automatically report or turn over undocumented immigrants, for the very important reason that, if they did, members of the immigrant community would simply stop calling the police, leading to a RISE in crime, and
  2. to prevent the sort of Constitutional violation that can all too easily occur when federal authorities expect local jails to simply detain people for unspecified lengths of time AFTER the 48-hour period during which they MUST hold an undocumented immigrant if requested to do so by federal authorities.

For a full, well-researched and reasoned discussion of the sanctuary laws and the Steinle case, I refer you to Cesar Cuahtemoc’s discussion on his CrImmigration blog.


If you’ve been victimized by an identity thief relative to your tax filings, check out IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2015-1 for IRS’ suggested ten things to know about identity theft.

Of particular interest is (yet another) IRS form which may be necessary in your circumstances: Form 14039, “Identity Theft Affidavit” which is reasonably simple to fill out, and which the victim should then submit to IRS.

Fundraising Irony: Small Nonprofits Rely on Low-ROI Events for Fundraising

Processed by: Helicon Filter;Small or volunteer-led nonprofits can’t, in most cases, go after large grants or major donors. Lacking such resources as a well-staffed development department and influential board members, they have good reason to turn to fundraising events.

Bake sales, walk-a-thons, auctions, gala dinners, and concerts all offer opportunities to mobilize a lot of volunteers, in some cases on short notice. Hey, events are practically parties, and might raise money, too!

But not much money. According to the research group Software Advice, events-based fundraising can be harder for small nonprofits than large ones. They “are at a disadvantage,” because “the upfront investment for an event is a strain on resources.”

As explained in the report, this strain is caused by the groups’ tight budgets, as well as the fact that their largely volunteer-based staff may not have significant event planning experience.

That doesn’t mean smaller groups should despair with regard to events-based fundraising, however. Software Advice’s Report helpfully analyzed which events are most and least efficient in producing profits.

And now for the spoiler. The report’s major findings included that:

  • fun runs and walks are the easiest events to plan, producing moderate to high financial reward for nonprofits of all sizes
  • on average, a-thon events have the lowest cost per dollar raised (CPDR), and thus are suitable for all nonprofits, and
  • concerts have the highest CPDR, best taken on by groups with a larger budget.

No matter what type of event your group takes on, learning from other groups that have done them before can be enormously helpful. For tips, stories, checklists and more, see The Volunteers’ Guide to Fundraising: Raise Money for Your School, Team, Library or Community Group, by Ilona Bray, J.D. (Nolo).