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  • Writer's pictureJudge Michael Donio

Ask The Judge

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My neighbors are crazy. They play music all day and night. They have chickens, loose dogs and more cars on their lot than a repair shop. I am selling my home while they are away for the season. Do I have to disclose this to the new owners? Can I get in trouble if I do not?

First, I think you should immediately go to the town Zoning Officer or other official to make a formal complaint about your neighbors. Are they allowed to have loose dogs and chickens in their yard? I doubt it. Are they allowed to have more cars on their lot than a repair shop? I doubt that as well. Your municipality has people on board that are to look out for such circumstances and to make sure that they are abiding by all the zoning ordinances in that municipality.

The best thing to do is for you to see that they get all of this cleaned up and addressed before you sell your house. I doubt that anyone looking at your house will not see the issues, but to be completely forthright with any prospective buyers, you probably should mention the issues that you have had and that you are in the process of getting them rectified.

Therefore, the first thing, as I said, you should be doing is going to your zoning officer in the municipality and having them thoroughly check out the situation while all this is going on and put an immediate stop to it.



My son and his long-term girlfriend are buying a house together. What steps can they take to protect themselves with this asset should they breakup? They do not plan on becoming married and have been together seven years.

They have been together seven years and do not plan on getting married? That is somewhat unusual, but in any event I think they have to look at this as a business investment between two business partners.

First of all, they should both be on the Deed to the property showing that they own the property together. They also should have a written agreement on how they are going to operate the asset as to whether they are going to live there or rent it out. The written agreement should provide who is going to be responsible for what payments and who is going to be responsible for repairs and things of that nature.

Most importantly, the agreement should provide what will happen if they actually breakup or decide that they want to sell the property or one of them wants to buy the other one out of the property. These are all important questions that should be negotiated between them and absolutely reduced to a writing. I mediate many cases similar to this with people going into different business deals which is really what we are talking about here since they have no intention of being married. The more detail that they could put in an agreement to be prepared by a lawyer, the less headaches and threat of litigation down the road that they will have.

Judge Michael Donio served as a New Jersey State Superior Court Judge for 20 years before retiring on July 31, 2015. He now operates a legal consulting and mediation firm on the White Horse Pike. Donio can be reached by calling (609) 481-2919. Send your questions for his columns to


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