All bark so far, but afraid there will be an eventual bite... help!
May 28, 2009 7:01 PM   Subscribe

[pit bull filter]: Help me sell my house. Caveat: Three large dogs next door are scaring away buyers, including one very aggressive pit bull. I believe the way these dogs are left to roam outside may also be potentially breaking the law.

My house is for sale; it's offered at a decent price, kept immaculately, staged daily, and the yard is manicured.

Now, to the problem: I am getting two types of feedback from agents showing my home...

Feedback 1: Awesome house, did not like the neighborhood. Too transitional. (I have accepted that there is nothing I can do about this; location is always a huge factor.)

Feedback 2: Wife/person would not even get out of the car due to barking dogs next door OR love house, neighborhood ok, worried about potential buyer's pet/children and neighbor's dogs attacking said pet/children.

I have a privacy fence around my house except for the one side I share with a neighbor, who own a purebred pit bull, a boxer mix, and a bloodhound/pit mix of some kind. All are large and aggressive and bark regularly.

The dogs are behind a wide-set metal fence that's not even five feet tall you can see here. They run loose all day, every day, and I do not have a real relationship with the neighbors (they are renters). These neighbors are home seldom; I see them only late at night, almost never on weekends.

These dogs know me and will bark once or twice when I drive up, but when I get anywhere near the fence or a stranger pulls up, they go absolutely apeshit. The gate is automated and the dogs could easily run out as the owner is driving in.

My question is truly three-fold:

1. What can I do, on flyers, in emails and through my agent to assuage the fears of potential buyers? Example: Offer to find a contractor that will finish out the privacy fence and add this into the contract, or reduce the price by the amount it would cost to build the fence and include the contractor's information.

2. Is it even legal to have these dogs running loose, behind a minimal, gapped fence, when there are small children and dogs tethered nearby which they could easily attack? My neighbors across the street have three small girls who often cower while trying to retrieve toys and balls in the driveway where these dogs live.

3. What is the best course of action in concern to these dogs? I cannot tell the owners just to put them up when people are looking at my home; sometimes I get 10 minutes' notice about a showing, or the owners of the dogs will be at work and therefor unable to comply.

I feel as though there must be some kind of law in regard to having these dogs living outside, in the Texas heat, alone 70 percent of the time.

Homeowners, neighbors of pit bull owners, Realtors, etc: give me your best advice. I am asking because a friend who does animal rescue stated that there are specific laws regarding pit bulls and fence heights, etc. and I am unsure if I have some legal recourse in getting them properly fenced/put inside during the day/contacting the city about them, not only so I can sell my house, but for their own safety and the safety of the neighborhood.
posted by Unicorn on the cob to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First suggestion: finish the fence yourself. Economy sucks - there are lots of folks able to do things on short notice.

Regarding dogs and animal control: Are you located in the city listed in your profile?

Have you asked the neighbours if they're allowed to have their dogs loose? Does their landlord know?

On preview: don't shoot the dogs, don't poison the dogs. You can be charged not to mention that's a crazy suggestion.
posted by barnone at 7:27 PM on May 28, 2009

Why wouldn't you finish the fence yourself, now?

Yes, it's pricey, but you're already doing a lot to sell with the daily staging, etc., and after all -- you're playing for hundreds of thousands.
posted by Methylviolet at 7:27 PM on May 28, 2009

Best answer: This says that animals must have at least 150 square feet of space per animal. They must have access to a doghouse or other structure out of the elements. The space itself also must be "designed, constructed, and composed of material sufficient to prevent the dog's escape." Bring it up with the renters and landlord if the fence doesn't fit those requirements. Don't call animal control if it does meet those requirements; at least the dogs aren't tethered.
posted by barnone at 7:32 PM on May 28, 2009

On a side not: you don't know that the pits are aggressive. Just because they bark and go crazy with an incoming car doesn't mean they'd attack if they got loose. I've fostered a ton of pits and unless they're bred and trained to be aggressive, they really are wonderful dogs. Don't judge it just by breed.

But again -- is there a reason why you're not just finishing the fence now? I bet it could be done next week by someone.
posted by barnone at 7:38 PM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd finish the fence and make it clear that the neighbors are renters. I'd also talk to the landlord about the dogs or Animal Control about the dogs, but first I'd talk to the neighbors: tell them the dogs are getting loose and that some people who came to see your house were afraid to get out of the car and it's a problem. It's possible they don't know the dogs hop the fence and get loose during the day (dogs are tricksy like that). If they do know and don't fix the situation or are jerks about it then call Animal Control or the landlord.
posted by fshgrl at 8:01 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, the perception that most people have is that pit bulls are aggressive and extremely dangerous animals - it doesn't matter what the reality is when you're trying to sell a house.

Build a fence. Talk to the landlord. Make sure you document when potential buyers show up to view the house and their reactions. Document what your realtor says about why your house is not selling. Present this information to the landlord and see if you can find a solution. Talk to a lawyer so that when you talk to the landlord you can state: "My lawyer says..."

Unfortunately, North American society is very cavalier when it comes to dogs. Even if your city had an ordinance that you could leverage to your advantage, the police would most likely not enforce it. Usually you have to wait until a toddler has been worried to death, or someone's face has been chewed off.

And build that fence pronto...
posted by KokuRyu at 8:05 PM on May 28, 2009

Throw some meaty bones over the fence mere moments before the potential buyers pull up. Keep a stash in your fridge. I know this is not the most intelligent answer (the neighbors might be upset that you are feeding their dogs without permission) but an idea you might entertain.
posted by Fairchild at 8:25 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've fostered a ton of pits and unless they're bred and trained to be aggressive, they really are wonderful dogs.

Pit Bull attacks are a growing concern around the country. Texas seems to be particularly bad in this regard. You need to familiarize yourself with your local animal control ordinances, and possibly consider lobbying your local officials for more restrictive legislation though that is always an uphill battle.

Having your fencing completed may help you to sell your place a bit easier, but any concerns that people have about Pits or other aggressive dogs are far from irrational.

Good Luck.
posted by metagnathous at 8:34 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Consider this to be more feedback from a potential buyer. Maybe extending the fence will help but still, the dogs even behind a fence would automatically make me pass on the house. For me it's not the breed .. it's the barking. I would not want to live next door to three large barking dogs. I have a friend who lives next door to two large barking dogs. They are sweet animals and they are not threatening but OMG the nonstop racket. Every time she sits on her patio or her boys play in the yard, the dogs are barking. I would HATE that.

I know that I could buy a house and then dogs could move in next door and I'd have to deal with it. But I would not knowingly buy into this situation. I'm sorry. It's got to be very tough for you, having this thing that is more or less out of your control.

Maybe you can appeal to the landlord not to renew their lease.
posted by Kangaroo at 8:36 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

2nd ing fshgirl: Have you addressed this at all with your neighbors? I'm not home all day, and I know my dogs bark for a minute when they hear someone, but no one has ever had a problem with it that I know of, so I just assume everything is okeydokey... and I'd act if I knew it weren't.

And if someone went over my head with a landlord or animal control before speaking with me, well, I wouldn't be amused.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:59 PM on May 28, 2009

Best answer: I'm like your potential viewers who would not even get out of the car. To me, it's a total deal-breaker.

At first, I was going to recommend that you complete the privacy fence, and also install an electrical fence. However, that requires cooperation with the neighbors (the dogs wear a collar that goes with the fence). But as I think of that, as a potential buyer, my concerns still would not be alleviated, because I'd worry that the neighbors would change their minds about the collar at some point.

So, I think the best option is to do what you can to have the dogs permanently removed from the property (by asking the owner if the renters' agreements are being broken, following up on any legal actions, etc.)

You could ask your realtor about the laws regarding pit bulls in your area. If you have a homeowners' association, ask there too. It may vary from neighborhood to neighborhood within Dallas (it does in Houston). Please don't try to "hide" the dogs though (like you mentioned, asking the neighbors to put up the dogs while showing the house). It will be a terrible surprise to the buyer, and if I were the buyer I'd back out of the sale as soon as I found out.
posted by Houstonian at 2:51 AM on May 29, 2009

When you say the dogs run loose, do you mean loose in the yard? Because there's nothing wrong with that legally, in most places, as long as the dogs have shelter and water.

You should consider talking to your neighbors first--perhaps the landlord has some rule that the dogs must be left outside during the day. It's in the landlord's interest to keep up the value of the property, so perhaps he or she would compromise for a bit if that's what it takes.

I'm nthing finishing the fence.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:29 AM on May 29, 2009

Best answer: From the picture, the fence you have is actually a good one to keep dogs from climbing over. (Not so good for small creatures (children and pets) sticking fingers and noses through from your side however.) So you might just put it out there that you are willing to work with a potential buyer on either lowering your price a bit, or making it a condition of the sale that you put up a different kind of fence.

Like others have said, it's not clear if the dogs are running loose within their own fenced yard, or just running loose in the neighborhood. The latter would definitely be cause for concern and a call to the renter, landlord, animal control or police, in order of escalation.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:28 AM on May 29, 2009

You know, it could be a Pit or a Maltese or a tiny Chihuahua... all dogs have the potential to bite. And truth be told, I don't know if I am going to buy a house where three of any breed of dog next door are constantly running over to the dividing fence at first sight of humans and just barking their asses off.

You could talk to the neighbors directly. However, something about the tone of this AskMe gives me the feeling you don't want to do that for whatever reason.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:36 AM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, they are running around loose in the yard, but there is an automatic gate that opens 7 feet wide when the neighbors do come home; at that time, the dogs could easily run out into the street.

Let me be clear: I am not threatened by the dogs. I mean them NO harm.

The reason I have not already finished out the fence is that, my yard being almost an acre and it having to go the full length PLUS around to the side of my house, the cheapest estimate I got (from illegal workers, who only wanted to be paid in cash) was three thousand dollars.

Here, let me type that out again: $3000. I live paycheck to paycheck. I could charge the fence on my credit card with someone licensed and bonded for 4-5 grand. But I don't have that money.

I'm afraid I'll spend that money and still not sell the house, hence, why I'm asking this question... I was hoping I'd have some legal recourse to have the owner of the house next door finish the fence, but maybe not.

I've talked to the renters next door exactly twice, and it was to borrow and return jumper cables. They are under 21 years old and penniless, so I know they will do nothing that costs them any money personally because they just graduated high school two years ago.

As to the barking: if the dogs can see a child or a person at all from their yard, they will bark non-stop until the person either goes away or after 30-45 minutes, they get tired and go get water. They bark about 50 percent of the time that I'm home at various things.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:45 AM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions -- after reading them through, I'm going to have the Realtor print up new flyers and send out an email blast about throwing in the fence contingent on receiving an offer on the house and seek out different bids to build the fence. I haven't had a lot of time to devote to just that -- maybe after enough research I can find one that'll do it cheaply and I can negotiate the payment into the closing costs, or something.

I also will call the landlord next door and try to find out when the renters' lease is up. If it's soon, and they are not renewing, I may be able to sit this one out. If they're in for the long haul, I may bite the bullet and just charge the fence if the add-in tactic doesn't work after 60 days.

Unfortunately the owner is a 90-year-old man in a nursing home and his son, who lives in another city, rents it out for him; the kids that live there told me when they moved in the place didn't have a working stove, air conditioning, and huge open holes in the walls, so I don't think the owner's son cares about keeping the property value up beyond visibly being up-to-code externally in case code enforcement drives past.

It seems a bit cruel to me still to have three large dogs and never be home to care for them or play with them, but then again, people in the country do it all the time, I suppose. The landlord recently put up some chicken wire dividing the rear yard next door in half; I'm not sure why, but it looks like it's to protect the owners' yard from the dogs digging it completely up. They mostly run around on concrete but have a carport to lie under during the day. Poor creatures; I actually kind of feel sorry for them.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:07 AM on May 29, 2009

You could try to report the landlord for something. Or try to get the renters to do it. Maybe if you started being a nuisance about every code violation you can think of, the son would figure it's better to sell than deal with being a decent landlord. This may result in new neighbors without dogs. Probably too long of a process for your current needs, though.

An option (if you could afford to wait a while, which it doesn't sound like you could) is to simply do nothing, and hope that you eventually find a buyer who doesn't care about the dog situation.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:23 AM on May 29, 2009

Yeah, it's a tough situation compounded by the economy.

Other ideas:
- if the dogs keep barking all day, the bylaws for noise might be in effect. I'd just be really wary of anything that would have the animals removed.

- write the renters a really nice note about what's going on. Maybe they have somewhere the dogs can go for a bit (parents house, etc.) or could fence off part of the yard away from your property line. If they don't know the dogs bark and rush the fence all the time, really really really tell them super honest but nice in a letter --be frank but really nice -- think "how can we solve this problem" rather than "wtf is wrong with you people?".
posted by barnone at 8:42 AM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: I totally agree with everyone, especially you, barnone; my concern is with making the situation work for everybody and the welfare of the dogs as well as not scaring away potential buyers.

To be honest, they are a GREAT security system. Nobody would dream of breaking into my house, because day or night, they're on guard. Unfortunately, I don't think most buyers are going to look at it that way.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:23 AM on May 29, 2009

What about some kind of woven security fence thing that uses the existing fence? There are those kind of plastic/vinyl woven pieces that go on chainlink fences for more privacy/security. Maybe something like that can be made to go around that whole fence and the electric gate -- that way people might be able to hear the dogs, but not see them. Then you could still include a more expensive bid in the contract for a real privacy fence.
posted by barnone at 10:05 AM on May 29, 2009

Something like this. You could use black zip ties to put it along the fence. You could even ask the neighbours if you could do it on their side to mitigate a bit of the ugliness. It would cost a few hundred bucks but give more of a visual block and a bigger sense of privacy/safety.
posted by barnone at 10:21 AM on May 29, 2009

Two of my neighbors three pitbulls climbed over a six foot fence and killed our cat in our backyard. I agree that not all pitbulls are bad, but it can definitely happen. Build that fence and build it as tall as you can get away with.
posted by Big_B at 11:08 AM on May 29, 2009

Writing something into the contract about credit for a fence that extends is an excellent idea.

But remember, this is a *really* difficult market right now for selling a house. As my former real estate agent told me, when times are good, "anything sells." Even those ugly houses that have two flights of stairs to get to the front door and nothing's up to code. So don't get so down on the dogs. Do what you can, but otherwise, it's in the hands of the free market. Good luck.
posted by Pocahontas at 3:27 PM on May 29, 2009

They're doing nothing wrong by leaving their dogs in the year all day, unless the barking is annoying people so that's probably the only recourse you have.

Saying the dogs are "loose" was very misleading.
posted by fshgrl at 4:50 PM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: sorry, fshgirl. there is a large gate that opens completely 7 feet wide every time the residents pull in, and it must open completely before they can enter (it's like an apartment complex gate), and when they do, the dogs can run in and out of the yard and into the street.

So to me, that constitutes loose. As in, not leashed, ever. I apologize. I should have said the dogs are uncollared and unleashed 100 percent of the time and twice a day or so can run in and out of the street or throughout the neighborhood if they choose.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:17 AM on May 30, 2009

Unicorn, have you ever seen the dogs escape? If not, and it's just a potential situation, well then that's a trickier situation to argue.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:51 AM on May 30, 2009

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