Common Property Issues That Can Affect the Whole Neighborhood

Updated for 2023

Part of being a homeowner, especially in a suburban neighborhood, is making sure that you are a respectful part of the community. This includes maintaining your property in a way that won’t affect your neighbors. Many homeowner’s associations (HOA) are dedicated to solving these problems, however, not every neighborhood has an HOA, and not every homeowner wants to belong to these associations. However, living in an HOA-free area doesn’t mean you’re free from your responsibilities as a homeowner.

Becoming a homeowner comes with lots of responsibilities, both inside and outside of the home. You may not realize it, but many of these responsibilities, if neglected, can affect your neighbors, and in some cases, your entire neighborhood. This is why it’s important to keep your property managed, not just for aesthetics, but for the well-being of yourself and others around you.

Ants in the house

Pest Problems

Pests can spread quickly when left unchecked. They can cause damage to landscaping, and even property damage, depending on the pest. Pests that spread quickly and cause harm include:

  • Ants: Ants have many ways of spreading. They can follow electrical wires, plumbing pipes, or simply hitch a ride on belongings as you carry them from one place to another. At their new home, ants can quickly establish a colony — turning up in the carpet, furniture, and contaminating food at their new property.
  • Wasps: Wasp nests can damage your landscaping and structures. They can also easily fly over to your neighbor’s house, attracted to a garbage can or other smells they are drawn to, and become a nuisance for them.
  • Termites: With the capability of causing extensive damage to wood structures, termites can build large colonies with tunnels that can spread to your neighbor’s house if they are attracted to the wood nearby.
  • Groundhogs: Groundhogs are experts at burrowing. They are certainly capable of burrowing the distance underground to your neighbor — attracted by their garden — and take up residence there to eat their plants and destroy vital root systems.

Even if you don’t care about property damage, it’s important to keep pests under control. Not only because it’s courteous, but living with pests also affects your health, as they can be transmitters of disease.

Plumbing Issues

Plumbing issues can cause property damage and flooding. Even mild leaks can cause things like rot and mold, which both pose dangers to the structural integrity of your property and can even impact your health. Some of the most common plumbing issues include:

  • Dripping faucets;
  • Leaky pipes;
  • Constantly running toilets;
  • Low water pressure;
  • Leaky hose bibbs;
  • Clogged drains.

If plumbing issues cause stagnant or sitting water, it can attract pests, and causes surfaces to rust or rot. If you live in a townhome or row home, then plumbing issues in your unit may also affect your neighbors because the sewage systems are more likely to be connected.



Damage to Sewer Lines

Clogs are the most common culprit of sewer line damage. Your sewer line is typically found in a basement, crawl space, or garage. Damage to your sewer line can cause leaking, flooding, or even pipes bursting. This can require extensive fixes if the lines are buried.

As mentioned, homes that share a wall, like townhouses, may experience specific disadvantages when it comes to sewer line damage, as they are more likely to be on a connected system. This means problems in one unit can affect the entire row of homes. This is why it’s important to maintain your sewer line, and not to flush anything that could cause problems, including:

  • Paper towels;
  • Menstrual products;
  • Diapers;
  • Disinfectant wipes;
  • Baby wipes.
      • A good rule of thumb when it comes to whether or not an item is flushable is whether or not it was specifically designed to be flushed. This is because products flushed down the toilet need to degrade to pass through the sewage system. This will usually be stated somewhere on the packaging.

Root Overgrowth

Large roots from trees could spread onto other properties and common spaces and cause damage. Even if you didn’t plant the tree, you may still be liable for damage caused, or at the very least removal if it’s on your property. When you are planting trees on your property, be sure to research the kind of root growth they are expected to have to see if your property can support the mature root system. Trees with some of the deepest root systems include:

  • White oak;
  • Walnut tree;
  • Hickories;
  • Black gum;
  • Sassafras;
  • Sweet gum;
  • Japanese Pagoda;
  • Butternut;
  • Pines;
  • Hornbeam.

Some of these trees can grow over 100 feet tall, whose roots will grow to two or three times bigger overall. This is why it’s important to understand what you’re planting before you plant it. Trees without the proper space for root support can fall over onto power lines, structures, and fences and create serious issues.


Spread of Weeds

Weeds can be any unwanted plant growth. Certain weeds can choke off the water and nutrient supply to other plants and cause them to die, as well as be toxic to pets and children. Left unchecked and the spreading of weeds can exacerbate allergies and cause harm to native plants in the area.

Weed control can also pose problems to your entire neighborhood, depending on the techniques you use to control them. Certain pesticides cause more harm than others to your surrounding environment, and can stick around in the soil for up to several years. This can pose threats to animals, native plants, and pets. It can even contaminate water supplies.

Chemical Runoff Damage

Chemicals that you use on your property, like pesticides and herbicides, should be closely monitored and regulated. Unchecked chemicals can run off into gutters and other communal spaces, causing contamination. Additionally, pets or children can become exposed to unchecked, harmful chemicals. Insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are all considered run-off chemicals by the EPA. Other areas of your community that can be affected by run-off include:

  • Livestock;
  • Fish populations;
  • Irrigation;
  • Animal food storage.

Chemicals aren’t the only things that can cause run-off damage. Animal waste, which can carry diseases and parasites, is also at high-risk, due to rain and natural decomposition. There are a few things that you can do to prevent run-off damage. You can use more natural, environmentally friendly herbicides, clean up after your pets and animals regularly, and avoid washing any chemicals in shared spaces, such as gutters or drains in the street.

Soil Erosion

Soil erosion refers to the degradation of the top layer of soil, which is the most fertile and nutrient-rich layer. This layer of soil is vital for your community’s natural flora and fauna. Topsoil erodes when it is exposed to chemicals or elements for long periods. Anything that disrupts the pH balance and bacteria system in the soil can be a risk for soil erosion.

Soil erosion can make it harder for you to grow anything in that area, which affects wildlife, pollinators, and even humans in the area. Human activities that cause soil erosion include:

  • Tilling;
  • Clear cutting;
  • Construction and development;
  • Animal husbandry.

You don’t have to completely halt all of these activities to prevent soil erosion. Being aware of the causes of soil erosion, and not leaving large patches of exposed, moist earth for long periods are big steps in preventing long-term damage to your soil.
Although being a homeowner means being aware of all of these issues and addressing them regularly, it’ll ultimately benefit you and your community in the long run. Being a responsible and conscientious neighbor is the best way to build positive relationships with your neighbors and look after your community.

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