Goodspeed: How to handle demands from a neighbor

It does not matter whatever agreement the seller had with the neighbors, it has nothing to do with you.

QUESTION:We recently bought a new home that has an above ground pool. There is also a patio area with a picnic table and umbrella. The sellers left the picnic table, which we did not ask for or put in the purchase agreement. We didn’t really think about it. Just thought it went with the house, like the pool.

After we moved in, some neighbors a couple of doors down stopped by and said the previous owner gave them the picnic table and they were wondering if they could come over on the weekend to get it. I was taken aback and said the previous owner never told us that and I would have to ask my husband.

I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with my neighbors or throw my husband under the bus, but do we have to give them the picnic table and umbrella? The previous owner never said a word to us about this – maybe he thought he didn’t need to. But this really aggravates me.

What do you think we should do? I don’t want to create bad feelings with my neighbor.

ANSWER: Well, so much for getting welcomed to the neighborhood with a nice bottle of wine or some cookies. You got welcomed with a demand: Give me your picnic table. Yikes!

Even if the seller did give the neighbors the picnic table, assuming it was not in the purchase and sales agreement which you said it was not, the seller should have given them the table before the closing.

It does not matter whatever agreement the seller had with the neighbors, it has nothing to do with you. You own the house now and all of its contents, including the picnic table, and are under no obligation to give it away.

You should not feel you threw your husband under the bus. His absence just served as a nice delaying tactic while you contemplated their really outrageous demand.

I’m glad you were able to think so quickly on your feet. Had you said, “Yes, you can have the table,” I’m sure you would have regretted it and had many second thoughts. Talk about spoiling your introduction to the neighborhood! The incident would have festered a long, long time.

The next time you or your husband, or both, see the neighbors in question, just tell them there was some unfortunate confusion over the picnic table, but you were not a party to any agreement between them and the seller and you cannot honor any agreement they might have had. You should not feel apologetic or make any excuses or feel guilty or any other emotion, except happiness about buying your first home. Congratulations!

Now go out and have a nice picnic.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: