What legal ramifications, if any, could come from this?

Joe lives in a middle class neighborhood in a suburb of a major large city.
He hates all his neighbors. They’re stuck up, nosey, rude, biggoted jerks. And have been during the years he’s lived there.

Recently Joe won the lottery. 300 million after taxes. Of course he quits his job and buys a nicer house in a nicer place with a better climate.

His current house is worth about 200K. But he doesn’t put it on the market. Instead, he goes into the city and finds the worst family possible. A tribe of the most violent, thieving, brutal, crackhead criminals you could imagine. He sells them his house for $10. All nice and legal, signed deed and all. Joes wish is for them to terrorize that neighborhood and bring down property values.

Ignoring any tax consequences for selling so low, could Joe be in any civil or criminal trouble for getting even with his former neighbors in this manner? Assume Joe is smart enough to keep quiet about his intent, could he be held liable for whatever happens? What if one of the crackheads murders one of the neighbors? Is Joe on the hook? Isn’t Joe allowed to sell to whomever he wants?

In a very general way, it depends.
Criminal liability: Unless Joe intended for them to undertake specific actions, no. Just knowingly selecting someone unpleasant to buy your house (a totally lawful transaction on both sides) and hoping thye make your erstwhile Neighbours lives hell, is unseemly but not criminal.

Civil liability: Possibly, but against a causal link will have to be established to Joe’s action and any losses suffered. Which will be difficult.

Joe’s an idiot if he thinks that dysfunctional family have any intention or likelihood of sticking around in a neighborhood where the horrible bigoted neighbors already hate them before they even meet them.

Why wouldn’t they just sell that $200K house for a cool $199,990 profit, and use the money to live somewhere they want to live? Owning a nice house out in the suburbs of the city where your life is isn’t necessarily such a sweet deal if you don’t have anything to live on.

And just to get the cards on the table here, if I’m reading the socioeconomic code words correctly, you mean that the “stuck up”, “rude”, “bigoted”, “middle class” “suburban” neighbors are white, right? And the “tribe” of “murderous” “terrorizing” “violent, thieving, brutal, crackhead criminals” that Joe had to go “into the city” to find are Black, right?

I don’t think that would affect the legal situation any one way or the other, but then IANAL.

In your scenario, Joe goes looking for the neighbours from hell. It could happen that he, being altruistic, just wanted to sell his house to a poor deserving family, but they turned out to be NFH.

If his ex-neighbours managed to get Joe into court by suing him for compensation for the loss in value of their homes, they would have to prove intent. So, unless he had placed an ad in Craigs List etc, saying “violent, thieving, brutal, crackhead criminals wanted to make my ex-neighbours lives a misery”, it would be difficult to prove.

IANAL, but I know of a famous case that is possibly relevant.

The Mayor of Bradford v Pickles

Basically, a man named Pickles owned land near the city of Bradford. Water flowed underneath his property to the city. Pickles sunk several wells on his own property with the deliberate and malicious intent to deny Bradford a water supply.

Judgement made in favour of Pickles. He had a legal right to sink wells on his own property. Doing it maliciously with deliberate intent to cause nuisance does not make it either illegal, or a valid cause of action in tort law.

This case an important precedent in UK law. Law in other jurisdictions may be different.

I don’t think that is correct. My understanding is that proving intent or not wouldn’t make a legal difference. IANAL.

Don’t fight the hypothetical.

I’m aware of that but didn’t want to have that part included as it’s not part of the equation of the original question.

But if it satisfies it, let’s say Joe sells it to them for $10 but has a contractual agreement on the title that they can’t sell for 99 years. Or any other majikal fantasy, for purposes of the OP let’s say they don’t sell and stay and terrorize the neighbors. What’s Joe on the hook for?

I don’t see where you get that from.

I suppose he could go to a trailer park and find white people that fit his qualifications. But that wouldn’t rub his racists neighbors rhubarb quite as intensely. Joe really wants to go nuclear on these pricks.

BTW, once again I am not Joe, and this is not the same Joe from the car wash thread. This Joe is someone I work with who is super pissed at his neighbors and talked about what he’d do if he ever came into substantial wealth. We had a good laugh over his devious plan and it helped him blow off steam talking about it. I’m just wondering if such a thing could bite him in the ass.

Isn’t it illegal to discriminate when selling a house? I am sure that it would not be legal to refuse to sell a house to anyone on the grounds of race or religion, so would that apply in this case?

I guess it may not be because Joe is not selling on the open market. It would be no different if he had some violent, thieving, brutal, crackhead criminal relatives that he passed the property on to for a nominal price.

Joes house isn’t for sale on the open market. He did his homework and found the perfect family for his plan and offered to sell it to them for 10 bucks. Nothing discriminatory about that.

As this is a question about the law, i have moved it to IMHO.

I am no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure whatever causal chain of events happens is so weakly linked to Joe that he cannot be legally on the hook for whatever the bad family does.

That would be tantamount to Joe selling a car to someone known for drunk driving and then Joe getting sued or indicted when the DUI guy runs over a pedestrian. It’s too weak and indirect.

I don’t think Joe’s liable for anything - assuming that they actually assault and steal from the neighbors, I don’t think he’s liable unless he actually made some agreement with them that they would assault and steal from the neighbors , perhaps in exchange for buying the house for $10.

But if they are crackheads who neighbors miserable and bring down property values in the same sort of way that other NFH make people miserable and bring down property values - that is , they don’t commit crimes like assault and robbery with a specified victim , but do things like have large groups of people loitering on the sidewalk or litter the street with crack vials in the same way other neighbors from hell are nosy or let the weeds grow too high or bitch at you because they think you let your weeds grow too high and so on. , then I don’t see how Joe can be liable. Not unless we are going to let me sue my ex-neighbors because they sold their house to a family with a dog that makes my life hell.

IANAL, but am I allowed to sell my house for $10 to whomever I want? Can I, right now, sell my (paid off) house to my daughter for $10? Seems there would be a gift tax or something that would take effect.

Yep, you’d have to file a gift tax return - the difference between the selling price and fair market value is a gift, and you’d have to file a gift tax return for any individual gift over $16K*. And then that amount will use up some of your estate exemption, but no need to worry for most of us- that exemption is $12 million.

But you can sell the house for $10 or give it away for nothing.

* but if you and your daughter are married, you and your wife can each give $16K to your daughter and another $16K to your son in law. And gifts between spouses are generally exempt from gift tax.

The issue has been raised about why don’t the thugs sell the house? In fear of hijacking the hypothetical what if he rents for $1 per month? He is rich enough to fix any damage to keep the house legal so he doesn’t really care if they trash the house. If they move out in the night, he just rents to another set of nastiest neighbors ever.

Since he is still the owner and not the resident, does that change anything legally?


Thank you for clarifying.

Good question but I think this puts Joe in a trick bag as he is still the legal owner in this scenario. Some places have ordinances about nuisance tenants. Plus part of Joes plan is that they’ll trash the place and property, making that part of the neighborhood look like shit. If Joe is the actual owner he could get all sorts of citations for eye sore conditions. He doesn’t want any of that.

I happen to own some houses I rent out. Part of the lease is the tenant mows the lawn and shovels snow. If they don’t it violates the lease but the city would come after me as owner. Not sure if every municipality does it that way and not sure if a lease agreement would be a valid defense if I were to get cited.


Joe’s intent (per the OP) is for crimes to be committed against his neighbors. Since he’s not taking an active role beyond helping establish the circumstances, that would seem to make him an accomplice rather than a member of a criminal conspiracy. Seems no different than loaning somebody a car or a gun so that they can rob a bank.

Anybody investigating crimes committed by the Dogwhistle family would immediately wonder how they came to live in this very nice neighborhood. They’d find the extremely suspicious record of the sale. Joe would be a person of interest. He and the Dogwhistles will be questioned about the circumstances surrounding the sale.

The OP establishes that Joe has been smart enough to be quiet about this, but also that he has “done his homework” to find the absolute worst family possible. That means a trail of some kind. It’s an open question as to whether he left enough to establish intent, but from our omniscient perspective, mens rea seems obvious.

But the OP seems to know this, otherwise there’d be no reason to specify that Joe “is smart enough to keep quiet about his intent.” I’m sure there are lots of criminals that would escape liability if only they were smart enough not to leave evidence behind.

But if he’s smart, that trail could point away from legal liability. Find a local social worker, and tell them that, after your miraculous win in the lottery, you’ve been inspired to engage in charity, and you want to elevate a family that’s been devastated by crime and drugs, giving them an opportunity to live in a nicer neighborhood, with access to better schools and other such things. Tell them you’re convinced that most crime is caused by being stuck in a bad situation, and you want to show that, if they’re just given a chance, these poor souls can overcome years of deprivation.

Then, it’s not his fault if his former neighbors are insufficiently inspiring so as to rehabilitate this family.