Q. Can I access a neighbour’s land to carry out repairs?
A: There may be a right of entry specifically for the purposes of inspection or repair in the property’s legal documents. If there is no such right, or no agreement can be reached, you can apply to the County Court for an Access Order allowing you to enter your neighbour’s land to carry out the repairs. There is a fee for the application.
Q. Who is responsible for shared amenities?
A: Where amenities such as drives, drains or roofs are shared between two or more properties, responsibility for maintaining/using them are usually outlined in the property’s legal documents. The legal documents may give you as a property owner rights over your neighbour’s property. Where they are not expressly set out in the documents they may nevertheles arise out of long, continuous and unchallenged use (usually 20 years). Where there is a need of repair the first step is to find out who is responsible for repairs. If the legal documents do not give a clear indication of liability then try to agree with your neighbour that any costs arising will be shared. It is essential that at each stage when a cost is incurred the household initiating the repairs has the consent of the other parties responsible.
Q. How do I know who owns the boundary between my property and next door?
A: Once again you should first check the legal documents. However, the boundaries between properties can differ from those described in the title documents or lease in certain circumstances. The most common are where they have been changed by agreement or by encroachment (occupation without permission). If you think that the boundaries are not defined in the title document or lease, or that the boundaries have been changed by agreement or encroachment, you will probably need to get legal advice.
Q. Who is responsible for maintaining Party Walls?
A: There are special rules covering structural work to party walls, the owner must notify neighbours about any work they intend to carry out. These rules allow for the agreement or objection to any work within certain time limits, and compensation and temporary protection for buildings and property. If there is no agreement an independent surveyor can be appointed to decide what work can be done, and how and when.
Q. What can I do to claim for damage done by children?
A: Whilst it is possible to sue a child for damages if they are old enough to know what they were doing, such an approach is unlikely to be successful at Court. However, it may be possible to sue the child’s parents for negligence if they have failed to exercise the control that would be expected of a parent given the child’s age.
Q. Can I do anything about my noisy neighbours?
A: You should first try to speak with your neighbour and ask them to reduce the noise. If this approach fails there are a range of other remedies, depending on your neighbour’s ownership status:
• If your neighbour is a tenant, you can contact their landlord and request that they enforce the tenancy agreement to prevent nosie levels being unreasonable. If the problem persists it is useful to keep a record/diary of the disturbances which can be used as evidence in any future action.
• Local Authority tenants can contact the Local Government Ombudsman who may be able to recommend compensation if the local authority has failed in one of its duties.
• Tenants of housing associations and other registered social landlords can contact the Independent Housing Ombudsman. Local authorities have wide powers to deal with noise nuisances and you should contact the Environmental Health Officer and ask them to investigate. If they consider there is a “noise nuisance” they can serve a notice on the person causing the noise, or on the owner of the property. If the noise does not then abate the local authority can prosecute them and obtain an injunction prohibiting the noise nuisance. Alternatively you can apply for an injunction in the County Court. If you are contemplating such action you should ensure that you have kept a record of those instances when the noise level has been unreasonable.
Q. What can I do about overhanging branches or hedges?
A: In the first place you should ask your neighbour to cut back the overhanging branches. If they do not agree you have the right to pare back the branches to the boundary line (unless there is a Tree Preservation Order in place)s below). The cut branches belong to the tree owner and should be offered back to the owner or disposed of with their consent. You have the right to complain to the local authority if the light to your property is blocked by a neighbour’s hedge which is more than two metres high. This may result in your neighbour having to reduce the height of their hedge. You must try to resolve the complaint with your neighbour before going to the local authority, and you may be charged a substantial fee before the local authority will consider the complaint. Either you or your neighbour can appeal against the local authority’s decision.