Boundaries and Neighbours : Common Problems You Need To Know
Boundaries and Neighbours, what you need to look before buying a house? What is the common problem between neighbours? how to deal with it? Find out here.
Even neighbours who are the best of friends can fall out over barking dogs or territorial disputes, and there’s nothing more likely to spoil your enjoyment of where you are living than acrimony across the garden fence.
If you are buying, selling, or improving a property, it is important to know exactly where its boundaries lie. Avoid bad feeling by being clear about your right and responsibilities from the start, and don’t rush into action without taking professional advice.
What To Look For When You’re Buying A House?
Unless your property deeds state otherwise (which is unlikely), you do not have the right to a view.
The local search conducted by your solicitor or licensed conveyancer before purchase will reveal forthcoming developments – you have a right to inspect the plans at your local planning office.
Maintaining Your Property From Next Door
If the wall of your property stands directly on the boundary with next door, you may have no legal right to enter next door’s property to maintain it. If the neighbor refuses access, you can apply to the local county court (sheriff court in Scotland) for an order.
After the works have been done, you will have to make good any damage and perhaps pay compensation for having been allowed access.
Recent Disputes Between Neighbours
If you discover that there has been a recent boundary dispute (your solicitor may pick this up, but you should ask the seller for information if you suspect a problem), your solicitor could advise you not to go ahead with the purchase.
If you are set on buying, talk to the neighbour concerned to satisfy yourself that the dispute has been settled.
A flying freehold is a property that intrudes into the structure of the property next door.
It occurs only in older properties, and it’s as well to be aware that the rights and responsibilities of the neighbours it links are notoriously difficult to sort out.
If there is no right of way or other legal right of access to your land, a person going onto a property you own or rent without either express or implied permission is technically trespassing.
Trespass, except in certain very specific circumstances, is not a criminal offense.
It is a tort – that is, a civil wrong – and unless you can prove real damage to your property, suing would probably only recover nominal damages.
Trouble With The Neighbours
If your neighbour annoys you with intrusive noise, they aren’t necessarily breaking the law. Try a friendly approach first – they may be unaware that they are disturbing you. Do this in person, then in writing (keep a copy of the letter/s).
If this doesn’t work, keep a log of the disturbances, noting the date, time, and duration. If possible, ask other neighbors to write statements confirming your report, then send a copy to the Environmental Health (EH) department of your local authority.
If the EH department decides that your neighbour’s behaviour is ‘unreasonable’ and causing a ‘nuisance,’ they can serve a noise abatement order on them. If your neighbour doesn’t comply, they may be fined up to – 2,000.
EH officers may also confiscate equipment such as music systems. In cases of excessive noise between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., they can issue a warning and follow it up with an on-the-spot fine of up to £1,000. In a block of flats, your neighbours may also be in breach of the terms of their lease or tenancy agreement. Check what your own lease says.
If the EH department fails to act on your behalf, you can take your report to the local magistrates’ court (sheriff court in Scotland) and ask for a ‘nuisance order’ with similar consequences to those above.
Alternatively, you can apply for an injunction in the county court (an interdict in the sheriff court in Scotland) to prevent the noise recurring. In the same court, you can claim compensation for the nuisance you have suffered, though this may be a lengthy process and compensation may be small.
Problems With Dogs in Neighbourhood
If you are regularly disturbed by a neighbour’s barking dog, first have a friendly word with its owners. They may be unaware that the dog barks when it is alone, for instance, and may be prepared to help the dog settle by giving it more exercise or leaving it alone less often and in a larger space.
Sometimes a dog is less inclined to bark if a radio is left on at low volume, or if the curtains are closed so that it can’t see people passing outside. If the nuisance persists, you can apply to the EH department for a noise abatement order, as above.
If you can prove that a dog is dangerous or out of control, a magistrates’ court can order that it be kept muzzled or on a leash, neutered, or destroyed. The owner could also be fined up to £2,000 and prevented from owning a dog for some time to come.
Contact the police or the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) for advice.
If your neighbour has an infestation of pests, such as mice or rats, and they find their way into your property, call the EH department and suggest to your neighbour that they do the same.
A joint visit from the pest control officer would make sense. If your neighbour refuses, EH officers have the power (after giving 24 hours’ notice) to inspect premises for pests that are a health hazard. If they are not admitted, they can apply for a warrant and enter by force.
If your neighbour is unable to deal with the infestation because of old age or infirmity, contact the social services.
Trees can damage foundations – their roots take water from the soil, which may cause subsidence. A tree is the responsibility of its owner, so if you have evidence that your neighbour’s tree has been the cause of damage to your property, check whether you can make a claim on your buildings insurance policy and allow the insurer to recover the money from next door.
The best policy, though, is prevention – talk to your neighbor about pruning the tree before it gets too big, and agree on cutting back roots and branches to keep it in shape. If you can’t agree, you have a right to cut off roots and branches where they cross your boundary, unless the tree has a preservation order on it or you live in a Conservation Area – check with your local authority first.
If your neighbor neglects to prune trees that overhang your property, despite a written agreement that he or she would do so, you can sue through the county court for the cost of pruning the trees, but in order to claim anymore, you would have to prove that damage had been caused.
Extending Your Home
Using Party Walls
If you plan to use a neighbour’s side wall to support the building of an extension on your own property, first check where the boundary is. If the wall belongs entirely to your neighbour, you have no right to use it as a support.
If your neighbour is sympathetic and allows you to use their wall, arrange for your solicitor to draw up a legal agreement, or there may be problems when one of you comes to sell. If the property line runs through the wall, it is a party wall – you have the right to use it as a support providing it complies with building regulations.
Your neighbour has the right to consult a surveyor, at your expense, to ensure that your building work will not damage their interests.
Building Near a Boundary
If you wish to build within 3 m (10 ft) of your neighbour’s building and lay foundations deeper than those of your neighbour, the law requires you to serve a notice on them. Your architect or surveyor will act for you on this.
If the neighbour agrees, work can proceed. Otherwise, both parties must appoint a surveyor or surveyors to sort out their differences.