There are many reasons you might need access to your neighbour’s land to repair or maintain your property and it can be difficult to know what to do if your request for access is refused. The general rule is that to go onto someone else’s property you need their permission, but there are exceptions that can be relied on where consent is proving tricky to obtain. A property disputes lawyer will explain the position in your case and guide you through the process of securing the access you need. They can also help where an exception is not available by trying to engage your neighbour in constructive discussions to find a way forward.
Property disputes expert Jenny Kemp, an Associate in the Dispute Resolution department at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, provides a brief outline of the options available and explains how a dispute resolution lawyer can help keep things calm to avoid damaging relations with your neighbours.
‘Problems with neighbours need to be handled carefully to avoid them getting out of hand. You need to keep your cool and approach things rationally, even if you think your neighbour is being unnecessarily obstructive. This can be a tall order, particularly where tensions are running high.’
By talking to a property disputes lawyer, you can get a clear idea of your legal rights and the avenues open to you for obtaining a resolution. They can help draft letters to your neighbour to try to persuade them to change their mind, refer you both to see an independent mediator and if all else fails apply to the court on your behalf to seek an order forcing your neighbour to play ball.
Option 1: enforcing rights of access in your title deeds
Very often there will be rights of access to your neighbour’s land included within the ownership papers to your property, known as your title deeds. These will be the first thing your lawyer checks.
Where a right of access exists, your lawyer will help you to explain the legal effect of this to your neighbour and that if they do not allow you to exercise your rights you will be able to make an application to the court to force them to do so.
Option 2: Access to Neighbouring Land Act
If there are no rights of access reserved in your title deeds, then the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 may be of help, provided the work you want to carry out can be shown to be necessary to preserve your property and not easily undertaken otherwise.
To qualify as preservation works you will typically need to show that access is needed to:
- maintain, repair or renew your property or another structure on your land;
- clear, repair or renew a drain, sewer, pipe or cable;
- fill in or clear a ditch; or
- treat, cut back, fell, remove or replace a hedge, tree, shrub or other growing thing which has or may die or become damaged, diseased, dangerous or insecurely rooted.
If the court agrees to grant access then it is likely to impose strict conditions on what you are permitted to do, at what times of the day access can be obtained and the time frame within which the works must be completed. You may also be ordered to pay your neighbour compensation.
A request for access may be refused if the court is satisfied that your neighbour would suffer unacceptable interference or disturbance in their use or enjoyment of their land or some other form of undue hardship. Your legal advisor will be able to predict whether such arguments are likely to be raised and will help come up with acceptable limits on the work to be undertaken to help address them.
Option 3 for obtaining access: Party Wall Act
If the work you want to carry out will affect a wall or other partition shared between you and your neighbour then the Party Wall Act 1996 is likely to apply. While this will not secure you rights of access to your neighbour’s land, it will give you the right to carry out work on shared structures provided you comply with the Act’s requirements. These include giving your neighbour advanced written notice of the works you intend to carry out, agreeing to the appointment of a surveyor if your neighbour ignores the notice or raises any objection, and agreeing to comply with any conditions a surveyor says are necessary to ensure your neighbour’s property is not damaged.
A lawyer can help ensure all applicable requirements are complied with and that you do not do anything to breach the terms of the Act which could result in you being hauled before the courts and told to stop work or pay your neighbour appropriate compensation.
It can be difficult to know what to do where you require access to your neighbour’s land and they refuse to give it to you. However, there are things you can do to try to find a way forward and your chances of securing a successful outcome will be greatly increased with the help of specialist legal advice.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.