Removal of boundary wall.

Removal of boundary wall.

Postby Minkeycat » Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:55 pm

Apologies for this lengthy post. I was referred here from another forum so I hope someone can help…

While we were out a few weeks ago, our neighbour used his minidigger to remove the old stone boundary wall that separates our land from his. The wall wasn’t in the best condition and was covered in ivy etc but with not much work it could have been cleared and repaired and would have provided a good, original boundary feature again. Although local history and knowledge has it that it is entirely our wall (it was built to keep cattle in our yard prior to milking in what is now our garage), both the neighbour’s and our deeds are silent on the ownership of it so we’ve assumed a 50/50 ownership and we had told him that he should too. He’s now using the stone elsewhere on his land in other projects and has replaced the wall with a sparse hedge. We’re all in listed buildings in a conservation area but he claims to have had verbal consent from the conservation officer to remove it. We were not consulted at all. The upshot is we’ve lost all our security and privacy and our garage and sheds that its removal exposed were immediately broken into. When we told the neighbour we were upset about the removal of the wall he just laughed in my face claiming it was “a pile of old stone that was on his land anyway”.

It’s created a horrible situation and we have many questions about where we stand. If someone could shed any light on these, we’d be tremendously grateful.

The neighbour claims he won’t be living there long so we’ll be cutting back the hedge for ever more once it takes. Is there a way we can pass responsibility and cost of cutting it back to him or whoever lives in his house in the future?

The wall was on a 50/50 boundary so we’re concerned that we’re potentially 50% responsible for its removal. If so, I’m told it’s a criminal offence to have removed it without proper permission so could we be in trouble even though it’s removal was nothing to do with us? Is there a way to mitigate this?

Also, it looks like we’re going to have to reinstate a proper, solid boundary at some point in the future which will doubtless require relevant permission and will all be at our expense. Is there a way of recouping the costs from the neighbour at some point without legal action?

We’re currently waiting to hear back from the Head of Planning at the council after we reported the CO’s actions in all of this. We felt that had he followed procedure, we would have been consulted about the wall properly and could have aired our concerns and avoided this whole saga. When we initially asked the CO what he had approved on the land he immediately forwarded our email directly to the neighbour and apparently claimed it was a complaint. That immediately ruined any reasoned communication we might have with the neighbour but when we pushed for answers, the CO just said that “Planning permission wasn’t needed”. We felt fobbed off because, presumably, listed building consent was required but I think we were expected simply to go away.

We’re decent people and just want a quiet life having only moved into our house a few months ago. We’re being walked all over at every possible juncture here and by all parties involved. If anyone can offer any constructive solutions or advice, we’d be receptive to them.

Thank you in advance.
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby span » Mon Jun 06, 2016 8:24 pm

Get 3 or 4 contractors in to quote for the rebuild costs. Then invite his preference - either he rebuilds with original stone or you commission the work and sue him in the county court for the costs.

Plus, it wasn't a shared feature. it was entirely your property for the reason you just posted, if anyone asks. OK?
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby ParallelLines » Tue Jun 07, 2016 5:15 pm

What a sad story Minkeycat.

I don't think the CO was at fault myself because boundaries are a civil matter and he would only be thinking about the stone. Frustrating that it is, the dispute is a private one between you and the neighbour regarding the boundary, so I would move on from the council.

In a nutshell he is claiming the wall is on his land and you believe it is a party wall, a shared boundary wall.

The situation is that boundaries are complex things and it's not always easy to say who is right and who is wrong.

I would say the best thing to do is contact a Surveyor who specialises in boundary disputes and get their input. This may involve a site visit.

It is possible the wall is on his land, a wall might not be a boundary, it is possible it was built just a few cm inside for example.

However if it does turn out to be a party wall then you would be able to take action for damages plus your costs.

You need have no fear about action being taken against you over it's removal.

Clearly I have no idea who is correct about this wall removal but all I can say is you have to bear in mind it is possible the wall is on his land. I know to you it looked like he did it sneakily when you were out but perhaps it is on his land and he was not wanting to disturb you?

I had exactly the same issue over some trees that were a shared boundary that were removed by my neighbour but after talking to a Surveyor it turned out they were far enough inside the boundary to be allowable.

Good luck and let us know what happens.
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby cleo5 » Thu Jun 09, 2016 10:39 am

minkeycat,
It sounds to me as if it was your boundary as it was formerly the milking yard boundary.
You need to read your house deeds very closely if you have the originals.
In any case, if a shared boundary which I doubt, the neighbour has removed your half of the boundary whithout your permission and without returning your share of the stones.

I doubt very much that he had anyone's permission to do this.
Check with all the officials involved at council offices or wherever and find out the name of the individual who supposedly gave your neighbour verbal permission to do this.
The neighbour may have lied saying it was his wall and the official did not query this.

When doing something underhand neighbours do this whilst the owner of adjoining property is away.

If you contact the RICS they will offer you a free half hour consultation with a solicitor specialising in land law.
He will advise you what to do.

First get on to council and find the name of the person who gave permission.
You will probably find no one did.
Go and retrieve what you think is your half of the stones and get contractor to start rebuilding a wall.
Disregard the hedge as you go uprooting it where necessary. If any of it is on your land you have every right to do this.
If there are any measurements on your deeds a Boundaries surveyor will check where your land ends.

Check there were no neighbour disputes with previous occupants via the solicitor who did your conveyancing. The wall may have been an issue before you moved in.

Or just root out the hedge, chuck it over his side and put up a fence.(No dearer than solicitor fees/surveyor fees etc).
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby ParallelLines » Thu Jun 09, 2016 11:17 am

Having had two of these situations myself I have always found it best to go to a Surveyor first because they have experience of visiting sites and looking at physical boundaries. If others have a different opinion that's fine but that is my experience.

cleo5 I think your encouraging the OP to enter his neighbours land and take stones is irresponsible and could amount to criminal damage.
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby cleo5 » Thu Jun 09, 2016 10:01 pm

ParalelLines,
I did suggest OP consult RICS who will put her in touch with someone in her area who specialises in Land law/ surveying/ boundaries. She will get half hour free advice with the right person in her area.

The comment re take her wall back was said with tongue in cheek. We know she won't do that. She is a good person and has let neighbour rob her and done nothing so far.

She needs to establish beyond doubt the ownership of the wall by obtaining copy of next doors deeds from LR.

Why would it be a crime for OP to take back what is hers(if it is) and yet it is not a crime for big bully neighbour to do what he did?

yes ,MinkeyCat can just accept the hedge and do nothing(cheaper option) or fight for what may have been hers and is now destroyed.
I know many of you are very knowledgeable and experienced lawyers etc but experience is also a hard teacher and I don't want innocent folk to go through the misery of Bullying neighbors deceit and theft.
I cannot see how the milking yard would not have included that wall.
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby TashaS » Sun Jun 12, 2016 9:46 pm

That is terrible that the wall was removed without your permission, especially if the fence was in a mendable state, and they have not replaced the fence with a like-for-like fence, as a juvenile hedge is far from satisfactory.
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby Minkeycat » Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:49 am

Thank you for the valuable suggestions in the replies above. We're still gathering information and it seems that the onus is on us to prove it was our wall. We've had a reply from officials at the planning department. To reiterate, the wall was on the boundary between the garden of the neighbours G2 listed property and the garden of our G2 listed property and both properties are in a conservation area. The head of planning said that permission to remove the wall wasn't needed because it was outside the "very distinct" curtilage of the neighbour's property. To my mind, given that his land directly abuts ours, then physically and logically the wall can therefore only have been on our land. Am I being over simplistic in thinking this?

As ever, I appreciate any input.
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby arborlad » Mon Jun 20, 2016 11:15 am

Minkeycat wrote: The head of planning said that permission to remove the wall wasn't needed because it was outside the "very distinct" curtilage of the neighbour's property.

As ever, I appreciate any input.



............but still within the Conservation Area?

What area are you in, Cotswold stone has a high value, it has an even higher value when incorporated into an existing wall that you own - even if that wall is in a poor but repairable condition.

The footprint of a stone wall is much larger than that of a fence.
Last edited by arborlad on Mon Jun 20, 2016 11:26 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby arborlad » Mon Jun 20, 2016 11:18 am

span wrote:Get 3 or 4 contractors in to quote for the rebuild costs. Then invite his preference - either he rebuilds with original stone or you commission the work and sue him in the county court for the costs.

Plus, it wasn't a shared feature. it was entirely your property for the reason you just posted, if anyone asks. OK?



+1
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby arborlad » Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:58 am

nothingtodowithme wrote:A wall in poor condition has been removed by your nighbour and replaced with a hedge.
What outcome from this would you like to achieve?



You have to ensure you are comparing like with like, if the owner of the wall did nothing he would still be the owner of a substantial boundary feature comprised of valuable building stone. If the owner of the hedge did nothing - he'd be left with.......nothing!!
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby Minkeycat » Wed Dec 07, 2016 6:08 pm

Thank you all for the valuable help here. The only developments since the original post have been that other neighbours are getting fed up that they've lost their privacy, security and seclusion by the removal of the wall and are hinting to us that they'd like an end to this situation asap. Additionally we haven't been able to use that part of our land for the purposes we'd intended since we moved in a year ago and it's now getting beyond a joke. As we got nowhere with the council, we were advised to escalate it to our MP which we did and he told us he was making enquiries on our behalf. That was the beginning of October and we've heard nothing since. Consequently this situation simply rumbles on while the council and our neighbour carry on as though nothing happened with the apparent expectation that we'll just give up and go away. We're therefore wondering if there's anyone with some actual bite we can escalate it to further (we've been told not to bother with the ombudsman)? That seems rather extreme so we're starting to think of litigation against the neighbour. We just want a decent boundary put back, preferably that requires as little maintenance as possible (like an old stone wall) but we don't see why WE should have to pay for it and certainly don't see why WE should have to pay £172 to the council to ask for permission to put it back when they let the neighbour remove it in its entirety Scott free! We are, however, a little worried about litigation becoming long, drawn-out and costly but can't really see what options we have. If we simply go away, as we think we're arrogantly expected to do by the neighbour and the council we will have lost a [presumably] protected, character stone wall and instead gained a privet and laurel hedge that, if they grow, we'll have to cut forever more. This is getting quite upsetting and infuriating now because it's becoming apparent that doing nothing and ignoring us is playing to everyone's favour apart from ours and nobody seems to be able to help. So, in summary, we're wondering whether litigation is likely to be worth it and if so, should we sue the neighbour and/or the council or, failing that, is there any other path we can go down to bring this to a close?

Kind regards
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby arborlad » Thu Mar 23, 2017 3:47 pm

Beast continued here:


Minkeycat wrote:We're in an ongoing communication with our planners about their CO allowing our neighbour to remove an old, stone boundary wall between his property and ours without any kind of permission. We're both in G2 Listed properties in a conservation area. Our point is that we've suffered significantly as a result of the removal of the wall which has changed the character of the space, cost us privacy, exposed our property and caused us to have a break in but the most significant problem for us is that we can't use that area of our land as we want as we need a secure boundary for our pets who can now get onto a road. Had the neighbour been made to apply for permission, we would have been notified and could have stopped the removal of the wall on grounds that it wasn't even his to remove (historically it's ours but ours and the neighbour's deeds are silent so we view it as 50/50 owned by both houses). As it was, we came back one afternoon to find it gone. We think the CO made an error that set in motion a series of events that have cost us dearly and that they should work with the neighbour to reinstate a secure boundary. What's more, if WE want to put back a structure, WE have to pay for permission to put it back because it's in the curtilage of our listed building.

Initially we asked the CO what had been allowed. Our neighbour tells us he immediately forwarded our email to him as a complaint, we got a "thanks for that" and relations with him have been soured because of it as this caused him to threaten to put a boundary back following a spurious line on an old map :roll: which would cut off access to our land. He then called solicitor then the land registry then came and apologised from him because presumably they told him to stop being stupid.

The CO emailed and said "Permission wasn't required" so we phoned him to ask why and find out what's going on. In his absence, another CO told us "Permission should have been sought and a like for like will have to be put back". We to'd and fro'd for a while getting nowhere so escalated to the Head of Planning. She told us she'd clarified the situation with the CO based on his superior knowledge having visited the site and we need permission to put a boundary feature back because it's within the curtilage of our building and that's listed.

So we asked why he hadn't need permission to remove it then and were told "He's demolishing you're constructing". This is wrong as it's all development so we pushed and were told "The wall wasn't in relation to a road" which is irrelevant because it's listed. So we escalated to our MP and he was told we just don't like what we're being told but it was all based on fact and legislation "relevant to the specific situation" . So we escalated to their official complaints procedure and were told that the wall wasn't a wall but a bank with a hedge on top. So we asked the chap investigating to come and look for himself as part of the wall still stands so he could see it's a wall and other evidence. He's concluded that, actually, the wall isn't in the curtilage of the building because it 'appears' to be more spatially related the neighbour's land than ours (it runs between the two and was built by the farmer when our house was a farmhouse to keep cattle in the yard it surrounds while they were waiting to be milked in the milking parlour that's part of our house!). Consequently, they claim, the initial decision to allow its removal was correct and sorry for the mis-information we'd received [from the Head of Planning having consulted with the CO who'd visited the site at least twice to clarify this matter].

So they're judge AND jury and have retrospectively ruled that they're right by being wrong, that any issues are between us and the neighbour and WE must now pay a solicitor to take on the neighbour to put back a boundary feature. If we don't succeed, he'll get a completely fenced in garden, paid for by us PLUS a great deal of building stone from our old wall that he's effectively stolen and is using in other projects. How is this right or fair? We've done nothing. How do we get the planners to take responsibility for their bad decision that was made in person, undocumented and that has caused us to be inconvenienced for over a year by preventing us from using our land and that has materially benefitted a self-professed property developer? The council complaints procedure is clearly a joke and they have demonstrated a total lack of integrity, ignored every single bit of evidence we've produced and just made up a convenient response. Is it even worth continuing with this? Maybe we should just take the hit and know that we've been screwed. It just seems so wrong. We're decent, honest people. We don't want to cause problems for others but we're being well and truly shafted here and it's got to stop somehow.

Any sensible advice would be much appreciated.
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Re: Removal of boundary wall.

Postby jonahinoz » Thu Mar 23, 2017 6:29 pm

The neighbour claims he won’t be living there long so we’ll be cutting back the hedge for ever more once it takes.

Hi Minkeycat,

If your neighbour is hoping to sell his property, remind him that he now has a dispute.

It may be worth making a Small Claim for whatever he owes you for the stones he removed from your wall. (Can you do that if property is stolen?) Let a Judge decide who's wall it was ... based on the balance of probabilities. Your neighbours can claim too, so lots of "small" claims for a few thousand pounds, but the cleftiwallah will have to pay them all ... plus the costs of filing the claims if he loses.

The cost of making the claim is relatively small, but there is a maximum amount that can be regarded as a Small Claim. Google should be able to advise.

John W
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