Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Postby peter_964rs » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:49 pm

I'd welcome comments from forum members here.

Last year I bought an end of terrace property at auction that I converted into a House In Multiple Occupation (HMO) - where rooms are let individually but facilities such as bathrooms, kitchen, lounge etc are shared.

Just before Xmas part of the wall between my property and the one to its left that is part of the terrace collapsed. It was of stone and rubble construction in this part; further back down the terrace garden it has been reconstructed of breeze blocks and forms part of my neighbour's garage (important).

Whilst I am a landlord living relatively locally to my tenants, next door is also tenanted. In fact, the landlord wasn't told by his tenants that the wall had collapsed and didn't know until I left a message on his answerphone, which he didn't get until after he'd visited to deliver an Xmas card and therefore missed an opportunity to inspect. Typical tenants!

The cause of the collapse would seem (to me) to be due to the roots of a Buddlea bush that has been allowed to grow on their side; I can see roots in the rubble that fell into my garden.

Neither my deeds nor (according to the landlord of next door) his deeds show any T marks, according to the brief conversation I had with him when he responded to my answerphone message. Unfortunately, he caught me in the middle of childminding my 2yr old daughter and trying to prep for Xmas so I didn't pay much attention to what he was saying at the time and he actually suggested we get competitive quotes from our preferred builders, implying we jointly owned the wall. I regret I didn't dispute that at the time.

When Xmas was passed and I (briefly) had a moments respite, shortly broken with the arrival of a baby son at the end of Jan, I left him another message asking for his email so I could write at a more convenient time because I just couldn't talk at length during the day given the circumstances!

I pointed out that (a) the Buddlea caused the issue, and (b) the boundary would appear to be his because:

1. The wall forms part of his garage wall.
2. The 'ugly' side i.e. buttressing is on his side.
3. All the terraced garages have been built to the same i.e. garage to the right of the garden, with the right wall (my left wall that has collapsed) forming part of the garage wall for each terraced house and the back garden gate onto a lane at the rear on the left for each terraced house.
4. I contacted the previous owners of my property who corroborated the convention they'd had for the 20+ years they lived there, that they owned the wall to the right and not the one to the left.

So I made these points politely in email and have heard nothing. I have just realised that the pitched roof of his garage actually projects into my garden and there is no easement in my deeds for this, if that's of any importance...?

I also left a voicemail on his answerphone message and have heard nothing again.

Next steps....?
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Re: Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Postby mr sheen » Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:10 pm

Ooooooooooh dear......the neighbour seemed so happy to split costs before the 'law' was laid down. Usually best to do your research before sending letters.
So what to do next....

You could
get a competitive quote as he suggested and try to rebuild relationships....or...
Leave the wall down.....or...
If you want a boundary feature....pay for your own wall or fence.....or...
.....well...they are your main options actually since it is well-nigh impossible to force anyone to have a boundary feature and force them to pay for it. (Even Trump has conceded that it will be complex and difficult to get Mexico to pay!)

You could pass the matter onto your insurance company if outside walls are covered.

If you really want to continue to seek to prove he owns the wall AND was responsible for its demise AND has a responsibility to replace or repair it, then you will need documentary proof he owns it, tree experts and engineers reports and then take your chance in court (where your chances of winning are pretty slim...and costs will probably exceed the cost of replacing the wall.)

For me...jointly restoring it would be the best outcome....wall gets replaced, relationships are maintained, occurs quickly....win/win for all.

Oh and the overhanging guttering will have gained a right to overhang so won't be on deeds.
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Re: Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Postby MacadamB53 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:24 am

Hi peter,

the quickest and least complicated solution is to build yourself a wall/fence along that section of the boundary - i.e. stood wholly on your land.

if you want to take it that the old wall stood wholly on his land the above should be a doddle.

Kind regards, Mac
ps the overhanging guttering is not relevant and not a point to take further
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Re: Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Postby SwitchRich » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:55 pm

Agree with Mac and Mr Sheen! I would write back and ask if he would reconsider going in 50:50 to rebuild the wall.
That way you both get what you want and keep good relations.
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Re: Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Postby Collaborate » Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:07 pm

Nothing to add to the replies so far save that if the wall is a party wall there is a mechanism for resolving who pays for repairs, and as part of that process the surveyor who acts as arbitrator will take in to account whether one side has made greater use of the boundary feature than the other, such as incorporating it in to a building.
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Re: Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Postby MacadamB53 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:35 pm

Hi SwitchRich,

Agree with Mac and Mr Sheen!

stranger things have happened :)

that's what popped into my head when I saw an exclamation mark added to that comment.

Amused regards, Mac
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Re: Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Postby jonahinoz » Wed Feb 22, 2017 5:59 pm

Agree with Mac and Mr Sheen! I would write back and ask if he would reconsider going in 50:50 to rebuild the wall.
That way you both get what you want and keep good relations.


Hi,

If you share the cost, it becomes/remains a shared wall.

Me? I'd rather build the wall myself (depending how long it is) or erect my fence, and document that it was mine. Or if my neighbour preferred, he could build the wall. Or we could toss a coin ... or build a cavity wall.

Er ... I don't suppose that either of you have house insurance that covers the wall?

John W
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Re: Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Postby peter_964rs » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:02 pm

Thanks all for your considered replies. Sorry for slow response, I have a 1 month old baby son and am very sleep-deprived, it's much harder than I thought!

If I lived at the property, I would be more inclined to discuss some element of sharing costs with next door. But, neither he nor I live in our respective properties and are both landlords. The commercial angle comes more to the fore, especially since it is a stone-built wall which (according to him) will cost £2k to rebuild....!

Splitting this cost sticks in my craw - his Buddleia is obviously the culprit, it really does look like the wall is his and forms his boundary, does not straddle our boundary, and is part of his garage. £1k is not to be sniffed at and it's not my fault either.

This is a six-house terrace and, as well as speaking to the previous owners of no 6 (mine) I spoke to no 2 and no 4 about wall ownership. They all believe the wall to the right is theirs and the wall to the left is owned by next door; in my case it's therefore my neighbours responsibility. no 2 have lived in their house for over forty years and are adamant that's the arrangement. Whether or not it is written down in anybody's deeds is the question....!

At the most, if he is not going to repair the boundary feature, then he needs to clear the rubble away and make the rest of the wall safe because the bit that hasn't collapsed is leaning badly in to my garden.
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Re: Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Postby stufe35 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:08 pm

New baby...don't worry they say its the first 18 years that are the worst :D
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Re: Boundary wall collapsed but ownership unclear

Postby mr sheen » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:46 pm

You don't want to spend any money....no probs....no-one can make you. Just leave all as is.

Equally you can't make your neighbour do anything at all either, irrespective of what Uncle Tom Cobbly and all 'believe' ownership may have been or may be...you can't make him repair the wall, move his bushes or spend any money either it works both ways.

Believing his bush caused a problem isn't enough, you need expert reports which will probably cost more than the wall repair. Then you can put him 'on notice' and any subsequent damage he would be responsible for.
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