Nightmare neighbours

Rosyface
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Nightmare neighbours

Post by Rosyface » Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:48 pm

Hi there,

I am hoping that you can give me some advice on the best way forward with a boundary issue that has arisen with our neighbours, given the wealth of knowledge that exists in this community! We bought a cottage a few months ago and we share a garden boundary with our neighbours to the right. They bought their house a couple of years ago. Both houses had historically been within the same family and there had previously been a gap between the gardens for access before they were sold off as separate houses. The vendors of our house erected a fence in the gap a few years ago.

A few weeks ago, our neighbour demolished that section of the fence, claiming it was built on their land. Our neighbours say that they own the entire length of fence/wall between our properties, but our deeds say that we maintain it. We spoke to the executor of the estate of their property (as it was sold to them as probate) and were told that there was no boundary maintenance information contained in their sales file. Thus we are not sure what leads them to believe that they own it. They haven't been forthcoming with any legal documents but have been trying to intimidate us since the day we moved in. We've since discovered that our vendors had issues with them too but had not declared anything on the SPIF form (but that's a whole other story).

At some point in history, the previous owner of their house built a shed onto part of the boundary wall, forming the outer wall of the shed. We were told about this by the previous owners brother who has resided in the area his whole life. The section of knocked fence was in line with this old boundary wall (which is still somewhat visible). Our neighbours are claiming that our sellers had no right to attach the fence to the inside of their shed (ie the old boundary wall predating the shed) and this seems to be the basis for their main argument for knocking the fence. Some guttering overhangs the wall so not sure if that shifts the boundary further into our garden.

Assuming that we do own the boundary as our deeds say, do our neighbours now own the part of the boundary to which their shed is attached? Its been there a long time, possibly 50+ years. Despite a shed now forming part of the boundary line, should the fence dividing the upper part of the gardens still be in line with the old part of the boundary or should it have been attached to the outside of the shed? Do we legally have the upper hand since our deeds show that we maintain the boundary or does that not actually count for much?

We think that they are going to try and claim about 1ft of our garden as theirs as the upper part of the fence is built on top of a low old stone wall that is about 1ft wide. We are seeking advice on the best way to approach this issue as our impression of our neighbours is that they are well practised bullies and that this is probably the start of problems that we will experience with them. They apparently had a RICS surveyor look at the boundary but we've since found out that the surveyor is one of their friends, so can hardly be considered impartial!

We'd appreciate any advice you have on the best way forward in settling this dispute. Thanks in advance.

Collaborate
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by Collaborate » Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:57 pm

I think you've over complicated it.

the simple facts are:

1. Your deeds say you are responsible for the fence (please post the precise wording).

2. The fence was constructed before ownership of the two properties was separated.

3. the boundary feature at the time of the transfer marked the effective boundary.

Forget all the other stuff. Concentrate on these simple facts, but check your house insurance for legal cover, because if they are ignoring what the deeds say you may well have to have recourse to some formal legal advice.

Rosyface
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Joined: Mon May 20, 2019 3:04 pm

Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by Rosyface » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:42 pm

Thanks for your reply. We are so stressed over it all that we are probably focussing too much on details so thanks for the sanity check!

Our deeds include an old land registry map with various colour codes. 'Boundaries owned' is written on the map and has a line which is coloured green. The whole length of our boundary with the troublesome neighbour is coloured in green. It doesn't make any mention of the boundaries within the wording of the deeds themselves. Do you think this is sufficient to infer ownership of the fence/wall?

MacadamB53
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by MacadamB53 » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:52 pm

Hi Rosyface,

what would make you happy? I assume them not taking possession of a strip of your land?

they’ve not done that have they?

kind regards, Mac

Rosyface
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by Rosyface » Tue Jul 02, 2019 5:11 pm

Hi Mac,

We'd like to put the fence back in that they knocked down as its impinging on our privacy having a large hole between the two properties. Also as you say, them not claiming a strip of our land. They have said that they believe the wall is theirs but can't produce any evidence to back that up.

We dont want to argue over mm but we also dont want to concede to them as they have been behaving badly towards us in other ways (that I wont go into as this is primarily a boundary issue).

span
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by span » Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:02 pm

You want a fence? You put up your own fence.

also, the whole other story may not be other. If your seller lied on the SPIF then it's very relevant indeed. Post up the details.

MacadamB53
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by MacadamB53 » Tue Jul 02, 2019 8:53 pm

span wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:02 pm
You want a fence? You put up your own fence.

also, the whole other story may not be other. If your seller lied on the SPIF then it's very relevant indeed. Post up the details.
+1

Rosyface
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by Rosyface » Wed Jul 03, 2019 4:51 pm

I
Last edited by Rosyface on Wed Jul 03, 2019 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Rosyface
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by Rosyface » Wed Jul 03, 2019 4:52 pm

I guess my major question pertains to whether we can build the fence in the same place it was in, prior to our neighbours knocking it down. We would like to just put another fence up but we dont want to waste time and money doing so if they will just smash it down again, claiming its on their land.

Does the shed being built onto the wall (maybe 50 years ago) mean that they own that section of boundary, despite our deeds saying we own the entire length?

In regards to the previous owners, we discovered that the fence had not been built for as long as we had been told during the conveyance. We discovered that the sellers had erected it after our neighbours tried to access their house through what is now our garden and that their claims about owning the wall/fence is in relation to them trying to widen their restricted access (ie widen their passage up the side of our house from 2m to 3m). Our garden is configured as the passage between houses, shed and then the contentious 'gap' such that if they removed the shed + owned the gap which veers to the right somewhat, their access point would be wider.

It had not gone to legal action but we have neighbour reports that there was about a year of shouting matches between them before our sellers sold to us. There was no mention on the SPIF of any disputes or anything that could lead to a dispute. In fact when we enquired, we were told all of the neighbours were lovely! We think that this is something that should have been declared, given what we are now having to deal with. We have heard unverified murmurs that they will try to get planning permission for a 2nd property in the curtilage of their garden, which is huge. So their motivation may stem from trying to gain a better access-way in order to win planning permission (not sure if a extra 1ft would do that, mind you).

Prior to the fence being there, we were told that there was a living fence with some shrubs and plants, which our neighbours cut back upon their purchase and started applying pressure to our sellers. Thats when the fence was built. They didn't remove it during the remainder of the previous ownership of our house but maybe saw an opportunity to intimidate new owners.

Hopefully I've explained this sufficiently well -its a bit of a saga with lots of anti-social behaviour form them that I haven't gone into. My major concern at this point is whether we own the whole boundary or not and what that means in terms of their access being widened.

Rosyface
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Joined: Mon May 20, 2019 3:04 pm

Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by Rosyface » Wed Jul 03, 2019 4:57 pm

Rosyface wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 4:51 pm
I
Apologies - not sure how to delete this post!

Collaborate
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by Collaborate » Wed Jul 03, 2019 6:46 pm

Get the evidence from the previous owners that they erected (and paid for) the fence, and then see a solicitor. They need a sternly worded letter writing to them (the neighbours) to inform them that if they try and remove the fence again they will be faced with a complaint to the police of criminal damage. They also need to be notified that they must not:
1. Attach anything to your fence (so they must remove the shed);
2. Interfere with you rebuilding the shed;

and that you will expect them to pay for the cost of the fence replacement otherwise you will issue legal proceedings.

Unless you start off firmly asserting your legal rights they will try and walk all over you.

mr sheen
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by mr sheen » Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:47 pm

Personally I would not go down the 'legalese route' yet but try and try again to resolve the matter between neighbours you may have to live next to each other for years. The 'sternly worded' solicitor's letter rarely gets people quaking in their boots in this day and age, actually it often inflames a situation. Legal action for attachments to fences etc are just not going to happen and therefore threatening such action is merely an empty threat. Empty threats force people to have to back down when challenged and hence make the threatener look weak and toothless and the annoying neighbour takes the upper hand which they will relish. Only threaten what you will follow through right to the end after you have ensured you have the stamina, resilience and resources to be able to do so. Otherwise seek a resolution in as amicable a manner as possible.

Unless there is written evidence of disputes, then it is unlikely that you will prove that there were previous undisclosed disputes. Describing all the neighbours as 'lovely' is purely subjective and finding out they are not 'lovely' in your opinion is not actionable.

To determine if you own the boundary etc you need a surveyor which will cost money and even if they produce a favourable report for you the neighbour can chose to ignore it. How much do you want to spend on this?
Solicitor letter £150-£500+ depending on level of expertise, calibre of LLP, complexity of case etc etc
Surveyor similar to above.

Collaborate
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by Collaborate » Wed Jul 03, 2019 10:57 pm

mr sheen wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:47 pm

Solicitor letter £150-£500+ depending on level of expertise, calibre of LLP, complexity of case etc etc
Surveyor similar to above.
Legal fees zero with home insurance.

arborlad
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by arborlad » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:30 am

Rosyface wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:48 pm
A few weeks ago, our neighbour demolished that section of the fence,



What type of fence is it?...............that's generally seen as the actions of someone who is unsure of their position.

A local fencer is going to be best placed to advise and implement a replacement. If the neighbour believed there was any errors in what they were purchasing, the time to sort it was pre-purchase.
arborlad

smile...it confuses people

mr sheen
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Re: Nightmare neighbours

Post by mr sheen » Thu Jul 04, 2019 7:04 am

A key sentence here....."The vendors of our house erected a fence IN the gap a few years ago". This raises issues about where the boundary was originally and where it was intended when the properties were divided. The ownership of the land constituting the 'gap' needs to be established.

I don't think this is as clear cut as other contributors seem to and I don't think that it is close to jumping in at the deep end by sending solicitors letters asserting rights that have not been established.

The neighbours claim to have had a surveyor assess the ownership etc....ask politely for a copy of the report.

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