Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

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Seahouses
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Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by Seahouses »

Hello Garden Law community. We'd really appreciate any advice anyone can offer on the situation below.

We own a house on a hill. Our next-door neighbour's house is downhill from ours. The boundary between our properties runs through raised flower beds, from which we and our neighbour both benefit. The wall of the flower beds on our neighbour’s side is in poor condition and in danger of collapse.

Our neighbour believes that it is our responsibility to pay to repair this wall as our property is uphill from the wall; thus, she considers it a retaining wall for our land. She is asking us to pay half of the costs of a new wall, which would be somewhere between £3.5-5k (she's been quoted £7-10k in total).

We believe that the wall is her responsibility as it is on her property, several feet over the boundary. She also benefits from the raised flower beds which the wall retains. When the wall at the front on our side needed repairing, we paid for this ourselves.

This is not quite a boundary dispute as the boundary itself is clear and the wall in question is well over the boundary. We have checked our deeds and there are no covenants/special agreements in place.

We have been passed from pillar to post trying to get advice on this. Currently, we're weighing up either using mediation to reach an agreement with our neighbour or engaging a property solicitor specialising in boundary disputes.

We honestly don't believe we should have to pay for a wall on someone else's property, but are prepared to stand corrected. It's really hard to find information online about where we stand as the wall in question is not a boundary wall.

We have a good relationship with our neighbour and would like to keep it this way, but not at the cost of several thousand pounds. We're also aware that this situation could cause problems when we want to sell our house, as any disputes / agreements made would have to be disclosed on the Property Information Form.

Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for any responses
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despair
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by despair »

It sounds a littke unusual that your Front wall was definitely on your kand and your responsibility

Yet the rear wall is clearly well on neighbours land but they think you should share the cost

Have raised beds or anything been added or altered on either side complicating this issue
or is it really a case of developers simply building an ordinary wall to support higher land when it should have been a true retaining wall

Have you downloaded a copy of neighbours deeds from Land registry website its only a very few pounds
Seahouses
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by Seahouses »

Hello @despair and thanks for your reply. Really appreciate your time.

The wall in question is at the side, in between the two houses, rather than at the rear. The front wall to which I referred is between our property and the street and clearly our property/responsibility. We and our neighbours have shared responsibility for the boundaries between our houses and indeed we shared the cost of a fence repair in the back garden with the same neighbour recently. However, in this case the wall that's collapsing is not on the boundary: it's on our neighbour's property, which is why we don't believe we should be paying for it.

The raised beds straddle the boundary between the two properties, with the boundary running down the middle and flower beds on both sides. We're not sure whether they have ever been altered, rather than just repaired over the years. The houses date from the 1920s and we believe the original raised beds were built at the same time (as it seems unlikely that two neighbours would have agreed to build them to straddle the two properties since then).

We'll purchase a copy of our neighbour's deeds as you suggest, but from our deeds it's quite clear where the boundary is and that the wall in question is on our neighbour's property, by 4-5 feet.

Thanks again for your reply. We'd welcome any further thoughts or advice from anyone reading this :)
despair
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by despair »

If the wall in question is definitely 4 to 5ft within neighbours property i cant see how they can expect you to contribute but you need someone with good legal knowledge to respond
ukmicky
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by ukmicky »

Based on what you said as the wall is not directly adjacent to your land, it seems your land is being supported by her land not the wall so you are not liable for any cost of repairing the wall .

However what you see on the surface may not be the whole story as a supporting wall can have a base many times larger than the top and if it’s base reaches to the edge of your land which it could the advice I’m giving now would be totally be different
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Collaborate
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by Collaborate »

It’s on her land so is her wall. Your land isn’t being retained by that wall in event. The Party Wall Act (the method by which she can repair the wall and seek a contribution from you) does therefore not apply.
CherryBlack
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by CherryBlack »

"1) Our neighbour believes that it is our responsibility to pay to repair this wall as our property is uphill from the wall; thus, she considers it a retaining wall for our land.

2)We believe that the wall is her responsibility as it is on her property, several feet over the boundary. She also benefits from the raised flower beds which the wall retains. When the wall at the front on our side needed repairing, we paid for this ourselves."

What an unusual wall!

I'm trying this think of scenarios where you would/could be responsible for their side of that wall. This first is if it was a 'retaining wall', holding back a raised level of ground on your side, and preventing it from falling on to the neighbour's land. But your sketch shows ground sloping at a largely continuous and similar angle for you both? Ie, this wall is not actually 'retaining' anything? If that wall were removed, what would your land do - end up on your neighbour's side? If 'no', then it surely isn't retaining? So that's one maintenance obligation I think you do not have.

The other obvious scenario would be through any obligatory reference to it in your, or your neighbour's, deeds. But there's now't in yours? In which case it's very unlikely there's anything in theirs either (but probably worth checking).

So, what is that wall? Is it a boundary wall that's been designed to also be a feature? Their side sits 2 or more feet within their land? And yours ditto? What is in between?! Is it 'hollow' - ie filled with soil? I mean, it surely cannot be made of solid brick or block 4 or 5 feet thick - unless it's a dry-stone wall? So, if it is hollow, and the imaginary 'ends' of that wall were removed, what would you have? Yes, two separate walls, each one sitting comfortably inside each boundary, and which has a load of soil in between them?
Seahouses
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by Seahouses »

Thank you so much, everyone, for your replies. We feel a little more confident now that our feeling that it can't be our responsibility to pay for a wall on her land is likely correct. We are going to bite the bullet and tell our neighbour so tonight. Not looking forward to the conversation at all!

If she does not accept this, then we have spoken to a property solictor about adjudication leading to a binding decision. If our neighbour agrees, the cost would be £600-900 shared between both parties but at least it would lead to a clear resolution (hopefully in our favour!). The whole situation has been very stressful and we just want it over and done with.

@CherryBlack, to answer your questions, the space between the wall on our property and the wall on hers is filled with soil and there are flowers/shrubs on both sides of the fence that runs down the middle. If the wall was removed, the soil from the flower beds would fall onto her drive, but our land would stay put.

Thanks again, everyone, for your advice.
ukmicky
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by ukmicky »

As I said previously but not in so many words be warned as most of a correctly constructed supporting wall is hidden under the ground and what you see above ground is a small percentage of the supporting structure. The base of a supporting wall and its foundation can be many feet wide extending both up the hill and down if need be. So it is possible it does extend uphill to you land under ground with earth on top to improve its look and protect it from frost damage.

If you live on a steep hill this could be the case. Looking at your drawing it is also showing a sort of raised square block which if it has two walls one on your land and one on theirs could be deemed to be one structure which would mean you are both liable .

The other question you need to ask is if the wall collapsed and their bit of land between your properties fell down into their property would the result mean your land would also at some stage slip in their land as there was nothing holding up your land If so you woulD need to prevent that by building a supporting wall.

I would however not volunteer paying towards its rebuild unless the above was shown to be the case. Do you have a proper picture.
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arborlad
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by arborlad »

Seahouses wrote: Wed Jan 26, 2022 5:08 pm............. there are flowers/shrubs on both sides of the fence that runs down the middle.




First mention of a fence in this location, what type is it, who owns it? The law presumes you will fence to the fullest extent of your land, absent anything to the contrary, that is what has happened and the fence is now the established boundary feature, anything outwith that fence is not in your ownership.

In this context, ownership and responsibility are generally regarded to be one and the same.
arborlad

smile...it confuses people
Morgan Sweet
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by Morgan Sweet »

arborlad wrote: Thu Jan 27, 2022 1:27 pm
Seahouses wrote: Wed Jan 26, 2022 5:08 pm............. there are flowers/shrubs on both sides of the fence that runs down the middle.




First mention of a fence in this location, what type is it, who owns it? The law presumes you will fence to the fullest extent of your land, absent anything to the contrary, that is what has happened and the fence is now the established boundary feature, anything outwith that fence is not in your ownership.

In this context, ownership and responsibility are generally regarded to be one and the same.
Yet again, I politely ask where in law is there a legal presumption that you will fence to the fullest extent of your land?
IdefixUK
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by IdefixUK »

Morgan Sweet wrote: Sat Jan 29, 2022 11:57 am
Yet again, I politely ask where in law is there a legal presumption that you will fence to the fullest extent of your land?
Morgan,
Howe v. Hawkes [2002] EWCA Civ 1136 (29 July 2002)
See paragraph 31

Regards
IdefixUK
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by IdefixUK »

Morgan Sweet
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Re: Are we responsible for wall on neighbour's property?

Post by Morgan Sweet »

Thank you IdefixUK for the link; that was very helpful .
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