I've got an ongoing dispute with a neighbouring property owner (England). He is a landlord who has left his garden in a bad state of neglect for 20+ years. This includes a retaining wall that supports some land at the bottom of my garden. Part of the wall is red brick and in an ok condition, but the rest of the wall is more like a waist-high collection of loose stones and a fairly steep (but compacted) bank of soil with shrubs/brambles/undergrowth. It has been in this stable, but perhaps unsightly state, for many many years.
I have it in writing from his solicitor that the retaining wall belongs to him and it is located 100% on his side of the boundary. (But obviously my land touches it and receives an implied easement of support from it)
This leads me to believe that this is NOT a "party fence wall" under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. Is that correct? My understanding is that if the wall belongs 100% to him and is on his side only, then it is 100% his responsibility to maintain/repair (should he wish to do so). Am I right on this point?
The situation now is that the landlord has embarked on a full house and garden renovation project. As part of this, he has decided to completely demolish his retaining wall and build a new one in its place. We were not informed of this work before it commenced and did not agree to share the costs of this work. We do not see it as necessary as the land has been stable for many years and our land is going nowhere. He has now asked us to pay half of his costs. We do not wish to do so.
Bottom line question = Am I legally obligated to contribute to the cost of rebuilding his wall? (yes/no...and why?)
Many thanks for any advice!
I turned round to my solicitor at the point at which that had happened and she advised me it would be politic not to fight back against this theft any longer and I said "Since that bit of my land is now legally theirs - then who pays the (expensive) bill I can see is due for replacing that retaining wall". She grinned/winked/shrugged shoulders and said "Its on THEIR title plan now LOL LOL LOL". In other words I was previously due to have to cover that bill - but now they've stolen that wall = that bill is now 100% theirs alone. So that's the plus side I've had from their actions. It's beyond me as to just why they wanted that bit of my land (as it's neither use nor ornament to them) - and I told them at the conclusion of this that that bill would fall due on their house at some point/be an expensive one and be totally down to their house to cover the cost. To say they looked dumbstruck would be an understatement (they were gawping in shock at what I'd just said and speechless) - as they didn't seem to have realised that would be the case.
But - yep...that bill is all down to their house now.
So - there ya' go = it's a solicitors view that if it's on the title plan of the lower house = it's the lower houses' bill 100%.
I've read up extensively on this issue and have been through The Party Walls etc. Act 1996 a number of times (takes some reading!). I'm pretty sure your lawyer is right that the bill rests with the owner of the wall.
In our case, the landlord of the neighbouring property would probably need to go down a different route and claim that our higher land had somehow caused his wall to slip and deteriorate over 20+ years...and thus demand compensation. However, he has neglected his wall for ages while we have maintained our garden to a good standard, including along the boundary next to his wall since we moved in.
My advice: keep taking photos of the wall and watch for any defects getting worse over time. Raise these in letters to the neighbour each year so you have documentary evidence in the future if/when the thing every collapses. You'll then be able to prove they knew about the condition of the wall, own it 100%, did nothing...and now need to pay to sort it out. Like a nice "Wall Update Newsletter"!
He can ASK whoever he likes for money and they can choose to say yes or no.
Thanks, Mr Sheen! My thoughts exactly. This gives me confidence in my conviction that he's wrong here. I'll get my response sent off this week.
Much appreciated, Collaborate! Yes, I have also ready about the natural lay of the land being an important consideration in these matters. It's very likely that the builder of his house had to cut away the existing slope in order to create a flat space on which to have his house/garden. So this artificially created the difference in height between out gardens...and importantly...for the BENEFIT of his side (not ours).
When was your house built, and when was theirs?
If it's as you suspect - that their land was lowered to suit their plot - then that certainly helps to assign responsibility for the wall. Couple that to the fact that the wall is fully on their side of the boundary, and you'd appear to have a pretty solid case. About the only thing that could counter this would be the contents of your respective deeds - any mention in there of retaining walls?
Do you have Legal Protection included in your house insurance? If so, I'd run it past them first, so that your response to your neighbour's claim will have the correct legal content in it. This shouldn't cost you anything. And if the neighb tries to take this further, then your LP should kick in fully to cover you.
Meanwhile, collate your evidence in chronological order. Ie, the very first mention of this matter by your neighbour, and what was said as verbatim as possible.
When the neighbour acknowledged ownership of this wall/bank - again, verbatim, as best you can recall.
When they started implying a shared cost - ditto ditto ditto. What was said to 'back up' their assertion.
Photos of the bank/wall, plans, etc - mark the boundary line to the best of your evidence.
Glad to hear that - confirms what my own solicitor said when legal ownership of my retaining wall got grabbed off me by my downhill neighbour. So 2 solicitors and a RICS surveyor all confirming that a downhill house has responsibility in these circumstances if they've got the legal ownership (ie it's on their title plan). Looks pretty cast-iron for you.....