Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

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SnoopyDoo
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Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2024 4:12 pm

Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by SnoopyDoo »

I would be very grateful for any advice or opinions concerning the following questions.

We have 120-year-old garden walls on both sides of our property. The Land Registry documentation states that we are responsible for maintaining walls or fences within the boundaries of our land (as marked with a T on the plan), so my understanding is that the walls belong to us and are not shared in any way with our neighbours.

The neighbour on one side has a very different opinion about what makes an aesthetic garden boundary to us, and has informed us that he is going to build a fence in front of the length of the wall that is in his back garden – fair enough.

He has dug away a lot of soil from his side of the wall and exposed bricks that stick out from (and, we think, go under) the base of the wall – I don’t know what the technical name is but I assume they form some type of footing for the wall.

Q1: We are assuming that the bricks that stick out are actually on his land – does that sound right? The deeds don’t have that level of detail.

In order to erect the fence, we assume he will want to drill into these bricks to erect his fence posts as close to the wall as he can. If these bricks are on his land, it seems reasonable that he should be permitted to do this.

Q2: However, do you think he would be liable for any damage done to the stability of the wall, if he drills into these bricks?

The walls carry through to the front garden, with paths either side. There is a gate between the side of the neighbour’s house and our wall with a gatepost attached to the wall. The neighbour has told us that he is going to instruct his builder to repoint his side of our wall, from the gate to the front of his drive.

It might sound petty, but we are not keen for our neighbour to do anything to the wall. In his ideal world, the wall wouldn’t exist and we are not sure that he is beyond trying to further that position in any way he can get away with! We would rather negotiate with him (something that is proving rather difficult at the moment) and have our own builder perform any work but I am just hoping to understand the legal position. I think that he isn’t allowed to do anything to the wall without our permission and technically, if he did, it would be criminal damage.

Q3: Do you think it is correct that this would be criminal damage and, if so, what action should we take if his builder starts to take an angle grinder to the wall without our permission?

I also think it is likely that he will want to replace the gate and will plan to remove the current gatepost and attach a new one.

Q4: Would removing something from the wall technically require our permission too?
MacadamB53
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Re: Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by MacadamB53 »

hi SnoopyDoo,

The Land Registry documentation states that we are responsible for maintaining walls or fences within the boundaries of our land (as marked with a T on the plan), so my understanding is that the walls belong to us and are not shared in any way with our neighbours.

what do you mean by “documentation”? if you just mean there are ‘T’ marks on a plan, these mean nothing unless they’re referred to in the wording of the deed

kind regards, Mac
SnoopyDoo
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Re: Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by SnoopyDoo »

Thanks for your reply.

They are referred to in the wording of the deed as follows:

'The Purchaser shall for ever hereafter maintain good and substantial boundary walls or fences.. on the sides of the said piece of land hereby conveyed marked T within the boundary on the said plan'.

Further down it says: 'NOTE: The T Marks referred to affect the north western and south eastern boundaries of the land in this title.'

The garden walls are on the north western and south eastern boundaries.
Rushton
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Re: Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by Rushton »

The original purchaser of your land would have had the responsibility to erect and maintain the wall. From what I have read, positive covenants such as this do not run with the land and are not enforceable on subsequent owners, so it is good of you to "own" the maintenance. The assumption would be that the outer face of the wall is the boundary so the wall is entirely your property, therefore precluding your neighbour from doing anything to it unless they have your permission. Useful to check with the neighbour(s) on the other boundaries what their view is. Not a lawyer by the way.

As for action, you should document the status quo, assemble any supporting and historical evidence and let the neighbour know in a recorded letter that no action should be taken without consulting you as owner of the fence. Replacing the gatepost seems reasonable. You will want to be able to maintain the brickwork on their side in future.
CherryBlack
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Re: Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by CherryBlack »

SnoopyDoo wrote: Sun Jun 16, 2024 4:30 pm I would be very grateful for any advice or opinions concerning the following questions.
We have 120-year-old garden walls on both sides of our property. The Land Registry documentation states that we are responsible for maintaining walls or fences within the boundaries of our land (as marked with a T on the plan), so my understanding is that the walls belong to us and are not shared in any way with our neighbours.
The neighbour on one side has a very different opinion about what makes an aesthetic garden boundary to us, and has informed us that he is going to build a fence in front of the length of the wall that is in his back garden – fair enough.
He has dug away a lot of soil from his side of the wall and exposed bricks that stick out from (and, we think, go under) the base of the wall – I don’t know what the technical name is but I assume they form some type of footing for the wall.
Q1: We are assuming that the bricks that stick out are actually on his land – does that sound right? The deeds don’t have that level of detail.
In order to erect the fence, we assume he will want to drill into these bricks to erect his fence posts as close to the wall as he can. If these bricks are on his land, it seems reasonable that he should be permitted to do this.
Q2: However, do you think he would be liable for any damage done to the stability of the wall, if he drills into these bricks?
The walls carry through to the front garden, with paths either side. There is a gate between the side of the neighbour’s house and our wall with a gatepost attached to the wall. The neighbour has told us that he is going to instruct his builder to repoint his side of our wall, from the gate to the front of his drive.
It might sound petty, but we are not keen for our neighbour to do anything to the wall. In his ideal world, the wall wouldn’t exist and we are not sure that he is beyond trying to further that position in any way he can get away with! We would rather negotiate with him (something that is proving rather difficult at the moment) and have our own builder perform any work but I am just hoping to understand the legal position. I think that he isn’t allowed to do anything to the wall without our permission and technically, if he did, it would be criminal damage.
Q3: Do you think it is correct that this would be criminal damage and, if so, what action should we take if his builder starts to take an angle grinder to the wall without our permission?
I also think it is likely that he will want to replace the gate and will plan to remove the current gatepost and attach a new one.
Q4: Would removing something from the wall technically require our permission too?
Hi SnoopyDoo.

Just to try and clarify some points to hopefully add to the good advice given above.

These walls appear conclusively to be yours. They almost certainly sit fully on your land - ie, both neighbour's wall faces sit 'on' the actual (but invisible) boundary line, so the whole visible physical wall is on your land. You own them in their entirety.

The walls will have 'footings' or founds, which your neighbour has now exposed, and hopefully not yet damaged. If they dig below these founds, they could literally undermine them - again not good. Yes, these footings most likely encroach beyond the boundary, but this is not a 'trespass', as it's below ground, and is also a necessity for the wall - an easement is effectively in place.

So, what are the 'rules'? Your neighbour must not do pretty much anything to that wall that you do not give permission for. They certainly cannot undermine or damage the footings. They cannot attach anything new to it, but exceptions could be things like gates which have been in place for a long time - ie, a near like-for-like replacement. They couldn't add a double-width gate, for example, which would obviously increase the load on the wall.

The situation could get a bit murky if they wanted to replace a gate with a similar size and style, but found that the stones were loose and they couldn't do this properly - would they be able to insist (legally) that you repair the wall first? The answer is - I don't know, but I suspect so.

The good news is that they appear to be willing to contribute to the maintenance, and I have to say - with a few caveats - I'd welcome this, as I expect it ain't going to be cheap! So, try and have a chat and arrive at a mutually-agreeable solution.

You will, however, need to be unambiguously clear about things they mustn't do, and you must have a way of proving you've made them aware of this. A good way is, after discussing it, to write out a bullet point list of what was discussed and agreed, and make sure you have a recordable way of sending it - email, WhatApp, letter (if videoed or witnessed), etc.

So, things they mustn't do, as it could damage the OLD wall;
They mustn't undermine the founds and footings.
They mustn't disturb any of the underground brickwork.
They mustn't attach anything to the brickwork.
They mustn't attach anything new to the wall - and that includes fenceposts.
They should discuss with you before doings things like changing gates, so that you can ensure it's done correctly.

That, clearly, narrows down what they can do! If they really want a decorative fence on their side of this wall, it's going to have to be largely self-supporting. Ie, posts inserted close to the wall, but not to a depth that disturbs the footings. That means it'll require strut bracing on their side - hardly attractive.

Ok, in reality, a wall in good condition should be able to tolerate a post being stuck through its founds every 6' with no issue. And, if they do this with seemingly no ill effect, that will probably be that! But, you need to put them on notice of what could happen, and that they'd be responsible if the worst did occur.

So, any common ground? Did you say they'd be happy to repoint their side, but you are concerned about the builder they could use? Tbh, I'd be looking at this as the best solution, but - yes - I'd want to know the builder used, and that they know the correct repointing mix to use on these old bricks - it's easy to use a too-strong modern mortar, for instance, and then find that the bricks are breaking up over time as all the stresses have been passed on to the bricks themselves.

A poster has suggested that the 'covenanted' obligation for maintaining this wall is not passed on to subsequent owners. No idea if that's correct - or who could actually enforce it if it is. But what is correct, is that you 'own' that wall, so are responsible for it. For instance, if that wall becomes unsafe, then you carry the risk of a claim against you should it fall and cause damage.

So, see what common ground you have with your neighb :-)
MacadamB53
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Re: Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by MacadamB53 »

hi SnoopyDoo,

Do you think it is correct that this would be criminal damage and, if so, what action should we take if his builder starts to take an angle grinder to the wall without our permission?

a bit of reading from a quick “google” will tell you that criminal damage must involve damage to property which is beyond de minimis and impairs its value or usefulness.

if the neighbour’s fence is installed without causing any meaningful damage to your wall then I’m not sure they could be found guilty of the offence.

kind regards, Mac
SnoopyDoo
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2024 4:12 pm

Re: Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by SnoopyDoo »

Rushton wrote: Mon Jun 17, 2024 8:22 am The original purchaser of your land would have had the responsibility to erect and maintain the wall. From what I have read, positive covenants such as this do not run with the land and are not enforceable on subsequent owners.
Thank you for your reply. That is an interesting thought - maybe we don't have to maintain the walls, as long as they are not a danger to anyone.

In reality, we will maintain them - to the best of our ability anyway. If we could just get onto more friendly terms with the neighbour, it would be so much easier :(
SnoopyDoo
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Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2024 4:12 pm

Re: Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by SnoopyDoo »

CherryBlack wrote: Mon Jun 17, 2024 8:54 am
Hi SnoopyDoo.

Just to try and clarify some points to hopefully add to the good advice given above.

These walls appear conclusively to be yours. They almost certainly sit fully on your land - ie, both neighbour's wall faces sit 'on' the actual (but invisible) boundary line, so the whole visible physical wall is on your land. You own them in their entirety.

The walls will have 'footings' or founds, which your neighbour has now exposed, and hopefully not yet damaged. If they dig below these founds, they could literally undermine them - again not good. Yes, these footings most likely encroach beyond the boundary, but this is not a 'trespass', as it's below ground, and is also a necessity for the wall - an easement is effectively in place.

So, what are the 'rules'? Your neighbour must not do pretty much anything to that wall that you do not give permission for. They certainly cannot undermine or damage the footings. They cannot attach anything new to it, but exceptions could be things like gates which have been in place for a long time - ie, a near like-for-like replacement. They couldn't add a double-width gate, for example, which would obviously increase the load on the wall.

The situation could get a bit murky if they wanted to replace a gate with a similar size and style, but found that the stones were loose and they couldn't do this properly - would they be able to insist (legally) that you repair the wall first? The answer is - I don't know, but I suspect so.

The good news is that they appear to be willing to contribute to the maintenance, and I have to say - with a few caveats - I'd welcome this, as I expect it ain't going to be cheap! So, try and have a chat and arrive at a mutually-agreeable solution.

You will, however, need to be unambiguously clear about things they mustn't do, and you must have a way of proving you've made them aware of this. A good way is, after discussing it, to write out a bullet point list of what was discussed and agreed, and make sure you have a recordable way of sending it - email, WhatApp, letter (if videoed or witnessed), etc.

So, things they mustn't do, as it could damage the OLD wall;
They mustn't undermine the founds and footings.
They mustn't disturb any of the underground brickwork.
They mustn't attach anything to the brickwork.
They mustn't attach anything new to the wall - and that includes fenceposts.
They should discuss with you before doings things like changing gates, so that you can ensure it's done correctly.

That, clearly, narrows down what they can do! If they really want a decorative fence on their side of this wall, it's going to have to be largely self-supporting. Ie, posts inserted close to the wall, but not to a depth that disturbs the footings. That means it'll require strut bracing on their side - hardly attractive.

Ok, in reality, a wall in good condition should be able to tolerate a post being stuck through its founds every 6' with no issue. And, if they do this with seemingly no ill effect, that will probably be that! But, you need to put them on notice of what could happen, and that they'd be responsible if the worst did occur.

So, any common ground? Did you say they'd be happy to repoint their side, but you are concerned about the builder they could use? Tbh, I'd be looking at this as the best solution, but - yes - I'd want to know the builder used, and that they know the correct repointing mix to use on these old bricks - it's easy to use a too-strong modern mortar, for instance, and then find that the bricks are breaking up over time as all the stresses have been passed on to the bricks themselves.

A poster has suggested that the 'covenanted' obligation for maintaining this wall is not passed on to subsequent owners. No idea if that's correct - or who could actually enforce it if it is. But what is correct, is that you 'own' that wall, so are responsible for it. For instance, if that wall becomes unsafe, then you carry the risk of a claim against you should it fall and cause damage.

So, see what common ground you have with your neighb :-)
Hi CherryBlack

Thanks very much for your detailed reply. It is very helpful. I did not know that there were different types of mortar - I shall definitely google for more information on that :)

Unfortunately, we have not found much common ground so far!

Our neighbour has bought an old house but is trying his best to make it look as new and modern as possible and our wall is spoiling the picture for him.

The issue started with the wall in the back garden. The neighbour said that he wanted us to share the cost of completely repointing his side of the wall. He said that he had instructed his builder to start in the next couple of weeks, that it would cost £10K and he thought it would be fair if we paid half.

Now that he had removed all the foliage from his side of the wall, we could see that there were definitely a couple of places where bricks were loose but we weren't convinced that the wall needed completely repointing. We asked our own builder for a quote to do the remediation and necessary repointing and a quote to completely repoint the whole wall. We then offered to either pay for just the remediation and necessary repointing (about £900) or pay that amount towards the cost of our builder repointing the whole wall (which would have meant the neighbour would pay just under £4K).

To be honest, we couldn't see how he would be happy with the result even if the wall was completely beautifucally repointed. Because he has dug away up to about three or four foot of soil from the wall (to make his garden completely level), it is now a huge structure of old bricks. Apparently, he had no intention of growing any plants against the wall which would have at least softened its appearance.

Anyway, he wasn't interested in our suggestion - instead he would erect a fence. We asked for permission to access his land in order to do the remedial work and necessary repointing on the wall first but he is currently saying that we can't do this until after he has erected his fence. Sometime in the future, he says he will discuss us sliding out the fence panels to access the wall.

We are now trying to use the fact that he wants to repoint the wall at the front as a bargaining chip. We have said that we will only discuss this if he lets us do the remediation work in the back garden before he erects his fence.

We have had no response to this suggestion and are waiting to see what happens next! He has just laid a new lawn so it will be at least two or three weeks before there is likely to be any other activity in the back garden.

We have pointed out in an email that the wall is ours and that as such, he can't do anything to it without our permission (one of the main reasons for my post was to try and confirm that this was correct) but I am hesitant to list all the things that he shouldn't do in case it aggravates the situation more. He does not like to lose!
CherryBlack
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Re: Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by CherryBlack »

Lawdie! Deescalate! Deescalate!

My list of things wot they shouldn't do was for your info, and not to stick under their nose :-)

Bear in mind, too, that I'm a layman, and not a legal expert. But I'm pretty sure that the essentials are correct...

You can 'insist' on access in order to fix your wall - everyone has that right, if it's the only way to carry out the necessary. It would, tho', ultimately require a court app if absolutely necessary. They do have currently a valid reason for asking you to not access their side - the new lawn.

Tbh, if bricks are coming loose, then some remedial does sound as tho' it's in order, but the chances are the wall will stand for another couple of decades! So you may choose to, instead, let them 'hide' the dodgy side, and just focus on your own.

They have zero right to ask or expect you to tidy up their side for aesthetic reasons, only if it's falling down. So I might be inclined to let them put up their own fence in front of it (with the caveats mentioned before) and be done with it.

The mortar mix should reflect the type of brick. A knowledgable brickie should know how to handle this, possibly adding a good dose of lime in order to make the mortar more tolerant of movement.
SnoopyDoo
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Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2024 4:12 pm

Re: Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by SnoopyDoo »

MacadamB53 wrote: Mon Jun 17, 2024 11:10 am hi SnoopyDoo,

Do you think it is correct that this would be criminal damage and, if so, what action should we take if his builder starts to take an angle grinder to the wall without our permission?

a bit of reading from a quick “google” will tell you that criminal damage must involve damage to property which is beyond de minimis and impairs its value or usefulness.

if the neighbour’s fence is installed without causing any meaningful damage to your wall then I’m not sure they could be found guilty of the offence.

kind regards, Mac
Hi Mac,

Thanks for your reply.

If the neigbour does install his fence and there is no meaningful damage that would be great. We don't want to stop him putting up a fence, we just don't want him to say that any damage that results from his putting up a fence is our problem because the wall wasn't secure.

The criminal damage question was more about if he chose to instruct his builder to repoint the front wall without our permission. i.e. deliberately do something to the wall unrelated to any action that he was trying to do on his property. In theory, could he say that he wasn't damaging the wall, he was trying to improve it?

Maybe criminal damage is the wrong term but, if he isn't allowed to do anything to the wall without our permission and he does, what crime or misdemeanour is he committing and how can we stop him?
MacadamB53
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Re: Some questions regarding neighbour's right to actions that affect our wall

Post by MacadamB53 »

SnoopyDoo wrote: Mon Jun 17, 2024 5:48 pm
MacadamB53 wrote: Mon Jun 17, 2024 11:10 am hi SnoopyDoo,

Do you think it is correct that this would be criminal damage and, if so, what action should we take if his builder starts to take an angle grinder to the wall without our permission?

a bit of reading from a quick “google” will tell you that criminal damage must involve damage to property which is beyond de minimis and impairs its value or usefulness.

if the neighbour’s fence is installed without causing any meaningful damage to your wall then I’m not sure they could be found guilty of the offence.

kind regards, Mac
Hi Mac,

Thanks for your reply.

If the neigbour does install his fence and there is no meaningful damage that would be great. We don't want to stop him putting up a fence, we just don't want him to say that any damage that results from his putting up a fence is our problem because the wall wasn't secure.

The criminal damage question was more about if he chose to instruct his builder to repoint the front wall without our permission. i.e. deliberately do something to the wall unrelated to any action that he was trying to do on his property. In theory, could he say that he wasn't damaging the wall, he was trying to improve it?

Maybe criminal damage is the wrong term but, if he isn't allowed to do anything to the wall without our permission and he does, what crime or misdemeanour is he committing and how can we stop him?
I don’t believe correctly repointing someone’s wall without their permission could qualify as a criminal offence (“misdemeanours” are just a subset of these)

if you sought damages via civil proceedings I’m unsure what the claim would be - would you be seeking the cost of un-repointing the wall?!?
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