Monday, 14 August 2017

Rights Over Neighbour's Land

The war between adjoining Manchester neighbours is over. It ended in the Court of Appeal last Friday * with a win for Mrs C and a bill for legal costs against Mrs D and her husband for what can be expected to be well over £200,000. And all about whether Mrs C could enter Mrs D's land to inspect the flank wall, built on the boundary line between the two properties, have her meters read and a dispute about whether the gutters on a short extension to Mrs C's property could overhang the air space of Mrs D's property.

Mrs D's deeds gave her the right"with workmen tools and materials" to go next door "for the purpose of effecting... maintenance repair and decoration" to her property. But they did not expressly give her the right to enter next door so that her property could be inspected to see if work needed to be done to it. The Court of Appeal ruled that a right of inspection was required to make effective the right of access to carry out works. Mrs C was not obliged to wait until damp had penetrated her interior walls before seeing whether the flank wall needed repair or to try and inspect from the road. 

What about the meters? They were set into the flank wall and so they could only be read from Mrs D's property. The two detached properties were part of a housing estate. The Court of Appeal said that it could not have been intended that the original purchaser of Mrs D's house and her successors would be unable to read the meters. This would be an absurd situation. A right of access to read the meters was implicit in the deeds. The law will imply into an agreement - whether it relates to rights on acquiring land or other arrangements - a condition which would have been regarded as reasonably necessary or obvious in the light of what was being agreed and the facts the parties were aware of at the time.
Only if 
And for reasons with which I will not bore you, the argument about the intrusion of gutters into Mrs D's airspace went in favour of Mrs C as well.

The principles highlighted by this latest case could help you in any dispute with unreasonable neighbours. The express wording of the title deeds may be crucial but, as you will see, common sense and what should be reasonably implied play an important role.  However, if your deeds do not give you the right to inspect, expressly or impliedly, you may be able to get to inspect by applying to the county court under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992. Easier to have an express or implied right, though.

* The case was Dickinson and another v Cassillas [2017] EWCA Civ 1254