Land grab at tenanted property by new neighbour

by Paul Eastabrook

12:58 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Land grab at tenanted property by new neighbour

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Land grab at tenanted property by new neighbour

I have an issue at the moment which is causing me a slight headache.

On my tenanted end-of-terrace property, I received a contact request late summer from the new owner of the adjoining property via my managing agents. I duly made contact which revealed that he wanted to smarten up his new property and, as part of that, replace all the existing rear garden fencing on both sides.

Although I wasn’t previously aware, Land Registry records revealed that I had responsibility for maintaining the fencing on both sides of my property including that adjoining the neighbouring property. Land grab at tenanted property by new neighbour

The neighbouring owner wanted to replace all existing fencing, including that adjoining mine, at his own expense in order to improve the overall appearance of his own property. There was a “gap” at the end of the existing fencing, i.e. below standard panel size, which he was keen to “close”. This is the point at which my two fences are due to meet, represented by a sharp point giving the garden a triangular shape.

I duly agreed, as it would provide new fence panels on one side of my garden, and I thought not very much more about it, other than to inform the managing agents and tell them to make the tenants aware of pending work. I also told the neighbouring owner to speak to the managing agents regarding timescales so as to minimise disruption to my tenants.
This dialogue and, I presume, resultant work happened in October / November time when I was already fairly pre-occupied with the West Bromwich tracker rate hike issue. I didn’t go round to the property until January to check out a blown down fence panel on the other side of the property where it adjoins a communal car park. This I did from within the car park where I then noticed that the end fence panel and gravel board had both been removed, and replaced with a rear access gate.

My confusion continued when I realised that the gate led to the neighbour’s own garden, despite the gate bordering my own and the car park. Subsequent investigation revealed that the neighbour had redrawn the adjoining boundary line right across the rear of my garden to hive off the area corresponding to the final 6-foot panel and incorporate it into his own property. I emailed him and told him that the situation was clearly not acceptable and, following blustering about an innocent misunderstanding, was offered £5k as an alternative to restoring the fence line.

I subsequently gained access to my garden area, with agreement from the tenants, and noticed that the neighbour had actually removed all fence panels and concrete posts and re-sited each and every one of them, from a new starting point a further 4”-6.5” onto my land, from where it followed a new boundary line increasing the area of “land grab” and then at the end bearing a sharp right to cut of the last 6 feet.

I have since emailed the neighbour twice, in the absence of a home address, asking for full restitution and offering to put the details in writing to his solicitor if he wishes me to do so. I also suggested that I would simultaneously obtain my own quote in the event that he was unwilling or unable to action the work himself. , but offering to get my own quote otherwise. I have now received my own quote and emailed it to him earlier this week stating that, in view of his previous lack of response, I was preparing to carry out the work myself and seek to recover the costs from him, by going to law if necessary.

I have had no response from him, and in the absence of any home address for him, was wondering if I am in a position to go ahead with the work and send him the bill, and how long I should wait before contacting the Court Service.
By way of a footnote, my tenants will be vacating in early April and a new tenant will be moving in 7 days later, during which time I could probably arrange for the work to be undertaken by my managing agents’ maintenance firm.

Does anyone have any views or advice on the best way to proceed?

Sorry it’s a bit lengthy but I wanted to include everything of relevance.

Thanks

Paul


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Comments

Jeremy Smith

13:22 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Do you have any photographs of it before it was changed?
Perhaps photos when you bought the property?
Anything else that would prove where the original fence was would be very helpful to your case.
Obviously you have already consulted your title deeds, do they help, usually they are vague in relation to exact fence positions?

Before your original tenant leaves, you must get them to declare that they are witness to the fence line being moved, and get their new address if possible, in case you need to contact them again.

Ed Atkinson

14:01 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

In addition to the law there is consideration of whether you will be paid following a win in court.

It seems he is a landlord too, as his home address is not the property itself. Can the Courts force his tenants to pay you? Is it a refurb and sale? If so can the Land Registry record a dispute which will mess up his sale until it's resolved. Is he employed? That will all help. But it sounds like a Small Claims Court case, which I'm told often end up with the successful claimant never being paid.

Certainly get the Land Registry details for his property which will only cost a few £'s and I think will give his home address.

If his side is tenanted, you could go round for a chat to see what they know. Also google him and use any legal way possible to get info on him. Someone years ago was selling us a car privately via Autotrader and he decided to check me out online. When I collected it he showed me his research results on me... he'd done well.

So be your own private detective for a while before deciding on major action.

Mandy Thomson

14:55 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

As everyone is probably aware, the Land Registry title plan will only record a general boundary, but as it seems this person might have redrawn the boundary by more than this, the plan might still be useful as evidence.
As this is an area that's notoriously difficult to resolve, I would try the RIC http://www.rics.org/Global/RICS-Boundary-Disputes.pdf RICS Neighbour Dispute Service - assuming you haven't already done so.

ian

15:08 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Personally I would just put it back as it was in the void period as the materials are already on site it will cost a lot less than legal action, what can he do about it if you do ?

John Daley

15:26 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Hi Paul,

This is serious but not by any means disastrous. Your neighbour is trespassing on your property and obviously attempting to gain possession of your land by enclosing it into his holding.

The law is that the trespasser must be in possession for 10 years before he can apply for title so his position is poor.

You now need to keep written records of everything including dates and times of calls. Print all your emails on this subject now and keep them somewhere safe.

Do not under any circumstances accept any cash from this guy to allow him to keep the fences as they now are. You absolutely must accept nothing less than the return of the fences to the original lines on your title deeds. You will need to get a copy of your deeds and the plans so you can work out where your fences should run. It is not as authoritative but your Council's website may well have maps showing the boundaries which you can print for free.

In this first instance you need to find out the home address of the other guy, failing that, you know his name and the address of the adjoining property. Write to him by recorded delivery at any and all addresses you can find.

Demand that he return the fences to the original position, include a copy of the plan, by a certain date, say 8 weeks later, or you will instruct solicitors to begin proceedings for possession. Warn him that if you have to go to law you will seek to recover all costs from him.

Don't put up with any negotiation or debate, he will try to put you off. All you want is the original boundary.

When the 8 weeks is up, if he hasn't moved the fence go straight to a good lawyer. The law here is not very complicated but is procedurally critical, it is in your interests to go to law to recover your property.

This route avoids costs up to the point where you appoint a lawyer and you should get costs back if it goes to court.

I hesitate to say this because it can go really wrong but if you are certain of the boundary you could just move the fences back to the original. But you'll never get a penny of the costs back doing it this way.

Ed Atkinson

15:41 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

And Google Earth will help. There should be a way to get historic versions of it if the current one already shows the moved fence. The satelite option in googlemap may work, but I don't think it gives image dates etc.

Streetview might also have images of use, but probably not in this case.

Jeremy Smith

15:49 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Yes, materials are there, but uprooting concreted-in concrete posts will take some work, and need some more concrete to do so.

A Thought Out-of-the-box again,
if you don't mind the posts, and you want to move the fence, put a 5 - 6" spacer on each post (leave them in the ground on your side) and fix the fence to the other side of the spacers, where the fence line used to be, this would be very easy to do and not involve that much work.

- how long is the fence ?

John Frith

15:52 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

If you don't have photos of the old fence positions, I would look at Google Earth. The measuring tool on there may not be accurate enough for you, but it will show that he's only recently taken the apex bit.

Usually the garden boundary line will follow the natural boundary between the two houses, so I would try and document the amount the new fence encroaches over that line.

Paul Eastabrook

15:52 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "ian " at "14/02/2014 - 15:08":

Many thanks to you all for your comments and suggestions. I am currently leaning towards a mix of all suggestions.

I am currently favouring Ian’s direct approach as the pragmatic option. Ed’s suggestion about approaching the neighbouring tenant has given me an idea whereby I will ask my managing agents to inform her / him / them that work will commence during the changeover period which may stir the owner into some sort of response. Then I will be able to follow things up through the small claims court for recovery of funds incurred assuming that he actually coughs up. I have found out some aspects of the individual’s lifestyle, including where employed, but just not the precise address. I do have the Land Registry outline for both properties though which appear to be remarkably accurate.

With reference to Jeremy’s comments, I hadn’t actually thought about getting a statement from the current tenants as I hadn’t actually met either of them until just over a week ago, but that would be very useful to support my claim, so will certainly be going down that route too now.

Mandy is quite correct with regard to Land Registry plans but, fortunately in this instance, the slightly irregular shape of the rear boundary line that each of the neighbouring properties share with the commercial premises at the far end of our properties are replicated in very good detail in the plans, as I discovered when I visited the organisation concerned to verify the lines, courtesy of a very co-operative Facilities Manager. That means that my own boundary lines meet each other at a point which also matches up with this other neighbouring commercial property’s border, making confirmation much easier.

So, next step is to book the work in and ask the managing agents to make contact with next door, plus a written statement from my own tenants. I’ll get the court papers during the coming week and sit tight until early April. Many thanks everyone.

Paul Eastabrook

16:13 PM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Some more good suggestions coming in since my last post. I've just tried the Google street view satellite facility but notice that the large tree two doors away is obscuring all the neighbouring gardens from the air, as they are all quite small The length is about 60 feet but in a triangular shape. Concerning John (Daley)’s comments, I am in accord with all your points but was hoping to avoid using a solicitor myself if at all possible as I’m reluctant to incur more costs that I may not ultimately get back. I did investigate the small claims process some years ago and it looked fairly straightforward so was hoping to be able to go it alone. Do I take it that you would think this might be unwise of me?

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