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Border dispute.....

(45 Posts)
whiterabbit01 Tue 05-Nov-13 05:05:02

We moved into our bungalow six weeks ago; though we purchased the house just after Christmas 2012. It took until April to get the keys due to the sellers being deceased with no relatives. Once we had the keys we applied for planning permission to build a new extension, and a garage extension. An objection was lodged by one of our side neighbors against the Garage, generally it was okay, and we could see their reasoning. You can see the objection via the following link:

We asked the builders to reduce the width of the garage by a foot. we'd calculated that what remained at the side on our side of the fence should be sufficient to complete the work and allow us to maintain the gutters.

As the building work progressed our builder said he wasn't able to gain access to the side of the garage to fit the soffits etc and asked us to contact the neighbors to see if they would allow him access to the rear of their garden so as to complete the work. He tried to contact them several times but, despite the neighbors being in the house, they wouldn't answer the door. We also tried to contact them, but they refused to answer the door each time we tried to talk to them. We ended up sending a note through their letter box virtually pleading with them to allow us to complete the work. In the mean time we'd consulted our deeds and it appeared that the garden hedge was actually ours and not the neighbors, who had said in their objection that the hedge was theirs. Also it appeared that our front garden was actually a metre short. After a few weeks we'd not heard anything from our neighbors (by this time we'd been trying to contact them for over 2 months), so decided to write another note again asking for permission for our builders to complete their work using access into the back of their garden. We pointed out that the hedge that they were claiming was actually on our side of a wire mesh fence that was embedded within the holly hedge, so if they wouldn't allow access we would have to remove at least four or five of the holly tree's next to and down the side of the garage so that the builders could finish the work. There would be enough room, just about, if we removed the hedge at this point. That said, we didn't want to do this, but felt we had been forced to because of our neighbors continued silence.

The objection that they had raised had caused the planning office to put a condition on our planning application. Basically any tree, bush or hedge in our garden (which was just under a third of an acre and held a large stock of these) was not to be cut back, trimmed or felled over the next five year period without first seeking permission from the council (at a cost of around £80 per application). We appealed this decision and won the appeal.

To the present...................

We've still not sorted out the problem. Last week we sent a final note to the neighbors saying that if they didn't reply to our note by the end of the week we would have no alternative but to cut some of the hedge on our side of the boundary. Amazingly we received a letter from the daughter of the neighbors which said the following:

I am writing to you on behalf of my parents to request that you stop contacting them about gaining access to your extension to finish off the building works and making threats about removing the hedge.

As you are aware, my parents submitted their concerns to the planning department some months ago and subsequently instructed a solicitor to act on their behalf on this matter. The solicitor has written to you, but according to the solicitor you have not responded to him and seem intent on using back door and underhand methods to pursue your building works.

My mother is unwell and is waiting for an operation and the whole situation has caused my parents no end of stress and is seriously affecting their health. as you can appreciate, my parents have lived in the house for 42 years and the house and garden is very precious to them an to the whole family.

If you would like to pass on my telephone number to your builder, i will make arrangements for the builder to gain access to your extension from my parent's land to complete the required building works and there will be no need to remove any part of the hedge.

I hope that this draws a line under the matter and request that you have no further contact with my parents in future.

As far as we knew we had never received any correspondence from their solicitor and thought it odd that they were accusing us of underhand methods etc. I emailed a copy of the letter to my builder. Then the following day (Saturday just gone) we received a letter from the neighbors solicitor, who said that they had send a letter two months ago. at that time the house was a building site. The original letter box, which had goine into the garage had been demolished and the other letterbox had been blocked up by the previous occupants. we were still living in our old house at the time and never saw this letter. Most letters we did find had been trampled into the dirt and mixed concrete of the building site.
The solicitor basically said we were not allowed to contact the neighbors, were not allowed on their land and that the neighbors were claiming ownership of the holly hedge. Thankfully they also included a copy of the neighbors deeds which showed the boundary lines with measurements. We checked these on Google Earth and made physical measurements to ensure that the Google earth measurements were accurate (their was a discrepancy of a centimeter).

The measurements showed that our neighbors who it had said in the deeds were responsible for maintaining the boundary had basically taken a meter and a half of our land not including the holly hedge which was placed on our side of the wire fence.

We have sent a lon letter to their solicitor firstly explaining that we had never received their first letter and then explaining that their claim to our holly hege was unfounded. We pointed out the measurements to them and are now awaiting a reply from them.

Then a letter was posted through our letter box (nor reinstated) from our actual neighbors which goes as follows:

My I ask you to refrain from sending your letters to us regarding your extension work. My wife is in bad health and is awaiting an operation which at 74 is somewhat daunting. The threatening manner of your letters is adding to the strain, under which we are both struggling and not helping her condition.

I appreciate that you are concerned to have your garage finish don our boundary so that the building inspectors can pass the work. all we are prepared to do is to allow access to your builder from our side so as to minimize any disruption. Will you ask your builder to drop his telephone number through our front door so that we can ring him to establish contact and arrange to give him access to our back garden.

If in future you need to contact us, please do not come onto our propery again; use the Royal Mail.

Looking back over forty years, when we bought our house , we accepted the plot with its clearly defined boundaries, never imagining that anybody could challenge them as you have done. we appeared to have a completely rectangular plot, which we readily accepted and never thought that anybody could suggest anything was wrong. My difficulty is that I cannot follow your long winded justification of your claims without reference to a plan. with my working experience... briefly as an electrical engineer in electronics, as a college lecturer and finally a University Lecturer, i am completely baffled by your ramblings
He then signs himself off with his degrees (B.Sc (Lond), M.Sc (UMIST)

Unfortunately I don't have copies of the letters my wife send to the neighbors, but I can assure you they were not long winded and were set out very succinctly (not like this post I'm making).

We really didn't want to take this any further; however, my wife takes objection to the neighbors claiming the holly hedge which is clearly on our side of a wire mesh fence (which is also on our side of an older but not complete boundary), This original boundary is demarcated by a line of very mature trees and some bushes, but does not make a continuous hedge/boundary. That line measures exactly the length of the neighbors property according to the deeds their solicitor sent us. The extra metre and a half they are claiming includes the wire mesh fence and the less mature holly hedge. incidentally, the wire mesh fence can be found on all sides of our property, but only on the one side of the neighbors property.

Are we being unreasonable?

We would never have contested the amount of garden that we have lost. All we were bothered about was getting the garage finished. As it stands at the moment, the side facing the neighbors is exposed at the roof edge where plastic soffits etc need to be added. This will lead to the garage roof spurs rotting as they get continually wet due to the weather. The fact that it took two months for them to actually acknowledge us and the comments they made in their letters has made us feel that we should tgo ahead and try and legally claim the land they have basically stolen.

We have been told by other neighbors that the husband is unreasonable to all around him and is extremely unfriendly. Down the side of the wire mesh fence next to our extension he has placed a large pile of bricks right against the wore mesh fence causing it to buckle outwards (bulging further into our space and has broken the fence as well.

It appears to us that the previous occupants were bullied into putting the wore mesh fence up, despite the neighbors having ultimate responsibility. further they placed the fence well onto their own garden, which the neighbor now is trying to claim as his own.
In his original objection (which I've referenced to above), he stated that the previous occupants had ripped down a hedge on the boundary and had caused a lot of upset with the neighbors other neighbors (two old ladies), who also lies along our border. Photographs were taken before and after the previous occupants built their own extensive back in the 70's (which we have further extended into a garage plus retained one of the original rooms). They clearly showed that no hedges had been removed and that no damage had been done despite our neighbor saying that they had ripped them out.

I apologize for the length of this post. I do find it hard to condense things. I have to take a morphine substitute (oxycodone) and wear fentanyl patched (due to a serious road traffic accident in which I was hit from behind while cycling to work. I was left untreated with four broken vertebrae. Because of not being treated, I've been left in considerable pain, which the specialists have said cannot be fixed; so i have to take strong pain killers. These make it hard for me to concentrate. It's taken me three hours to write this post.

whiterabbit01 Tue 05-Nov-13 05:11:50

please excuse the typos/spelling errors. It's now 5am; I should have been in bed 5 hours ago. smile

baubles Tue 05-Nov-13 07:03:03

whiterabbit I'm sorry but I don't have enough time to read your post and anyway I know nothing of these these matters (border disputes). I'm sure there will be someone along later with some relevant knowledge.

Kate13 Tue 05-Nov-13 07:45:28

whiterabbit hope someone out there can help. Is there a chance you can amicably solve your dispute. Can't be a happy situation with hostile neighbours, but maybe the lady next door is preoccupied with her illness. Some flowers perhaps?

JessM Tue 05-Nov-13 08:08:32

Sorry that is indeed too long a read for first thing in the morning and I'm sorry you have this problem. But some relatives of mine had a boundary dispute of some significance with neighbours. They were in the right, they spent a fortune on legal advice and they eventually went before a judge and lost.It wrecked about 3 years of their retirement.
I conclude that the way boundary disputes are dealt with in this country is a disastrous and only serves to line the pockets of lawyers. And my advice to anyone with this kind of dispute is just to let it go and reconcile yourself to the unfairness of it. Don't let it ruin your life.

LizG Tue 05-Nov-13 08:13:08

Whiterabbit thank you for sharing this, what a stressful situation you are in. There must be more disputes about borders than anything else. I have no legal knowledge but feel you need to get a solicitor of your own so that all communication can be direct between the solicitors. I know this is added expense but you seem to be going around in circles as it is.

It might be worth printing off your big post as it is an excellent precis of what has been going on. You can then show this to a solicitor together with the huge file of 'stuff' you have no doubt accumulated throughout. Hopefully you have kept copies of your letters and their eventual replies.

Best of luck with this and try not to let it spoil your new home because I feel sure it WILL all be sorted.

tanith Tue 05-Nov-13 08:15:01

I too lost the plot halfway through but I would go with the advise of JessM to let it go as its already grabbed hold of you and is keeping you up nights... it really isn't worth it.

LizG Tue 05-Nov-13 08:18:37

smile It would seem JessM and I hold completely opposing views. We do however agree that you must not let it ruin your life. Obviously, if there is a way to complete the work without legal intervention then that would be the best way forward and if the builder can gain access that would be brilliant.

Again, best of luck.

Mishap Tue 05-Nov-13 08:20:30

I so agree - my Mum got into a neighbour dispute and it was the start of the end for her. The underlying dementia was triggered and worsened by the stress.

I have read the thread and it seems to me that you can finish the garage - or maybe I have misread things. I would just get it done and draw a line under it all. Anything not to drag things out and b****r up your life.

The trouble with thee sorts of disputes is that they get under your skin and you feel the need to have justice. Forget justice - just go for the quickest and easiest way out of the situation and let it go.

glammanana Tue 05-Nov-13 08:28:57

Also sorry that it is far too long a post to digest and take in this time of day,but looking at some of the information you have provided can your builder not do as your neighbours daughter suggested and telephone her to arrange a meeting on site to complete the works,nothing worse than border dispute's and as JessM states let it go and enjoy your time in your new home,I would however state to the daughter that this problem will crop up again if ever her parents want to sell the property at a later date.Take care

janeainsworth Tue 05-Nov-13 08:53:18

I have read your lengthy post but am struggling to understand why your builder/architect didn't envisage that there would be an access problem even with the 1 foot reduction in the garage width, and sort it all out before starting the work.
The daughter has offered a solution - accept it.

Iam64 Tue 05-Nov-13 08:58:06

Yes, go with the daughter's offer and get it over with. Neighbour disputes can dominate lives and it just isn't worth it. It's hard to let go of something when you are/feel you are, in the right. But - get it finished and forget it as best you can.

annodomini Tue 05-Nov-13 09:05:56

As a recently retired CAB adviser, I know that neighbour disputes were always the most intractable problems presented by clients. Your neighbour might be able to claim right of occupation as the hedge has been claimed by them for so long without challenge. this article is the only one I can find on the subject and your neighbours' solicitor may be relying on the fact that this small stretch of land has been regarded as theirs since long before the 2002 act. Is it worth your while to challenge their ownership of the hedge if your builder has now been given permission to enter their garden for the purpose of completing the work.

sunseeker Tue 05-Nov-13 09:14:38

It seems to me you are getting correspondence from three directions, the daughter, the solicitor and the neighbours themselves. May I suggest you write to the solicitor saying you would like to take up the daughters suggestion and asking for a meeting between her and your builder in order to complete the work. Once the work has been completed I would let things die down but keep a record of everything just in case something crops up in the future.

Mishap Tue 05-Nov-13 09:21:23

Do what the daughter suggests and put all this behind you - border disputes are very corrosive and you need to live peaceably without all this hanging over your head - the length and timing of this post shows that it has got under your skin.

Getting another solicitor involved at this stage will just cost-a-load and risk inflaming the situation. Grab the olive branch and kiss it all goodbye!

petra Tue 05-Nov-13 09:23:30

Whiterabbit01 I read your whole post as I am in the process of ( hopefully) moving into a bungalow. I am in a state of stress with what should be a straight forward sale. I know that I'm not in your place but believe me, I can feel the stress that youare going through.
I would be one of those who say: let it go. My OH said: no way, I would take a bulldozer to the boundary and say: now take me to court!!!
He is one of those very lucky people who doesn't know what stress is. He's like Mr Spock. Pure logic. He can always find a way around a problem.

Charleygirl Tue 05-Nov-13 09:58:03

I would taker the daughter's offer, that is the cheapest option. If you start letting solicitors argue the case, you will be out of pocket big style. Get the work finished, close the door, ignore your neighbours and enjoy your retirement.

Aka Tue 05-Nov-13 10:01:40

Whiterabbit short of taking a bulldozer/ weed killer/ setting fire to this hedge, I'd be inclined to take this to the nth degree. Your neighbours have shown themselves to be nasty, bullying, greedy people. Having started the process I'd insist that every bit of land that is rightfully yours is restored to you. If you can afford it hit back at this unpleasant couple through a solicitor if only to show them that you will not stand bullying now or in the future. I firmly believe you have to stand up to bullies.

janeainsworth Tue 05-Nov-13 10:06:15

Not sure who's bullying who, Aka confused

janeainsworth Tue 05-Nov-13 10:06:46

Er, whom. Sorry.

Mishap Tue 05-Nov-13 10:44:14

Sometimes it is best to turn the other cheek. You cannot change who these people are, but you can recognise that you are going to have to live alongside them in the long term. Do you want a life of conflict or some peace? Your choice.

We have a difficult neighbour - I am excrutiatingly (?sp) nice to him and he finds it very hard to be unpleasant. He has his own problems (as do your neighbours) and I try and recognise this in the way I deal with him.

I am not sure that your neighbours are bullies - they just sound like elderly sick people who find change hard to deal with.

It is your choice - but if it were me I would decide that discretion is the better part of valour. Tit for tat has caused world wars!

Kate13 Tue 05-Nov-13 10:50:38

Has everyone disregarded the lady next door's illness?

Mishap Tue 05-Nov-13 10:57:25

No Kate - not ignoring this! - as I have said they are elderly sick people not bullies as far as I can see. Change is hard in those circumstances.

Lilygran Tue 05-Nov-13 11:14:10

People who behave unreasonably often get away with it because reasonable people won't. I think it's like the old rhyme, ' The rain falls on the just and also on the unjust fellow but mainly on the just because the unjust has the just's umbrella'. It will cost you a lot more time and distress and cash to try to establish your rights (if you do). Is it worth it? I agree with everyone who says get the garage finished and ignore everything else.

dorsetpennt Tue 05-Nov-13 11:16:14

I've heard of a similar problem. A friend of mine bought a house and wanted to build an extension and garage and received the ok from the Planning Department. Her neighbours had lived in their house for about 40 years as had the previous owners of her house. It appeared that the neighbours were so upset at them moving and resentful of the fact that my friend could afford the extension and garage, they put every objection and difficulty in their path. It took two years for them to even start the building as 2 builders got so fed up they walked off the site and never returned. Despite every overture to be neighbourly and understanding the old couple just could not get over the fact they'd lost their neighbours. It's on the list of neighbour conflicts just under noise.