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Border dispute.....

(46 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.

Jendurham Tue 05-Nov-13 11:37:24

We had a similar problem in a house we lived in in York.
Our neighbours wanted to build a garage one wall of which would have been on our land. We disputed it and had a surveyor do a survey to prove the land was ours. In the meantime the neighbour built a wall that they did not need planning permission for, even though it was partly on our land. The next thing we knew there was a builder there turning the wall into a garage. We managed to see off two builders while the solicitor was looking at the survey, but the third builder said he'd build it, and then get paid to knock it down if he had to. So we gave in as even if we won in court we would have had to pay our own expenses.
We bought the bungalow I now live in in July 2011. I seem to recall that there was a statement from the vendors to say that there were no problems with the neighbours. Do you have something similar, Whiterabbit?

MrsM Tue 05-Nov-13 11:46:31

I was about to post and point out that the newer sale/purchase contracts include a questionnaire asking if there are any neighbour disputes. This forms part of the contract and must be answered honestly

So - beware, if you think you may be selling in the reasonably near future

Also, of course, if there had been problems with the previous (?now deceased) owners, it could be that there is a case against their executors' solicitors or against their own. However, that puts it back into litigious territory and I'm afraid I'm with the 'go with the flow' mood here. Get it sorted with the daughter, get your work finished, put the memories in a box and forget it - enjoy your new home

sunseeker Tue 05-Nov-13 12:06:27

There is a question about dispute with neighbours but as this was a deceased's estate the seller, Executor, would merely have answered none that he/she was aware of. It would be difficult to prove there were previous disputes and that the Executor knew of them.

As I said before, get the garage finished then let things die down but keep all and any documentation you have just in case something comes up in the future.

grannyactivist Tue 05-Nov-13 13:29:31

I did read the whole post carefully and would suggest that you take the simplest route, which is to just get the building work finished off. As you were not too bothered initially about the boundary discrepancy I would let it go for now - but if the neighbour's house should change hands at any time in the future then you can make sure the purchasers are aware of the true boundary if it's still bothering you.

Bez Tue 05-Nov-13 14:06:42

I have read through all of the posts and can understand how annoyed Whiterabbit and his wife must feel - they do not sound like the sort of neighbours you will invite round for a Christmas drink!!!! However I too would go with the flow and agree with GrannyA and get the garage finished and let everything settle, but keep all paperwork and also take copious photos when the builder is actually doing the work as well as when finished incase there are any claims about damage he did to their property! Good luck and I hope you eventually enjoy living in the bungalow.

petra Tue 05-Nov-13 15:07:22

I know that its nothing to do with this thread but isn't it great that you now have to declare if there's been any problem/dispute with a neighbour.
I wish that had been in place when I bought my first house in 1972.
We knew that there was an elderly lady next door. My (now) ex husband worked night work.
The first sign of trouble was when I was woken at 3 in the morning with her shouting through the bedroom wall. Then it was her throwing empty tins at my French windows when it got dark. Then my tortoise got into her garden and and she had it on a shovel threatening to kill it.
She said: I got the last people out of that house and I'll get you out!!!
At this moment she was close to our boundary fence screaming at me.
The red mist came down and I hit her. I was at breaking point by now.

Granny23 Tue 05-Nov-13 15:22:56

Some 35 years ago, when we had a 2yr old and a 5yr old we reluctantly allowed our new neighbours to take down the boundary fence between our 2 houses to allow access for a digger, a skip etc. in order for them to erect a 2 storey extension. We had to block off and forego any access to that side of our house to keep our wee DDs safe in their own garden because we live on a main road As is the norm the works took 3 times as long as predicted and we put up with the noise and inconvenience (water & electricity cut off when digger broke the water main, etc. etc.) Finally we went for a week's holiday at Butlin's and were summoned by an emergency call on the tannoy to contact them but could not as the number given was his mother's and she was deaf. Came home, with a car sick DD to no power or water again and had to decamp to my Mum's for baths etc. Home again to find a demand for half the cost of repairing the shared water main and to find that THE FENCE HAD BEEN RE-ERECTED such that instead of 6' each we now had 2' and they had 10'. As our 'deeds' were 150 years old they did not show precise measurements. Our neighbours defiantly showed us a letter from a solicitor confirming this and our solicitor confirmed that with the previous tenants deceased and previous owners (the Distillery) uninterested there was little we could do. The irony is that if they had asked us, we probably would have agreed to moving the boundary fence - for a small consideration of course!

Within the year these neighbours had sold the property, at a handsome profit, now that it had its extension and a full driveway.

I very, very strongly urge you WhiteRabbit to accept the offer of access to finish the garage AND LET THE MATTER GO! I say this because until I read your post I had honestly not given our dispute a thought for many years. We have super, helpful neighbours in that house now. However, my DH still gets into a rage if the subject comes up because someone stole 4'x30' of HIS land. I will not mention this post to him or he will be ranting and raving again for weeks - not good for his Blood pressure.

Mishap Tue 05-Nov-13 15:56:40

You are right "G23" - these sorts of disputes can trigger such anger and resentment that can last for years - and my view is that life is to short to fret over a few feet of ground.

gracesmum Tue 05-Nov-13 16:08:24

I tried to add my tuppence- worth this morning but silly phone got me in knots trying to correct my typos and I lost patience with it!
I too would say get the work finished as per the daughter's suggestion, send a bunch of fowers round and a get well card to the poorly lady and let it go. There are all sorts of reasons why a protracted dispute would benefit nobody: - they are elderly, she is ill and so they are defensive (probably because afraid) , you would as Mrs M has pointed out have to declare a dispute with your neighbours which could adversely a sale in the future, you have to live in this house and an ongoing hostile atmosphere could make your life very uncomfortable as well,. Keep a record of all correspondence in a file in case you ever need it, get the work finished and try to draw a line under the whole sorry affair.

FlicketyB Tue 05-Nov-13 18:28:32

Take the daughter's offer and get your extension completed, then hunker down and do not communicate with the neighbours, other than a friendly wave/good day.

A friend of mine, got permission to build a garage, as soon as she built it her neighbour claimed his boundary went down the centre of a hedge her father (still alive and able to give evidence) had planted well onto his land so he could cut both sides. If the boundary was where her neighbour said, she had built part of the garage on his land. He harassed her for 5 years, cost her thousands of pounds in legal fees, - and backed down when she got the date for a day in court. Why did he do it? because she had bought the house her parents privately rented and become a (fulltime working) single parent and, essentially, he kept the women in his family under his thumb and thought her father should do similarly.

tiggypiro Tue 05-Nov-13 19:20:49

A neighbour of mine decided it was ok to remove part of the boundary fence and re-instate it further into my garden. He also removed my plants into his garden. After quite a nasty conversation he put things back with the exception of a small area. It is not worth solicitors letters etc so in effect he has won. However it gives me great delight to see him buying plants, manure and garden produce which I would have gladly given him. That small piece of land has cost him a small fortune !!

Whiterabbit01 - take the offer from the daughter and then let go as it is not worth the angst and stress.

whiterabbit01 Wed 06-Nov-13 03:11:39

Thank you for all of your replies.

We never wanted to pursue this and we were okay about losing some of our garden as we have far more than we've ever had before. We felt losing a strip of land 1.5 meters by about 15 wasn't a great loss. Unfortunately the neighbors whole attitude has been hostile from the beginning. We've never actually met them, even though we've tried communicating with them for around 3 months. they just flatly refused to respond to us

We wanted to talk to them and explain that the holly hedge they are claiming is theirs is actually on our side of a a clearly marked wire mesh fence that divides our property from theirs. They had said in the original objection that they would not allow us to trim the hedge. This we thought very unfriendly; but realize it takes all sorts. I realize that they are much older than we are and are maybe set in their ways. They have after all lived in the property for 42 years.

We are quite private people, so weren't too bothered about making friends with them. Even though they are our neighbors. Technically they live around the corner on a different road; however, the bottom of their garden abuts the side of our garden Their house is about 35 meters away).

We don't intend employing a solicitor as we feel confident enough to defend ourselves if it came to a court case. We don't want it to go that far as we know the courts look on such disputes with disdain. If the neighbors want to take it further we will accept that as we feel we have ample evidence to support our case.

FlicketyB Wed 06-Nov-13 07:58:57

whiterabbit I fully understand your initial rant, particularly as you now tell us that your house abuts their rear fence, most neighbourhood arguments are about the side boundary between the two houses. But I think you now need to take a big breath, exhale, and forget about the possibility of any court case, of being able to explain anything, or, be honest, getting them to admit that you are right and they are wrong. Finish the extension and live in peace.

Remember one of your neighbours is seriously ill, possibly a life threatening illness and at times like that worries about one problem where they are helpless, can get transferred to small problems where they have some control, blowing the small problems up out of proportion

We have a friend awaiting a transplant and the stress of that wait, and whether an organ will be available before the condition becomes inoperable, is immense, other small problems loom large, almost as a distraction.

LizG Wed 06-Nov-13 08:28:09

Have I missed something. I thought that the neighbour had ill health and awaiting an operation (I visualised gall stones, stomach ulcer or joint replacement) but it would seem she is seriously ill/awaiting a transplant from what you are saying flickety confused This would make a huge difference to how things are handled. Also, of course the OP is also suffering chronic pain.

mygrannycanfly Wed 06-Nov-13 16:55:09

Hi Whiterabbit

I read your post carefully. I do feel for you, but please heed the advice to take the most amicable route. Your neighbours are clearly not coping with life in general. Their behaviour from the beginning shows just what sort of difficult people they are, and paying a solicitor to write you letters before you had even moved in, is a pretty odd way to go about things.

These are not reasonable people and you can't rely on them seeing sense and behaving reasonably and rationally. They can't understand why you are allowed to do things that impact on their lives, or why you would buy a property and then change it. If they like their garden just the way it is - even if it has only been like that for a few years, they can't believe that you are allowed to change things because you want to, without taking their wishes into consideration.

The daughter has obviously stepped in to try and sort matters out, so contact her, apologise unreservedly for any distress that you have inadvertently caused, express concern for her parents and say that you never received their original communications as you weren't in residence at the time.

It's all very well saying that you are in the right, but no one comes out of Tit for tat situations with their head held high. A sick elderly neighbour that claims that their neighbours are bullying and harassing them and turning their home into a building site when they are so unwell will have the full defense of the law and a great deal of public sympathy. This could cost you dearly if you stick to your rights - you might win the land and be stuck with their legal costs and have to sell up to pay! Or you could end up facing criminal charges of harassment.

Get your garage finished. Enjoy your garden and go back to your solicitor that handled the purchase and ask for confirmation that the boundary lines are correct and that you have legal title to the land.

From the sounds of things, your neighbours won't be able to stay in their house for more than a few more years, so they'll move on and you can forget all about "difficult old people" for a few more years.

FlicketyB Wed 06-Nov-13 17:46:08

LizG It is my friend having the transplant, not whiterabbit's neighbour neighbour. I just gave that as an example of how people can behave when faced with the stress of serious illness, because at the moment I am seeing someone in that position.

lucyinthesky Wed 06-Nov-13 18:39:02

I have also read your lengthy but informative post. Having been involved in a border dispute some years ago myself I understand how stressful it can be. In the end we had to 'let it go', and both us and the neighbours moved more or less within a week of each other!

I would strongly advise that you take up the offer of the builder contacting your neighbour to gain access on his land to complete the building of your garage. As for the land/hedge dispute let it go. Even if it went to court you would probably lose the case because once over 12 years your neighbour could rightfully claim the land as his, if no-one has contested it successfully before.

Whatever the case - let it go once the garage has been completed, otherwise you will just make yourself more ill. Best of luck.

jeanie99 Wed 06-Nov-13 21:19:24

Some years ago my husbands sister and husband found one morning a brick wall being built at the bottom of their garden. Their fence had been removed and the wall was one and a half metres into their land.

Telling the neighbour that the wall had to be taken down resulted in nothing happening and the arguments went on for over 2 years with solicitors involved.

Finally the case was to go to court but the week before both parties were asked to try arbitration, the result of which was that the wall was given to them but the upkeep and maintenance would be the neighbours in perpetuity.
They had their solicitors costs paid by the neighbour but received no compensation for the loss of land, the total costs came to over £20,000.
As I see it the neighbour got actually what he wanted a wall and land which didn't belong to him but it cost him.
The only people who won were the solicitors and barristers.

I can well understand them wanting to end this on going saga with the costs going up and up but I personally would have made the sods take down every last brick and if they wouldn't I would have knocked the wall down myself.

JessM Fri 08-Nov-13 09:55:00

Yes they are very keen on "arbitration" which in my relatives case translated into bullying by neighbour.

Aka Fri 08-Nov-13 10:19:33

Jeannie so would I grin