Ask Our Experts – Q & A on Property Law with Paul Westwell

Wagons roll

Q1. There’s a piece of land next to my house. The council says it’s unadopted, but it’s being used by wagons which are churning up the path. I want to fence it off to stop them using it. Am I entitled to do this?

A1. Whether the land is adopted or not merely means that the council either does or does not have an obligation to maintain it as a public road. It should only be the owner of the land that puts up any fence to stop the wagons using it. If you go to your solicitors they will be able to undertake a search against the plot of land in question to see if anybody owns it. You can then decide what, if anything, you can do with or without the consent of the owner.

Spreading out

Q2. About 20 years ago I fenced off some land belonging to a local firm and have been using it ever since as a garden. No-one from the firm has said anything about it; am I now entitled to claim it?

A2. If the land isn’t registered at the Land Registry you may well be able to claim it. But the rules have changed where registered land is concerned, in that you have to be able to show you were in “adverse possession” of the land for 12 years prior to 13th October 2003. If you attempt to claim registered land the owner will be notified if they have kept their address up to date, and have the opportunity to evict you. You should check the registration status of the land before proceeding further.

Shock report

Q3. I bought a house nearly four years ago. A survey was carried out for the bank’s valuation purposes. Now I’m trying to sell, the prospective buyers’ surveyor has discovered so much damp and dry and wet rot that no-one can get a mortgage to buy the house. Surely the bank’s survey should have detected these problems?

A3. See a solicitor immediately. A survey for a bank or building society is much less thorough than a full private survey, and since it is carried out for the lender rather than the buyer it used to be thought that if the surveyor was negligent the buyer would have no comeback. However there have been some landmark court cases which suggest this isn’t so. Given the extent of the defects to your house you could well have a claim against the bank’s surveyor.

 ‘Twas on a Monday morning…

Q4. My plumber made a large hole in the ceiling to gain access to a pipe. I asked the firm of builders already at the property to give me a quote for the plastering, only to return one day to find they’d already done it! They then invoiced me for £130. I have two separate quotes of £75 for the job. Do I have to pay the £130 invoice?

A4. In the absence of a specific agreement as to the price, the customer must pay a “reasonable amount”, in other words the amount a similar firm would charge for the work done. Since you have two other tradesmen quoting £75 for the job I suggest you arrange to pay that amount.

Mity uncomfortable

Q5. The house we are renting is infested with house mites. We have only been here for two months but I have signed a tenancy agreement for 12 months. What will be our legal position if we move out?

A5. You should ask your landlord in writing to deal with the house mite infestation urgently. It will be an implied condition of your tenancy that your landlord keeps the premises in a state “fit for use”, and you may well be able to argue that the house mite infestation renders the house uninhabitable. It would help if you were able to back this up with a note from your GP. If the landlord fails to solve the problem you may be able to move out without penalty, but you will have to go through the process of letting your landlord attempt to deal with it. If you simply leave, your landlord may be entitled to demand rent for the remainder of the term, or at least until he finds another tenant. The landlord may also forfeit your deposit.

How we can help

Should you need expert legal advice regarding any of the above or indeed any other property law matters, please contact Paul Westwell at or telephone 0161 330 6821.

Alternatively, you are welcome to attend any of our free legal surgeries. Please click here for dates and times – No appointment necessary.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.