Q1. When a council employee was marking the pavement in front of our house for repairs recently he told us that half the pavement was our responsibility and we would have to chip in. Is this true, and if so, would we be liable if someone tripped and broke their leg on it?
A1. The Land Registry or your Title Deeds should tell you whether or not you are the owners of the pavement. However, if the pavement has been laid by the Local Authority and maintained by the Local Authority then there is a public right of way over the same, whether it belongs to you or not. You can check this with the Local Authority’s Highways Department. A good indicator is whether or not the road is a ‘private road’ which means that you are likely to be held responsible for the maintenance of the pavement, and it is possible that if somebody injures themselves as the slabs are uneven then you could be held responsible. If it is a private road, you should have insurance to cover that eventuality.
Q2. We want to buy the freehold to our property; the owner has agreed to sell, and says we can do it without using a solicitor as long as we have the relevant form. The trouble is no one seems to know what this form is. Can you help?
A2. You are presumably referring to Land Registry transfer and application forms. However I’m not sure this is something you should embark on without a solicitor’s help. You should really involve a solicitor to check that you’re buying what you think you’re buying. The process of buying your freehold is very similar to the one you (or your solicitor) went through to purchase the lease on your property in the first place, and it may be complicated.
Patio in the air
Q3. I live in a semi-detached house, and my neighbour has applied to put a patio on top of her single-storey extension which will overlook our garden. My Deeds (and hers presumably) prohibit “anything which may be a nuisance or annoyance to the owners of neighbouring property.” Can I use this to prevent the patio being built?
A3. A nuisance is when a person does something on their own land which they are lawfully entitled to do but which becomes a nuisance when the consequences of their act extend to the land of their neighbour. In order to constitute a nuisance it must be substantial or unreasonable. The action is for damages to compensate for any loss or an injunction to stop the nuisance or prevent its recurrence. Whilst it is unlikely that you will be able to prevent your neighbour from building the patio, simply because you do not like it, if you can demonstrate it is a substantial or unreasonable act then there could be a claim.
Q4. I have bought a house with a shared driveway and garage. However the builder has signed the property over to me and the shared land has been registered in my sole name by mistake. They’re now requesting it back, but I wondered whether I’m allowed to keep it?
A4. If, when you purchased the property, you knew that a mistake had been made, then either the builder or the neighbour can request you to return that part of the land. If you believed you were purchasing the whole of the drive then the builder cannot request the transfer of the land back in to his or your neighbours names. However, the fact that you own the land will not necessarily mean that you have the drive to yourself. You will need to check the Deeds to see whether or not there is a right of way over the drive. If there is no specific right to use the drive, then you may choose to charge a fee for its use. You should discuss this with a solicitor for specific advice.
Q5. I live in a terraced row whose back gardens are divided by wire fencing supported by concrete posts. The Title Deeds state that all fences are shared: does this mean the expense in replacing or repairing them is also shared?
A5. Unless there is also something in the Deeds about keeping fences in a good state of repair, you are unlikely to be able to force your neighbour to pay for half of the cost on merely replacing the fence for something which you prefer. Generally, homeowners are free to decide whether or not they wish to build or maintain walls or fences around their property. However, where fences are owned jointly, if you are going to alter those fences, you ought to discuss it with your neighbours before undertaking any works.
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