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  • Access Stairs

    Dear All

    Further to my posting of yesterday, I have a question for you:

    NFH have been making noises about “extending” their access stairs. To explain, I live in a ground floor maisonette, NFH live above me, and above my French doors, which lead out into my garden, there is a staircase for NFH’ access down to the common parts, and their garden is at the foot of mine.

    Said stairs have caused £5k damage to my property, due to ingress – this is another story, and almost caused me to have a breakdown!! But my question is: can they just extend what is clearly marked on my property deeds as “Access for 325”?? They have not so far applied for planning permission. They have said not one word to me – this I overheard him actually discussing with a builder!?!?

    Council said they will do nothing, but thought they could not alter the structure – they were not helpful at all. Even said that if I called them to my property, and NFH had started the work, they would not halt it!?!?

    Can you, or do you know of anyone, who can give a definitive answer to my question – I am so scared I will come home one day and find NFH have started the work!! The entire staircase is on MY property – whoever initially allowed this structure to go up, should try living with it now!!!!

    Well, NFH will have received the letter from my solicitor by now – I dread to think what it will be like at home.

    Again, many thanks for your words of support – it did help me yesterday.

    Kind regards, Lisa

  • #2
    Lisa, have you spoken to your insurance company? You may find they will help you with legal advice. Your neighbour must inform you of any work they may want to undertake that will affect your property.

    "Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. You must be the change that you wish to see in the world." Gandhi


    • #3

      I cannot understand the response you got from the local council. You are correct in what you say, all structural work does require planning permission. To get permission, in this neck of the woods, plans need to be submitted to the planning department, approved and building warrants issued. The building warrants have to be adhered to and get signed off after the work as been completed to a satisfactory condition.

      Any alterations to rights of ways have to be entered into the property deeds of the properties that are affected. I know your solicitor is bogged down by this type of work but your deeds need to state exactly the right of way situation .If your deeds are incorrect in any way, I advise you get them corrected, as this could seriously affect the sellabity of your property at a later stage.

      You need to find out if you actually own the stairs. They are on your property; this to me would imply that you own them and the people upstairs simply have a right of way over them. If you own them and this is the case, they cannot alter, change or damage your property in any shape or form. They certainly cannot extent on to your property without your express permission.

      The damage that as already been caused should be left to the insurance company. Alternately if you get no joy here, you could consider legal action for damages.

      Sorry, but it looks like you could be entering a legal minefield but please try to remain calm and try to avoid one on one confrontation.

      There is a web site that specialises in this type of thing. They have a forum covering all sorts of garden issues, boundary, and hedges and more importantly to you rights of way. The advice given on this forum is second to none and is far more qualified than myself. Below is the link

      Take care kevin


      • #4

        Sorry went on such much about the legal stuff and failed to answer your question. Yes, if you turn up from work one day and find a squad of builders on your property carrying out work you can stop them. Take the foreman to one said and explain, in a civil manner that he is carrying out unauthorised work on private property and would he mind leaving. Most builders are reasonable blokes and will honour your wishes; they don’t want to be involved in this type of situation. If he doesn’t or becomes abusive, call the police.

        Take care Kevin


        • #5

          get in contact with your local councillors and ask them over to view it.

          its not much but its a step in the right direction, every councillor knows someone on the planning committee from their polictal party.

          it might help you a bit


          • #6
            Things like this are an absolute minefield, like kevin says. I would try to see someone from the Planning Department and do everything else that the others have said.

            You just don't need this at the moment do you Lisa, on top of everything else.


            • #7
              Your Planning Department are not - shall we say - exactly helpful are they ?

              If the building work affects the structure of the building then your NFH needs to seek planning permission.

              If planning permisson is not gained and your NFH was to commence work then the Technical Services Department will serve what is termed as an Enforcement Notice upon them and the builders who are working on your NFH's behalf whilst the Council investigate further.

              If they ignore the Enforcement Order - then they do so at their own peril as the fines are substantial and in the more serious cases such as the fines not being paid a custodial sentence is usually a definite certainty.

              Speak to both your local Borough Councillor - as has already been suggested - and also involve your County Councillor too, these people were elected to do a job and they are there to serve you - the electorate.


              • #8
                I disagree with the above advice to stop it without prior knowledge of what your deeds say. I presume you are both joint leasehold of the land. You might even have a responsibility to share 50% of the cost of the work done. Since you already have instructed a solicitor I would listen to their advice. Conveyancing is a very difficult subject to deal with.

                It may be that the stairs do not meet current building regulations, say for example, they're too steep or unsafe. And of course, the only way to rectify this would be to extend the base of the stairs.

                However, the work shouldn't really have been carried out without your consulation or consent, but be carefull you do not withold your consent unreasonably. It may well end up in court and costs awarded againts you.

                If it was me, I would stay quiet about it. The costs of a replacement stairs could be very expensive, say £7000. This alone may well put your neighbours off, and instead would rather have it repaired "like for like".


                • #9
                  I can say the above from my own experience, since I was the neighbour on the top and downstairs were complaining about the "access stairs" which gave access to the shared garden. It turned out that downstairs were liable to pay for half of the maintenance of the structure.


                  • #10
                    Dear All

                    Thanks so much for your input & time - Blood and Sand!!, what a nightmare!!!!

                    My solicitor said I needed to ascertain who owned the access stairs, I asked whom I should approach, but received no response.

                    I had thought the Council Enforcement Department would advise this, and respond with a view to coming and looking, but it was they who said they wouldn't even visit nor stop any work if they did. I think I need to call them again about ownership - surely they can advise me??

                    Local Councillor I have not tried - I think it's time I did make contact. So will do so today.

                    Many thanks again, Lisa


                    • #11
                      The solicitor should be finding out this information out for you.

                      Do you have a copy of the deeds which mentions responsibilties of repairs and maintenance to the external structure of the property? It could be considered that the stairs are part of the external structure of the property.

                      If you do not have a copy of the deeds/convenants. The solicitor who dealt with the convayency when you brought your house should have copies (they keep copies upto 6 years). If it isnt the same solicitor you are using, approach the one who dealt with the purchase of this property.

                      The council will certainly not have the information you require and will not want to get involved in a civil dispute (because they could get sued).

                      The land registry and records will not have anything specific about the stairs, but the land registry will have records of who registered the house and the deeds.

                      The bank where you have your mortgage may also have a copy.


                      • #12
                        Hi Lisa,

                        Your situation sounds appalling, and I'd like to send my dog round to bark at your NFHs for you.

                        But I'm afraid I'm still feeling a bit vague, and judging by their advice, so might some of the other members. Could you help us focus relevant advice (support needs less focus!) by saying if the properties are leasehold, freehold or (if Scotland) feuhold. If leasehold, there will be a lease agreement which should cover mutual costs for shered things like stairs, drivewys, roof etc.

                        I'm also curious what your solicitor's letter was exactly about (I don't recall you having said, but I might have missed it) and I wonder if it had to do with the water (?) damage to your dining room. How was that issue resolved, or wasn't it?

                        Lastly, Rekless is right that your solicitor should be doing more for you when you ask. Tell her that if she won't, you'll find someone who will. If she's working for you as a favour (a family member or colleague, perhaps) then I'd say there was nothing wrong with that as far as advice goes, but your situation is complex and you'd both be better off if you engaged a solicitor in a more normal (but, sadly, expensive) way. But I'm having to guess at facts I don't know are true, so if I'm wrong, ignore me.

                        I don't want to sound patronising (this always means someone's going to patronise you!! Sorry) but I remember when I tyalked to my councillor how useful it was that I had a list of things I wanted to say, so I (and he) didn't get overwhelmed with the huge amount of distressing details. Helped us keep a focus on the big picture. I even do it before making phone calls about NFH, eg to Environmental health or even our lawyer (she's a colleague who was helping us out as a favour...)

                        Have you thought about mediation (many lawyers also suggest this, as does the court)? It always looks better to be the one who offers it than the one who refuses.

                        Good luck. I'm waiting with bated breath to know what NFH's response has been/will be.
                        "Poor Tom shall lead thee" (King Lear)