Property Disputes specialist Mike Hansom, explains your rights should you require access to a neighbour’s property for maintenance.
Contact the Team on 01225 462871 or by email.
Occasionally, you may need access to a neighbour’s property for maintenance work to (or affecting) your land or to a building, wall or other structure standing on it. In most cases, neighbours are accommodating, if for no other reason than they may need the favour returned one day.
What are my rights if my neighbour refuses me access?
If your neighbour refuses access, it’s first worth checking your deeds to see whether you already have a right to access. Failing that, you may have acquired one over time. Such a ‘prescriptive’ right of way requires you to demonstrate that you have exercised it:
- without force, secrecy or permission; and
- continuously and without any interruption for at least 20 years.
Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992
If none of the above applies, it may be possible to ask the court to grant you an access order to carry out ‘Basic Preservation Works’ under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992. But you must establish one of the following valid reasons:
- the maintenance, renovation or repair of a property (or parts of it) to preserve it (NB different legal rights may be available if you intend to carry out work to a party wall);
- the clearing or repair of any sewers, drains, cables or pipes;
- the removal or filling in of a ditch;
- the felling of a tree, plant or hedge (or parts of it) which have died, become diseased or have become insecurely rooted and unstable, which is likely to pose a danger.
The work must relate to preserving an existing structure instead of building a new house, an extension or a conservatory.
The court can refuse to grant access if it could cause your neighbour severe hardship or financial loss. Alternatively, the court may order you to pay compensation as a condition of allowing access.
The order must specify what work you can undertake and by when.
It’s also worth noting that it’s not just property owners who can apply for an access order. The Act refers to “A person…who, for the purpose of carrying out works to any land”. So, for example, a contractor can apply.
Applying for an access order
However, access orders are a rarity, and there has long been much uncertainty about how they should operate. Although a recent High Court judgment has provided some welcome guidance, this remains a complex area of the law, so always seek early legal advice.
See also: Can a right of way be removed?