Property Dispute Resolution specialist, Mike Hansom, considers your legal rights to access a neighbour’s land to carry out work to, or affecting, your own property. Mike is available by email, or you can call him on 01225 462871.
Occasionally, you may need to gain access to a neighbour’s land to carry out work to (or affecting) your land or to a building, wall or other structure standing on it. In most cases, your neighbour will be accommodating, if for no other reason than they may need you to return the favour one day.
What are my rights if my neighbour refuses me access?
If access is refused, it’s first worth checking your deeds to see whether you already have a right to access. Failing that, sometimes you will have acquired one over time. This is called a ‘prescriptive’ right of way and arises if you can demonstrate that access has been exercised:
- without force, secrecy or permission; and
- continuously and without any interruption for at least 20 years.
You may also like: Compensation for tree root damage
Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992
If those do not apply, 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. The court must be satisfied that you have a valid reason as specified in the Act. Valid reasons include:
- the maintenance, renovation or repair of a property (or parts of it) in order 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 which have become insecurely rooted and unstable, which is likely to pose a danger.
It’s clear that the work must relate to the preservation of an existing structure as opposed to 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, it could order you to pay compensation as a condition of allowing access.
If an access order is granted, it must specify precisely what work may be carried out and when.
It’s also worth noting that it’s not just property owners who can apply for an access order. The Act simply refers to “A person…who, for the purpose of carrying out works to any land”. So, for example, a contractor could apply.