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Neighbour disputes: Why the words ‘see you in court’ are so often an expensive mistake.

Neighbour disputes: Why the words ‘see you in court’ are so often an expensive mistake.

The row began when one neighbour told the other ‘go to court’ if you don’t like our new house extension.

It ended with a judge ordering them to knock down the building they’d just spent £80,000 on as well as paying their neighbours legal costs on top of their own – an eye watering total of £200,000.

This sad but all too common tale of warring neighbours shows why contacting a specialist disputes solicitor like Wards at the earliest opportunity, can save you stress and money by resolving things before they escalate and end up in the courtroom.

What happened in this boundary dispute case?

Until Mr and Mrs Ashraf decided to replace their old extension with a new one, they got on fine with their neighbours, Mr and Mrs Dhinjan.

In fact, Judge Roberts who was called in to settle the dispute, said: “One of the sad features of the case is that before the parties began building new extensions to the rear of their property, they lived in harmony and were on good terms.”

However, things went downhill fast after the Dhinjans said the Ashrafs’ new extension encroached by 2.86 inches onto their land with an overhang at roof level of 3.86 inches.

Whilst admitting the boundary breach was small, the Dhinjans said the replacement extension was too close to the wall of their house making it damp and mouldy because air could not circulate properly.

On the other hand, the Ashrafs said their extension was built within the same footprint as the previous one, which had been erected in the 1970s, and claimed this gave them squatters rights as any encroachment over the boundary had been happening for decades.

How did the judge sort out this neighbour dispute?

The court heard that during a row over the extension, Mrs Ashraf challenged her neighbours to ask the courts to settle their disagreement.

Judge Roberts said: “This was exactly what was said by them (the defendants) on 29 April: ‘If you think we have come over, go to court. We will only move the wall if the court tells us’.

“From the very get go, the defendants, when confronted with the fact that this would be a trespass, have simply ignored it and said ‘go to court’.”

Judge Roberts ordered the Ashrafs to demolish their extension after finding they had acted improperly and had breached the existing boundary line, clearly illustrated by before and after photographs of the first extension and its replacement.

He also ordered them to pay the Dhinjans’ legal fees – estimated at almost £100,000 – in addition to their own of around £100,000.

How do you prevent a boundary dispute from escalating?

Judges involved in this type of dispute have long been calling for warring neighbours to try to resolve their problems through mediation rather than battling it out at vast expense in the courts.

Coming to an agreement is by far the least stressful and most economical way forward. Any agreement reached should be recorded as a deed and registered with HM Land Registry with a plan attached showing the agreed boundary, preferably drawn up by a surveyor.

Of course, this isn’t always possible and sadly there are countless examples of neighbours who have fallen out over a tree, a hedge, a blocked drain or a new fence and ended up, often against all advice, going to court.

Get in touch

Wards Solicitors wins high praise in the 2023 edition of the independent Legal 500 guide of outstanding legal professionals for its exceptional professional service standards and high levels of technical expertise.

For specialist help and advice about neighbour, boundary and building disputes, please contact James Murray who is highly experienced in this area of the law and has dealt with a wide range of issues including the position and use of boundaries, damage caused by tree roots, infringing rights of way and rights of light, trespass and harassment.


Phone: 01934 428800

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