Essential repairs and property maintenance – trespass or not?

cracks in walls neighbouring property

Going on to your neighbour’s land is sometimes necessary to carry out essential repairs to your property. Consequently, the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992, provides for this with a legal right to access in certain circumstances. The Act covers property in England and Wales.

In some cases, a covenant may exist in the deeds of your property and your neighbour’s, that give each of you right of access over certain parts of the other’s land, in certain circumstances. However, going onto someone else’s property, even for essential repairs, without their permission will usually be considered trespass. Despite this, it is possible to go onto your neighbour’s land without their explicit permission when you need to do so in order to repair your home.

Of course, if you want to keep a good relationship with your neighbour it will be polite to obtain permission before going on their land, and this can be done in person or in the form of a letter.

If permission is not granted, you can apply to the court under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act to force your neighbour to allow access for the purposes of carrying out ‘basic preservation works’ on your own property. Reasonable works include:

  • the maintenance, repair or renewal of any part of a building or other structure comprised in, or situate on, the dominant land;
  • the clearance, repair or renewal of any drain, sewer, pipe or cable so comprised or situate;
  • the treatment, cutting back, felling, removal or replacement of any hedge, tree, shrub or other growing thing which is so comprised and which is, or is in danger of becoming, damaged, diseased, dangerous, insecurely rooted or dead;
  • the filling in, or clearance, of any ditch so comprised.

Access may also be granted if the court considers it reasonably necessary for the preservation of any land  involving:

  • the making of some alteration, adjustment or improvement to the land; or
  • the demolition of the whole or any part of a building or structure comprised in or situate upon the land.

If you need to seek the right of access, proceedings must commence in the County Court. The court will grant an access order if it is satisfied that the preservation works are:

  • Reasonably necessary for the preservation of the relevant land; and
  • That they can’t be carried out, or would be very difficult to carry out, without entry onto the adjoining land.

Before taking action in the court, speak to a Chartered Surveyor, who can assess the issue and if required liaise with your neighbour on your behalf to seek an agreed course of action.