Picture the scene – the carpenter has finished
clearing away his tools, your furniture has just been delivered and
you sink into an easy chair with a glass of chilled chardonnay to
admire your new conservatory like a modern day Kubla Khan
– when suddenly there is a knock at the door. There
stands your rather difficult neighbour clutching a sheet of paper
demanding you remove 'the carbuncle of a conservatory
immediately'. The stuff of nightmares? Perhaps – if
you do not fully understand what you may or may not do with your
own property there is a real risk that all your hard work, patience
and money could go to waste.
For example, have you considered the position of the extension
in relation to the boundaries to your land, or are you about to
build in breach of a restriction? When you purchased your property
your lawyer or conveyancing manager should have discussed the
boundaries of the property with you. You should therefore have a
reasonable grasp of where the boundaries to your land are
However, over and above the location of the boundary line there
may be additional factors to consider such as whether you have an
obligation to leave a 'relief' (that is to say an offset)
between the boundary to your land and any construction on it. This
means leaving at least 16˝ inches (1˝ Jersey feet)
between your new construction and the boundary line. In a case
where your neighbour owns the existing boundary enclosure with its
own relief, this will mean that there will be a distance of
2'9" (3 Jersey feet) between the existing enclosure and
your new construction.
It is worth bearing in mind that if your contract of purchase
confirms a right for you to join onto a neighbour's wall then
you are not obliged to leave a relief. In addition, your contract
of purchase may indicate that a wall is party owned in which case
you may build up the boundary wall.
It is important to bear in mind that it is not only the
foundations of a construction which may breach a relief. The relief
applies to the whole construction including the gutters, downpipes
and fascia boards which overhang the relief.
There are also restrictions as to where windows may be placed in
relation to the boundary. Unless your contract of purchase gives
permission for the placement of a window within three Jersey feet
(2'9") of the boundary, a neighbour may force its removal
and blocking up if it is placed within that distance. It is usual
when a new estate of houses are sold off for the appropriate
provisions to be made for the houses and windows to remain as
constructed but these provisions would not necessarily cover any
extensions to the property.
There may also be restrictions in your contract of purchase on
where you may build on your land. For example, it is not unusual
for contracts on an estate of houses to restrict construction on
the front facade of the houses in order to maintain the design
integrity of a development.
If you find you have constructed an extension in breach of a
relief or other restriction then you would need to approach your
neighbour (or potentially the original developer of the estate) and
ask them to be party to a contract to give their permission for the
offending structure or window to remain.
Often problems with construction are only discovered when a
party is selling their property and there might be a delay in the
completion of a sale, whilst the vendor's lawyer negotiates
with a neighbour to arrange for the appropriate contract to be
passed. At the very least you could wind up paying their legal fees
and might even end up paying your neighbour additional compensation
to have them consent to the extension remaining.
In short, therefore, we strongly recommended that anyone
considering an extension to their property look carefully at their
contract of purchase and contact a lawyer to discuss their
proposals before they submit any plans for approval. Otherwise your
'stately pleasure dome' could end up being a 'home from
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The claimant's house was situated close to Putney Lower Common, part of a larger area of common land in Wimbledon and Putney.
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