Before you make an offer on a property that you like you should be aware of your potential neighbours' property rights and how they may affect you and the complete enjoyment of your ownership.
What are the common property rights that neighbours have?
By operation of law, neighbours are granted particular rights that allow them to access your property or land for a handful of reasons.
Right of access for repairs and preservation
The Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 grants you and your neighbour the right to access the other's property where doing so is necessary to carry out repair and preservation works on you own property.
The types of repair and preservation works for which you can access your neighbour's property are as follows:
- maintenance, repair or renewal of the property;
- clearance, repair or renewal of any drain, sewer, pipe, or cable;
- treatment, cutting back, felling, removal or replacement of any hedge, tree, shrub or another growing thing which is or in danger of becoming damaged, diseased, dangerous, insecurely rooted or dead; and
- filling in or clearance of any ditch.
If your neighbours are friendly, they will have no issue with allowing you onto their property to carry out repair and preservation work. However, if they do refuse, you can apply to the court for an order of access.
Nevertheless, the court is not obligated to grant a right of access if it is of the opinion that an order of access will cause unreasonable disturbance to your neighbour. You should also be aware that the court can award compensation base on the inconvenience your neighbour will face.
Therefore, before you make an offer to buy a property that needs work, talk to the seller about the neighbours so that you can gauge what kind of people they are.
Right of support
If the property is attached to an adjacent neighbour's property, you and your neighbour both have a right of support by the other.
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is the applicable law. It applies to shared walls between semi-detached and terraced houses, or structures such as the floors between flats and garden boundary walls. If you plan on taking down any part of the property you have to ensure that your neighbour's wall will be fully supported and bear any additional costs in making it so.
Additionally, you cannot carry out any excavation works within 3 to 6 metres of the property boundary to protect your neighbour's ground or walls from collapsing during any excavation work you may be carrying out.
It is also good to check whether your potential neighbours are in dispute over the property's boundary walls or shared areas.
You can read more about wall and boundary rights.
Right to light
Except for cases where a court has granted an easement, you do not have a right to light.
A court will only grant an easement where the light has been enjoyed uninterruptedly for 20 years and for such amount of light as is required for continuous use and enjoyment of the property.
Right to a view
There is no right to a view.
If one of the reasons that the property is attractive is because of the scenery, check whether any development is planned (whether planning applications are pending).
Note as well that some works don't require planning permission. For example, your neighbour could install a garden shed in their garden that blocks your view over it.