Do you need to give your neighbour access to your land
This depends on their reason for needing access. Regardless of whether you have a good or difficult relationship with your neighbour, you still have the right to say no and you should not feel uncomfortable about accepting or rejecting access requests to keep good neighbourly relations.
When you may have to say yes
Your neighbour could be granted an access order by a court if they give any of the following reasons:
- To maintain, renovate or repair an existing property or structure (or parts of it) that can only be accessed via your land
- To clear a sewer, pipe, drain or repair cables
- To fill in or remove a ditch
- To remove a tree, plant or hedge (or parts of it) which have become diseased, died become unstable which may pose a danger
Simply put, they would need to confirm to you in writing exactly what they require access for, exactly how long it will take and if any damage occurs to your property that they must put right by a certain deadline. If the request is in relation to any of the reasons listed above (if you do say no), they may be able to apply through the courts to get access and will have to prove their right to access.
If you have a difficult relationship with your neighbour, click here.
When you can say no
If a neighbour requests access to your land to build a new structure or building, they would not be granted an access order by a court.
Under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 (Access Order, Section (4) the current law states:
“Where the court is satisfied on an application under this section that it is reasonably necessary to carry out any basic preservation works to the dominant land, those works shall be taken for the purposes of this Act to be reasonably necessary for the preservation of the land; and in this subsection “basic preservation works” means any of the following, that is to say—
(a) the maintenance, repair or renewal of any part of a building or other structure comprised in, or situate on, the dominant land;…(b)…“
This means that the work must relate to the preservation of an existing structure, not a new structure currently being built.
Once you give access to your land for your neighbour to build a new structure, you could lose the right to refuse any future access for the neighbour to repair, maintain and/or renovate it.
To “future proof” your property, just say no to an access request for a new build or structure. You will save yourself a lot of time, hassle and costs in the long run, particularly if your neighbour becomes difficult before or after any build. This will also help when you come to sell your property. If a savvy buyer picks up that a structure on your neighbours land will require maintenance from your property, it could put them off buying.
Once you say no, the neighbour would then need to build the structure completely independent of your land and boundary so that they are able to maintain, renovate or repair it in the future from their own land.
Now think very carefully about your decision
When you receive an access request from a neighbour, ask them to email the request to you and say you will look into it.
If you already have a building in that part of your garden, you should check whether it triggers a party wall agreement.
Compile an email asking the neighbour exactly what they are building, ask for a drawing or plan of the structure, the measurements, how it will impact your garden (will they be applying for a Line of Junction agreement (i.e. part of your fence or the neighbours fence will be removed to make way for the new structure’s sidewall to replace the fence)). How far away will the foundations and sidewall of the structure be from the boundary, fence and again whether it will form a line of junction?
You need to ask what the structure will be made of (i.e. brick/timber etc)? How it will be constructed, how long will it take to build? What type of access do they need? Will they require access to bring materials across your garden and what that would entail.
How much future maintenance will the structure require? If the fence will be kept in place, will you or the neighbour be able to maintain it once the structure is built or will this flag future access requests from either side? This is a key factor when looking at access requests as the neighbour may need access to maintain their new structure and their existing fence from your garden which may need regular access requests.
Now think very carefully about your future plans for that part of your garden. Will the neighbour’s structure place that area of your garden in the shade? At some point, would you like to build there on your own land, could their structure scupper your future plans?
What is your current relationship like with your neighbour (irrespective of how great it is right now, building works can really test relationships).
Once you have made your decision, respond by email accordingly but you don’t have to give much detail about the reasons for your decision. By doing this, you have a written record of your decision.
Planning permission to build and Access Requests
Even if your neighbour has planning permission to build a structure, if any part of it has to be carried out on from your land, they still need your permission to access your garden to build it.
If you receive a planning application from the local authority that may impact your land (a new conservatory or extension), you should comment on the plans if you do not want the neighbour to build any part of it from your land and/or let the neighbour know in writing in advance of any building works commencing.
Exceptions To Granting Access
In some cases, courts may also refuse to grant an access order if they decide that it would cause severe hardship to you and would reduce your capacity for enjoying your own land.
Harassment From Neighbour
If you are being subjected to harassment from your neighbour whether verbally or in writing about the access situation, click here for more information on how to protect yourself, your property and your rights.
If the Neighbour trespasses on your land
If you have rejected the neighbour’s access request in writing and the neighbour trespasses on your land without your consent to build a new structure or make any repairs, take a photo of the neighbour on your land from a safe distance and call the Police straight away. To get evidence of your neighbour trespassing on your land to give to the Police, you should install a camera from the back of your property that covers your garden. The camera can be either placed on a wall or placed inside your own property facing your garden. You can also get in touch with your local authority as this can be reported as anti-social behaviour. In a google search, type in the name of your local borough and the words “anti-social behaviour”.
If the neighbour is continuing to build, gather evidence of your neighbour trespassing on your land to give to the Police, you should install a camera from the back of your property that covers your garden. The camera can be either placed on a wall or placed inside your own property facing your garden. If you see the neighbour’s being dropped at any point, this may signal that your neighbour may be attempting to build the structure from your land. Contact the Police.
If the neighbour has built a structure from your land without your knowledge
If the neighbour manages to build the structure from your land, without your consent or knowledge (you may have gone away on holiday etc.), you can use the photograph of your land before you went away or any video footage you have of the neighbour together with any correspondence received and sent to the neighbour including the access rejection letter to get in touch with the Police and the relevant authorities. If you decide to take legal action, the court will then see that you refused access and the neighbour clearly trespassed on your property to build the structure.