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Alex J.
Alex J., Solicitor
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 3497
Experience:  Two years conveyancing experience.
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There is a piece of land attached to the side of my property

Customer Question

There is a piece of land attached to the side of my property which for 26 years has been an access to a side gate which I installed when we moved in as there was no way to exit the house accept for the front door. This area has been maintained by us for that period of time, when it became overgrown, we cut it back and cleared away rubbish as it was used as a dumping ground. I cut it back to ground level this year and have now received a letter to say this was an unauthorized criminal act of a valuable landscape asset being defaced. It was an overgrown dumping tip that I have maintained for the last 25 years. Please, what can I do now?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Alex J. replied 2 years ago.
Hi,

Thank you for your question and welcome.

My name is AJ and I will assist you.

Do you know who the land belongs to?

Who sent you the letter?

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Milton Keynes Council sent me the letter so I presume it is they who are the owners. They say they are collecting necessary evidence and once this has been collected they intend to prosecute.
Expert:  Alex J. replied 2 years ago.
Hi,

Thank you.

Can you confirm that through your actions you have actually improved and maintained the land?

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
This was done just prior to Christmas and each year it grows back again. Our intention for this year was to plant shrubs and bulbs so that it flowers throughout the year, but also we wanted to fence off part of it to extend our garden. This as yet has not been done mainly due to the weather.
Expert:  Alex J. replied 2 years ago.
Hi,

Thank you.

I am afraid there is not really much you can do to stop them bringing a criminal complaint. The reason is that is their prerogative.

That said if they want to bring a claim for criminal damage against you they will have to prove you have actually caused damage. If you have improved the state of the property by clearing it of waste and planting shrubs then this wont be criminal damage. Do you have evidence to show that you conducted these improvements.

In the mean time the only thing I can suggest is the following:
1. If they prosecute instruct a solicitor straight away;
2. In the interests of getting the council to use some common sense (which they seldom do) take the letter and go to the local press. The bad publicity of "Wasting Tax Payers Money" will undoubtedly put pressure on them to drop this allegation.

The bottom line is you will need proof that this is an improvement.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
My question was the fact that we have been tending it for the past 25 years and fenced off our access to the back, was I entitled to claim the land, i understand that for the time we have had the access to it, we are entitled to say its ours, that was our concern.
Expert:  Alex J. replied 2 years ago.
Hi

Thank you.

If you can prove you have occupied the land for 12 years you might be able to make a claim for adverse possession.

Can you give me any more details about what you did with the land? Did you just fence it off and maintain it? Did the council ever object to you occupying it before?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The council have never objected to our having a back entrance/exit fenced off from the rest of the small piece of land at the rear of our garden and they certainly have not complained that we maintained the overgrown shrubs which from when we moved into our house in 1988 for six years they maintained it by just cutting it back to ground level once a year (that was their maintaining it). Cutbacks ended that work so we have been doing it ever since with no complaints by the council I might add until now that is.
Expert:  Alex J. replied 2 years ago.
Hi

Thank you.

In order to make a claim for adverse possession you need to prove:
1. Uninterrupted factual possession of the property for a period of 12 years or longer. The fact that you have been on the land since 1988 and have fenced it off and maintained it is evidence of this.

2. An intention to possess the land - you have not been paying rent on it and have been maintaining it and occupying it for your benefit.

The only bar to your claim maybe if the council deems this common land or a public green. In which case your claim maybe defeated on the grounds of criminality. You may have had no complaints form the council, but part of the claim means that your possession cannot be with consent from the council, the fact that they have alleged a criminal complaint might be evidence of this.

If you are going to make a claim I would recommend that you instruct a local solicitor to fill in the claim as it is a complex procedure.

Kind regards

AJ

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