Ask an Property Solicitor. Get an Answer ASAP.
Hello, I am a solicitor with 20 years experience. I will try to answer this for you.
Did you put anything in writing about the wall being dangerous and that you would remove it if they did not fix it? If the owner of next door has complained to you did you not have his contact details yourself?
Also why do you say it is hs wall. Are you able to check whether it actually belongs to him or whether he just has the duty to maintain it. A feature which forms a boundary is not always owned by anyone but those who have the duty to maintain often think it belongs to them even when it doesn't.
No we did not as we did not realise how bad it was till the builder pointed it out to us and then we spoke to the tenant the same day. The builder took the wall down about 2/3 days later when we heard nothing from the owners (via the tenant). The tenant seemed a respectable older chap that we trusted , he also agreed that the wall was in a bad way. We have checked our deeds and the wall does belong to the neighbour.
You should have contacted the owners directly and given them a chance to fix the problem. This will partly hinge on just how dangerous the wall was. What did the builder say exactly.
The builder showed us how unstable the wall was just by pushing with a finger and it wobbled, it was hanging dangerously towards our garden too and we were concerned it would fall onto one of our dogs or even us. When the builder took the wall down he saw that it had been built with no correct footings , therefore why it was so unstable. I am unhappy as it appears that it is not just a black and white situation here. Why did it take the neighbour 7 months before they complained when we could have put another wall back up relatively cheaply when the builders first took it down? At the time the tenant told us that the owner was happy to have a fence. What has prompted the owner to complain is because we installed a wood burner which the tenant moaned about as soon as he saw it being installed. He has complained to the environmental health about this but it has been approved by them, therefore he is trying to get to us another way. He complained about some decking we put up too but again this has been passed by the council. He has fueled the owner into complaining as he is unhappy with us. We must have some sort of case in that fact they left it 7 months before saying anything? Can I sue for harrassment?
The position with the wall is not clear cut. You need to get some evidence about how dangerous the wall was. Speak to the builder get him to write down what he recalls about it. The fact that it has taken 7 months to complain is important but the owner may argue he didn't know for 7 months. There is no getting around the fact that you did not give him proper notice and a chance to sort it out himself. However what is his loss? You could argue that a dangerous wall that would have had to be removed has been removed for him free of charge. He may not like the replacement ,well he can replace that himself if he really wants to can't he? He can't have any real confidence that a court would find in his favour award him any compensation or compel you to reinstate the wall. If you call his bluff and refuse to rebuild the wall then it may well be difficult for him to do anything about this. But there is a great deal of uncertainty here.
The neighbour's behaviour may be unpleasant but nothing you have described amounts to harassment in law.
We have the copy of the surveyors report that stated the wall needed replacing, surely that is enough proof along with pictures of the groundwork which showed no footings? The owner has sent us a letter recently stating that unless we pay him £3000 for a new wall he is taking us to court. I am quite prepared to go to court but only if we have some kind of chance of winning and if we lost are we liable for all the costs involved?
That sounds like very good evidence. Based on what you have told me you have a decent chance of successfully defending any claim. A claim for £3,000 would be in the small claims court where orders for people to pay the winning side's legal costs are extremely rare. If you lost you would need to pay the issue fee (£105/115) and reasonable expenses of the winning side (travel etc).
Thats good to know. If it went to court would they involve the tenant as he is the one who was passing the information through to the owner, or is it just between us and the owners now? Would we need to get a solicitor if it goes to court?
They could use him as a witness. He might well say whatever his landlord wanted him to.
I want him there as I want to involve him as he has caused all the issues and he needs to feel uncomfortable, which he will do if he has to lie (which he will). Also do we need a solicitor?
And also does the law only state we have to put the wall back to the same standard it was before, therefore with no footings?
If you use a solicitor in small claim you also will not get your costs back and will end up significantly out of pocket. If he is making a money claim in the small claims court He will be seeking the money for him to be able to rebuild the wall, rather than you having to reinstate it. He can not approach this with confidence that he will win.
So are you saying that we do not have to have a solicitor then if it goes to small claims court?
Yes, although you can if you want to, The system is designed for litigants in person.
Im sorry to sound stupid but what does 'litigants in person' mean?
Sorry for slipping into jargon it means people acting in court for themselves with no lawyer.
Oh Ok, thankyou. Also can we call the tenant to court as witness to question or will that have to come from the owner?
You might be able to but it is rarely a good idea calling a witness who may be hostile to you to give evidence.
OK thankyou for your help.