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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 25358
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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Customer Question

Hello, thank you for providing this service.
My question regards ***** ***** of an email as a legally-binding agreement.
My neighbours installed scaffolding on my private property (residential) without asking my permission. The purpose was to complete a new extension to their roof. I was going to let it go but then they installed a side window frame that looked directly into my property. I immediately objected to the window but they told me it was within "permitted development" guidelines by the council. Therefore, I used my most immediate source of leverage: use of my land. I informed them they were trespassing and if they wished to continue to use my land it was subject to blocking up the side window. If they chose to pursue the window, I told them I would take legal action against them for trespassing on my land. I gave them 24 hours to decide which route they wanted to go down.
This morning they sent me an email saying they'd decided against the window and they considered the matter closed. I sent them a one-page legally binding agreement for use of my land - free-of-charge subject to meeting reasonable duties of care and - most critically - subject to no side window. I added a penalty clause stating that if they installed the side window at a later date, they agreed to pay me retrospective fees of £500 per day for use of my land. I said I wanted the agreement signed today. NB They have now blocked up the side window (done this morning) but my question is this:
If they fail to sign the legal document that grants them access and use of my land but I send them an email stating that their continued presence on my land is subject to my terms and conditions - as stipulated in the agreement - is such an email legally binding?
I'd really appreciate your help and expertise on this matter!
Thank you and kind regards,
Dawn
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Joshua :

Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.

Joshua :

Could you tell me please if they are building their extension within three metres of any of your buildings (e.g. your house) or along the boundary line such that their extension forms the new boundary between your and their properties please?

Joshua :

Is the window on ground floor or first floor level?

JACUSTOMER-pgz43h5i- :

Hi Joshua,

JACUSTOMER-pgz43h5i- :

The extension is along the boundary line (the side of their house runs perpendicular to my back garden, which is 53 feet long. It's a roof extension, so the side window would have looked down directly into my bedroom and my lounge. In fact, via my lounge skylight, they could have seen directly into the middle of my home.

Joshua :

Thanks

Joshua :

Has the neighbour served a party wall notice on you?

JACUSTOMER-pgz43h5i- :

No. I had no information whatsoever. The first thing I knew about their extension was when their builders showed up and started putting scaffolding down on my land

Joshua :

Thank you. Side facing windows on first floor or higher is not allowed under permitted development unless they are obscure glazed and either non opening or more than 1.7m above the floor level. This is designed to protect your privacy. If they wish to install something other than the above they will require planning permission.

Joshua :

Second the work requires party wall compliance. They may not proceed with any work without your consent unless they have first served a party wall notice on you and obtained your consent. If you refuse, then they must appoint a party wall surveyor to act on your behalf to negotiate a party wall award to decide how works go forward which can include what works are carried out and how and when etc and deal with scaffolding and so on. If they have failed to do so you can apply for an injunction and costs to prevent the work proceeding further.

JACUSTOMER-pgz43h5i- :

Thanks Joshua, I think that's what they wanted to put in. Are residents ALWAYS allowed to install those types of windows, regardless of the impact on residents? Myself and my side neighbours have complained to the council (who never advised of the work in the first place.) I'd like to think the views of three sets of residents would have counted for something.

I guess I just want to feel safe that they can't go and install a window in future on the side. If they attempted to do that, would they have to obtain party wall compliance from me?

Joshua :

In terms of your agreement, this would not impact your above rights however there is nothing stopping you reaching an agreement along the lines you suggest. Penalty clauses however are unlawful so reference to penalty clause should be removed. Rather the agreement should be prepared on the basis that you charge £500 fee per day for use of your land but that fee is waived providing the do not install a window as you specify for a period fo 6 years from the date of the agreement (6 years is the limit a contract can be enfored). £500 is a huge amount for a rental fee so it would be necessary for you to show that they fully understand the fee is high and that they understand and are happy to pay such a fee. There is a danger a court could still interpret such a fee as a penalty but provding you can show they understood and agreed the fee, it could be enforced through the courts.

Joshua :

Reference the window, notwithstanding that they cannot do any work without complying with the party wall act as above, subject to this, it is possible to install an obscurred glass window which is non opening or set high up 1.7 m above inside floor level without planning permission. This means that they cannot peer out of it over your land so protects your privacy. Anything else requires planning permission.

JACUSTOMER-pgz43h5i- :

They've refused to sign the agreement. They're suggesting that I've got what I want - the window has been blocked up and now I should just let things be. Just to test my understanding: is it correct that they could not install a side window at a later date without my consent and a party wall agreement?

Joshua :

Any major work (including inserting a window) carried out to the wall forming the new boundary between your property now or in the future requires a part wall notice and agreement by you or failing this a surveyor at their cost to make a party wall award.

Joshua :

So yes your understanding is correct on the basis the wall in question is built along the boundary line betwee your properties. However if they do start such work you must act quickly to obtain an injunction to prevent the work continuing as if they complete the work before you do, you may not be able to force its removal but may only be able to seek limited compensation.

Joshua :

To give you added security you could ask for a formal deed of covenant to be signed by them undertaking not to install an side facing windows without your consent. This can be registered against their title and is legally enforeable in the future.

Joshua :

You would likely need a solicitor to assist you with entering a covenant which would costs several hundred pounds. You could use threat of party wall act injunction to prevent work continuing now if they do not agree which will add hundreds or probably thousands of pounds to their build costs with court and surveyor fees.

Joshua :

Does the above answer all your questions or is there anything I can clarify or help you with any further?

JACUSTOMER-pgz43h5i- :

Thank you - you've been a complete star.

Joshua :

I am glad I was able to be of assistance.

Joshua :

If I can assist any further as the situation develops please do not hesitate to revert to me

Joshua :

If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to rate my service to you today. Your feedback is important to me. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me though

Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 25358
Experience: LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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