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LondonlawyerJ, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 818
Experience:  Solicitor with over 15 years experience.
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Don't know if you can help, but I'm in such a state about this

Customer Question

Don't know if you can help, but I'm in such a state about this could do with some advice. I own my property, it's mortgaged, and is the middle of a row of 4 terraced cottages. For the last few years I've struggled badly with debt, and it's only been over the last few months, that I've finally had a little money free at the end of each month. As a result over the last 3 years or so the house has become very dilapidated. There's been an issue with the roof over my downstairs bathroom, I wasn't able to afford any heating oil for about 18 months, so the house became very damp and cold. The bathroom floor has always been damp (the neighbours on the end have had a similar problem) and there has been some mould. I was planning over the next few months, now I have a little money spare to sort the problems out gradually. However....
Some new neighbours moved in around October time, they bought the place as a holiday cottage and have spent a lot of money doing it up. Around 2-3 months ago they put in a brand new kitchen and bathroom which reputedly cost them around 12k. The bathroom flooded due to a fault with their boiler, and it was my understanding from the other neighbours that the kitchen was partly flooded too. They replaced both the bathroom and all or part of the kitchen.
A few weeks ago they complained that there was an area of damp on the party wall adjoining my kitchen and asked if I had noticed damp there, I hadn't. There had been some damp there a long time ago (I had a washing machine leak) but that was several years ago. Then they complained again, and he asked if he could come in and have a look. He was friendly and at that point I wasn't too worried. He came in and found a tiny patch of mould on my side of the wall, and discovered that the floor at the side (where I would never normally reach, and which couldn't be seen from the front) was damp. He asked if his plumber could have a look at it as he would be round the following day. I didn't really know what to say, but gave him my key saying that I'd need it back the following evening.
The following evening he told me that the leak was caused by my dishwasher which his plumber had unplumbed. He loaned me his dehumidifier, and then ranted about damp problems in other parts of the house which had no direct impact on his own problem. He also told me that he had had another key cut (to my house) and that he was going to keep it in his key-box so that his tradesmen could enter my house when necessary to effect repairs. I was shocked.
Following day, he told me that he had now spoken to the neighbour on the other side, and had basically advised her of any issues about my house that he felt affected her, so I now had the two of them ganging up on me.
Since then (a week last Saturday) I have sorted out a plumber to come and do the kitchen repairs the week beginning July 6th (unable to get him earlier as I am away next week, and he is away the following week), and a roofer for the last week of July (couldn't get him any earlier as I had to have the plumber and roofer in 2 different payment months in order to make sure I had enough money in my account to be able to pay them). I informed the neighbour of this.
Yesterday he was banging at my door to rant that his kitchen had deteriorated. This in spite of the fact that I have had the dehumidifier on 24/7, and have made sure that the floor and wall around the area he is complaining of are dry to the touch.
When I got home tonight he was waiting for me and handed me a letter which he insisted on me reading in front of him with a list of demands from him and the neighbour on the other side. These included wanting all the plumbing done in the bathroom (although there doesn't appear to be a leak), an "approved" roofer and plumber to do the work, and proof to be handed to him that they have done the work. All within 28 days. I told him this was impossible but also told him what I had done and that the work on the roof and kitchen would be done by the end of the first week in August.
He then ranted again as to why I hadn't done the work before, and I explained the financial situation yet again. He then told me that he wanted to walk my dog, and that the dog shouldn't be left alone, and went on about that, which I found very distressing, as my dog is my life. He finally said that he would be popping round regularly to check that everything was being sorted out.
I am doing my best, ***** ***** quite know at this stage what else I can do. I appreciate that the damp is a problem (I've not been happy with it, but have financially been unable to deal with it). However now I'm feeling threatened. And I'm dreading coming back the end of next week to find him waiting to rant at me again. Is there anything else I could say / do to improve the situation. Lack of money means there is no way I can sort everything out all at once. I should have said that I have got my key back, and he wasn't happy about that. Sorry so long...
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  LondonlawyerJ replied 2 years ago.
Hello, I am a solicitor with 20 years experience. I will try to answer this for you.
If you did not know and could not reasonably be expected to know about the leak then you are not responsible for any harm allegedly done to your property. Presumably, after his plumber's unauthorised actions there is no longer a leak, and you are getting it fixed properly in a couple of weeks. Hard to see any legal claim he could have there.
Do the problems with your roof impact in your neighbour?
The dog is none of his business but he sounds like the sort of person who might call the RSPCA to make a complaint. I am sure that wouldn't be a problem for you though.
AS far as the key is concerned he has no right at all to copy the key to your address and to betray your trust in the way that he has. You could write to him demanding that he give you the key and confirms that there are no other copies and that if he deosn't you will replace the lock and look to him for the costs. Including if he refuses to comply an action in the snmall claims court for recovery of the cost of repalcement. This would have some up front costs and success would not be guaranteed but it might still be a threat worth making, even as a bluff.
I hope this is helpful and that I have answered your questions but please feel free to ask for more information.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

There is damp elsewhere, but there wasn't to my knowledge against the party wall where he says there is a problem. The damp elsewhere is not on his side of the house, but he's now telling me repeatedly that my house is uninhabitable and a danger to the rest of the terrace.

He is also asking me to pay for the cost of repairing his kitchen - I can't as I don't have that sort of money. I don't know what more I can do beyond getting the plumber and the roofer in. I would like to get the damp problem in the bathroom sorted, but that is dependent on the cost and how soon I can get the money together for that. Could he take me to court? I'm so anxious.

Expert:  LondonlawyerJ replied 2 years ago.
What damage to his kitchen does he say you are responsible for and why?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

He says that part of his 8k kitchen has to be replaced because it has been eaten away by damp and that the damp is coming through the party wall from my side (where there was the leak). What I don't understand though is how there can be a continuing problem on his side attributable to me when my side is dry. I stuck a rag into the corner last night and it was bone dry...

Expert:  LondonlawyerJ replied 2 years ago.
if he wants to sue yu he needs to show that problem is caused by you and that you are responsible.. eg you have not fixed severe obvious damnpness, over a period of time posing a risk to his house.
I think he has no valid claim against you and is trying a shakedown.
You should tell him that you don't accept responsibility, that you consider him to be little better than a thief and tell him that if he wants to waste his money bringing a claim then to bring it and see what he can prove. Also threaten him with the lock as suggested above.
I think you should change the lock to stop him snooping around looking for evidence.
I am sorry you have acquired such an unpleasant neighbour.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Sorry I didn't reply to your message. I was away the following day and haven't had internet access for a week. The situation has now deteriorated further. While I was away he called out Environmental Health and texted me demanding urgent access to my property. He also got the neighbour on the other side to make a complaint to them independently.

Environmental Health are insisting on coming out next week. What are my rights with regard to this? What access to my property are they legally allowed to have? And what happens should they find I am at fault?

I have just about enough money to sort out problems as I previously mentioned to you but no savings.