Neighbours attic conversion

(42 Posts)
Edinburghlass99 Mon 23-Mar-15 14:38:20

Help... Advice needed. I live in a four in block built in the 1930's. The maintenance of the roof has always been split between the four flats. Upstairs neighbour put in for planning permission to convert attic with dormer front and back, which they duly got (planning permission is a civil matter not a legal).
Believing that I owned a quarter share (the burden's state share of maintenance and title deeds state pro indiviso share of solum) of the roof, I informed them that I would not be signing over my title to the roof. This is the position that it has sat at for months... Until today, came home from work to find scaffolding in my front garden and builders preparing to knock a hole in the roof.
Spoken to neighbour who has said that their title deeds are silent on the attic space so their solicitor has informed them that the tenements act applies and the roof is theirs. They've also said that they have a right of access to my garden for maintenance and they can put scaffolding up for the next six weeks. My small garden will now be out of commission for dd for the start of summer.
At my wits end, don't really have the finances to go through a long court battle, I thought the pro indiviso share of the solum meant they couldn't break through the roof.... Think they've been humouring me and plotting the process behind my back for months because I'm a single mum and that I'll just accept it - Grrr. angryangry
Can anyone advise what my next step should be, recognising that I don't want to incur thousands of pounds in legal expenses.... Thanks so much...

Viviennemary Mon 23-Mar-15 14:40:46

I am totally amazed this planning permission has been granted on what is a communal roof. I'd ring the police. Are you sure she has obtained planning permission?

TreadSoftlyOnMyDreams Mon 23-Mar-15 14:42:56

I'm not a legal person but I would get out your title deeds and see a solicitor quickly.

a) did you inform them in writing and thus prove that they were aware of your legal position?
b) At a minimum I would want to ensure that I had no further legal or financial responsibility for the roof and its maintenance.

Sorry you have such crap neighbours

Viviennemary Mon 23-Mar-15 14:45:45

I'd refuse them access to your garden. Let them go through the courts to get it. Ring up council and Citizen's Advice Bureau. Have you had a letter asking if you object to this. I'm not a legal person but am shocked that this has been allowed. I think there's something not quite right going on here.

noddyholder Mon 23-Mar-15 14:47:34

You need to go over this with a solicitor and the council Can you look online at the planning application?

Edinburghlass99 Mon 23-Mar-15 14:54:17

Thanks guys, tried the council first at planning stage. They advised that it's a civil matter and not legal. They said that I could get planning permission to build a house in your back gardens, but it doesn't mean I could build it. I did advise neighbours in writing - did lots of research on Google about title and burdens, I'm usually pretty good at these things and can plough my way through most things. Thought their silence meant they were having second thoughts, not persuing things behind my back. Words cannot express how angry I am!!!!

mandy214 Mon 23-Mar-15 14:55:31

This might give you some guidance - you need to read your title deeds carefully.

attic info

PeopleOnTheEdgeOfTheNight Mon 23-Mar-15 15:00:18

The neighbours can get planning permission for the roof extension without proving they own that space - anyone can apply for planning permission on land they're thinking of buying. So being granted planning permission doesn't mean they've proven sole ownership of the roof space. If you have a mortgage, the mortgage holder may have your title deeds . Your solicitor may have given you a copy too. Maybe your solicitor or the CAB can help, also check if you have legal helpline through an insurance policy or your employment.

PeopleOnTheEdgeOfTheNight Mon 23-Mar-15 15:02:53

Xpost about planning permission not proving ownership.

Edinburghlass99 Mon 23-Mar-15 15:08:14

Thanks Mandy214, that's really useful. I haven't seen upstairs title deeds and whether it makes reference to the attic space. Upstairs neighbours say it's silent. Mine specifically says that the airspace is owned by all the flats so I thought that they couldn't break into the roof with 4m wide dormer (yes 4 - in a flat). Not quite sure where this leaves me... If it had been silent on the attic space and airspace then maybe. However, I didn't think you could remove someone's legal interest in the roof. Hmmm wonder if my mortgage holder would pursue this too?

DayLillie Mon 23-Mar-15 15:11:54

Litigation will be expensive for them too, and courts don't like neighbour disputes - might be worth settling for compensation for the 6 weeks you will not be able to use your garden, if you can get a decent solicitor to enable this - you may have to threaten legal action in order for them to settle.

Civil law is bloody expensive sad

Edinburghlass99 Mon 23-Mar-15 15:29:08

DayLillie - civil law is what I'm trying to avoid. It can get nasty and v. expensive. My issue has always been that I don't want structural changes made to the roof, which dormers will do. Then there comes maintenance - where does their responsibility start and end - especially if the other co-owners think it's to do with the structural changes to the roof. They've gone to the tenements act because I refused to have anything to do with a roof space disposition. I wanted to keep my interest in the roof that way I'm responsible for its ongoing maintenance - future owners may refuse to maintain the roof.
Looks like it's about to turn v. nasty.

mandy214 Mon 23-Mar-15 15:49:24

One other point - do you have their solicitor details? If you do, I would call them (and put it in writing) that they do not have a right to erect scaffolding in your garden. "Maintenance" is something completely different from building works / building a dormer.

DayLillie Mon 23-Mar-15 15:56:22

It does sound like a case for a knowledgeable solicitor. It is all very well knowing the rights and wrongs of the law, but it is how to use them that is the important thing. I would visit a few and find someone who is sufficiently devious, for want of a better word. You need to know if it actually possible to stop them, and if not, what your best options are. There may need to be a lot of hard negotiating and pressure in the right places.

There are people around who are bullies and will go with doing what they want, because they know that people are scared off by the costs of going to court. I have a friends who had to give up part of their garden (worth £70) to the neighbouring farmer because the costs of going to court (at least £10,000) even though they were probably in the 'right'. They moved.

Another friend stood up to the bully who claimed part of her garden on no evidence other than the fence not being in a straight line hmm. It cost her nearly £15,000, even though they presented an absolutely text book perfect case and she got costs (this was not the full amount) less 10% which the nutter did not pay in full (but was too small amount to go back to court for). However, it did set in stone the legalities of the situation, so that when she sold up, there were no problems whatsoever. It also knocked the wind out of the sails of the bully, until she found someone else. sad. But she has not tried anything else on this scale recently.

It sounds like you like the place you live and would not like to leave. It is hard, but you may have to consider this in the future.

FannyFifer Mon 23-Mar-15 16:04:27

We lived in a four in a block, our flat had an attic conversion previous to moving in.

Due to that we took over all roof maintenance, with the exception of gutters & downpipes.

The title deeds showed that roof space etc was shared ownership but certainly locally whoever has the upper flat its accepted that they can concert attack etc.,

What's your objection?

FannyFifer Mon 23-Mar-15 16:04:51

convert attic

TwoAndTwoEqualsChaos Mon 23-Mar-15 17:36:26

Check your home insurance to see if you have legal cover. We do and are using it to pursue our neighbours who removed our chimney. Just a word, all the to-ing and fro-ing to get approval might take a bit of time so really major on the end for prompt action.

Edinburghlass99 Mon 23-Mar-15 19:01:31

Fannyfifer: objection - gosh where do I start!

1) breaking out into the roof without my consent
2) making structural changes then expecting me to still pay a share of maintenance on the roof - don't mind the chimney's and gutters.
3) huge dormer windows that overlook my garden.
4) erecting scaffolding in my garden without permission and basically putting my garden, front and back, out of commission.
5) blasé attitude that they can do what they like.
6) impact if cowboy builders do it on the cheap.

I wouldn't have minded so much if it was veluxes. I'm not happy about the structural changes to the roof.

Edinburghlass99 Mon 23-Mar-15 19:03:08

TwoandTwo - brilliant idea, will look into that - thanks very much. I do have legal protection!

noddyholder Mon 23-Mar-15 19:07:48

Is it shared freehold? Sometimes the owner has to pay the other freeholders because using the space will increase the value of their flat

PotatoesPastaAndBread Mon 23-Mar-15 19:10:43

I have no practical advice but wanted to day that sounds dreadful and wish you all the best in stopping it

TwoAndTwoEqualsChaos Mon 23-Mar-15 19:12:27

Once bitten, and all that.

TwoAndTwoEqualsChaos Mon 23-Mar-15 19:15:18

Oh, and out neighbour put up scaffolding on our land (twice!) even though I told the second set of men not to, I couldn't stay and watch and on both occasions, not withstanding regular calls to the scaffolding company, they took it down I their own sweet time.

TwoAndTwoEqualsChaos Mon 23-Mar-15 19:16:18

*in

charlestonchaplin Mon 23-Mar-15 19:36:39

I am really annoyed on your behalf, especially about the scaffolding. I would get it taken down ASAP, I'd do it myself if necessary. (Not sure whether taking scaffolding down requires special skills but I'd give it a go.) I hate being underestimated, and unfortunately due to my circumstances it happens more often than it should. When I show I have teeth I'm prepared to use, the bullies invariably back down.

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