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Neighbour wants me to give up private right of way if I sell house

(98 Posts)
Ric2013 Tue 24-May-16 00:15:17

Hi there,

Wondered if anyone has any ideas that might be helpful to me with regard to my right of access through my neighbour's garden which, since I may be selling, my neighbour would like me to relinquish.

I'm considering selling my house. Recently this has been rented out and I've been renting a pad on the other side of the country (but I'm fed up of travelling back and forth to do maintenance while having to put up with my own landlord's somewhat bizarre idea of what constitutes maintaining a house... but I digress).

The back garden of my own centre-terraced house has access to the road via the garden of the neighbouring house which is end-of-terrace, with a very clearly defined (on paper, if not on the ground) path through the garden around its outer perimeter. This is all documented as a formal easement.

The neighbour (she's had her house almost as long as I have, nearly ten years) had a bad experience with a former tenant of my house who used the premise of a right of way as an excuse for standing in her garden and making phone calls for some reason (why she didn't just ask him to s-d off is beyond me, and I was unaware of the situation) and is now a bit scared that, since I'm thinking of selling, the new owner of my house might be equally difficult.

Personally I don't see why the access is a particular problem, as she can always fence around the access route, thus making her garden seem smaller if she really wants to worry about it, but I'd like to help her out if possible.

She seems to think a simple exchange of letters would extinguish the right, but I can't see how that can be, seeing as this right is on Land Registry, and is some 50 years old. Obviously if there are legal costs involved, I'll tell the neighbour she needs to pay them if she wants this done. And we're assuming that there are no planning issues involved - I wonder whether having a 15' back garden without access to the road could be considered a hazard in that there would be no fire escape?

There is a part of me that would be sad to see this go as I thought it was a good thing for the house to have, and actually I feel that sharing a space adds to a community feel. It was very useful to me to have an access for my bicycle without having to push them through the lounge, and I like to keep my bins out the back where the neighbours didn't have to look at them.

Leaving all that aside, this will certainly add to the value of her house, which I don't begrudge her. What I do object to, is possible loss of sale or value if I do sell up, as several people online as well as in person see having a rear access to the tiny back garden as an advantage. (I say if, but actually this is not an issue as no-one has suggested I relinquish the access UNLESS I sell up).

Does anyone have any ideas on how I could ensure that I don't lose money on this, short of just telling her that no, I'm not prepared to extinguish the access, or is that the only way, really?

Thanks for any contributions. If anything really helpful comes up, I may even show her this page smile


YellowDinosaur Tue 24-May-16 00:22:24

I'd do one of 2 things.

Either tell her a straight no, because it will almost certainly affect the saleability of your house.

However if you want to help her I'd get a couple of estate agent valuations both with and without the right of way and tell her you'll relinquish it if she pays the difference plus all legal costs to get it formally changed.

I'd personally favour the first option because despite the difference in value I think it might be harder for you to sell without it.

Storminateapot Tue 24-May-16 00:27:46

Have you read the paperwork that came with the purchase of your property? All the legal backing documentation? Our deeds have rights of easement going back to ancient ownerships from when the property was part of a Dukedom that have been passed on in perpetuity. Other access rights relate to drains. There will be a reason why your land ownership was drawn up as it was - be sure you understand that before you relinquish it.
My gut reaction would be to say that your agents have advised you not to relinquish any rights and that they should take the issue up with new owners.

RockMeMomma Tue 24-May-16 00:29:43

I would not give up full right of way to a mid terraced house, it could be a deal breaker for the sale of your own house. Your neighbour is being very cheeky, she may not be as considerate of you, as you are of her.

abigamarone Tue 24-May-16 00:29:52

If your only access to your back garden is through this right of way you'd be crazy to give it up. You need someone to fix your guttering - they bring their scaffold/ladders through your house? You can't store your bins there? And if there's nothing stopping your neighbour fencing it off why would you even consider it?

runningincircles12 Tue 24-May-16 00:30:49

Don't do this. I have access over neighbouring land and it is necessary in order to take the bins out. If I relinquished my rights, I would have trouble selling. As you said, you used the right of way and it will be equally valuable to a new purchaser. If I didn't have access for bins, I don't think I would buy a property. It is also entirely commonplace in terraced houses (originally I think it was so that coal could be brought in round the back).

Also, when she bought the house, she knew it was subject to an easement. Is she offering you any money for relinquishing the rights? The issues with the former tenant are nothing to do with you. Right of way doesn't entitle him to make phone calls in her garden and she could have written to him/landlord and complained. Fencing off the rest of the garden would also be an option. But not really your problem.

I would say either tell her no (this is what I would do). Or get a surveyor to do a full report (paid for by her) on the potential loss of value to your property if the easement were extinguished. Then she needs to pay that to you and you will probably find that she shuts up when you tell her that.

Tbh, fire safety isn't really going to be an issue. In the event of a fire (in the garden?), you could go through her garden to escape it regardless of right of way. The real issue is access for bins.

wwyd123 Tue 24-May-16 00:31:13

I would ask the estate agents valuing the house if removing the right of access reduces the value of your house, if so by how much, then ask her for that amount.

Having a house with no rear access isn't a hazard / fire risk though, the garden isn't likely to catch fire and I'm sure you could remove the fence panel / climb over / smash it down in an emergency . I don't have rear access the only down side is dragging the bikes through the house or if you want to landscape the garden

runningincircles12 Tue 24-May-16 00:34:02

abigamorone, yes, good point re tradesman access. Will make it extremely difficult and annoying for them to have to traipse through your living room with bulky equipment.

runningincircles12 Tue 24-May-16 00:42:13

Oh and extinguishing the easement will have to be done by way of deed and the entry removed from the land register, so there will be legal fees incurred (again should be paid for by her if you do this).

Also, marketing your house for sale, you would have to make explicit that you are removing the right of way. Otherwise the buyer is entitled to assume that he will take the property in its current state (ie with a right of way).

My sister's neighbour tried to persuade her to give him a large chunk of her garden for free. My mum's neighbour pestered her for 6 months (v stressful) to give up a big chunk of land so that he could build underground parking for himself because he had 2 cars and only one space. Sadly, some people are entitled and selfish and don't consider the implications of their actions on others.

PerspicaciaTick Tue 24-May-16 00:46:20

Just say no, she can approach the new owner once the sale has gone through.

SocksRock Tue 24-May-16 00:46:30

Don't do it. We owned a house that had no rear access to the garden and it was an unmitigated pain in the arse. I would never buy a house without one and a lot of people would feel the same. An unsaleable house is worth nothing.

RunRabbitRunRabbit Tue 24-May-16 00:51:41

I wouldn't sell the access for all the reasons everyone else gives.

Though I might contact the neighbour to politely ask what figure did she have in mind to buy the easement off you? She might drop it when she remembers that people don't give away property rights for free.

Ric2013 Tue 24-May-16 10:37:51

Thanks for all the helpful suggestions. It sounds like you agree then that the access improves the house - I wondered if it was just me that appreciated having that access, but obviously not.

I'll discuss it with her in light of your comments. I think she just is not used to the idea of an access route and I must say that when I bought the house I thought it was a bit strange too. Since then, though, I've noticed it isn't especially common to have a back garden without access.

Storminateapot - For your interest, my house and her house were formally owned by one person back in the 1960's (though they were always separate dwellings) and the person that sold off my house sold it together with this access route through his own garden (he used to live in what is now my neighbour's house). The deeds do not assign a specific purpose to the access route, however its dimensions, and the general context, would strongly suggest that it was intended to be used on foot. Other than that, there would appear to be unrestricted access anticipated.

GoblinLittleOwl Tue 24-May-16 11:50:16

Don't think of doing this without discussing it with a reputable solicitor.
I have a friend who is attempting to sell her house, which includes a right of way she bought many years ago, legally and provable, but she is being constantly challenged by a builder who is trying to gain access to a plot of land behind her house. Another friend found out that her mother had sold the access at the side of her terraced house thirty years ago informally to a neighbour; on his death his son sold it to a developer who used it as access to land behind her property which halved its value.

trixymalixy Tue 24-May-16 11:54:09

Don't do this. Having a terraced house with no access to it from the back would be a pain in the arse and would definitely affect the value/saleability of the house.

Ric2013 Tue 24-May-16 12:08:37

GoblinLittleOwl - I take it your advice is for my neighbour?

Andrewofgg Tue 24-May-16 12:14:42

Just say No.

PippaFawcett Tue 24-May-16 12:17:32

We viewed a house which had no right of way to the back of the property (current owner had converted the garage) so everything would have had to be taken through the house which was one of the many reasons we didn't make an offer. Can you imagine trying to go on a family bike ride and getting four bikes through the property?

Bragadocia Tue 24-May-16 12:24:51

I'm in agreement about not doing it, but this terraced house back access thing - is this usual for most of the country? Every terrace in London (where I lived until a few years ago) that I have known has no back access. I thought this was normal! Where I live now (Exeter) we have service roads and gates at the back, but I didn't realise this was the norm.

Decorhate Tue 24-May-16 12:25:00

3 Neighbouring houses have a similar arrangement. The landlord of the one most affected didn't bother to maintain his fences so it did feel like you were walking through someone else's garden. The new owners value their privacy more & have put up a fence. Their garden obv looks a bit smaller now but I'm sure it's a preferable arrangement. If your neighbour doesn't want to put up a 6ft fence she could put something lower or more see-through to mark the boundary.

FinallyHere Tue 24-May-16 12:26:26

Joining the chorus of don't do it

If i were thinking of buying your house, I would look at the records and notice that you had sold off the right of way just ahead o.f selling the house, so you benefitted at my expense. That would put me right off buying your house, however i felt about not having a route for bins etc.

PippaFawcett Tue 24-May-16 12:28:42

Bragadocia - my knowledge of this is entirely based on watching Coronation Street.

whois Tue 24-May-16 12:29:12


It will make your house much harder to sell.

Hullygully Tue 24-May-16 12:30:19


ohanami Tue 24-May-16 12:31:49

Agree with all the points above. We also own a mid-terrace house with access across the end-of-terrace garden. Your neighbour would have been fully aware of the access when she bought her property. Someone who abuses that access (like your tenant making his phone calls) is no different from a noisy neighbour or one who likes to do diy in the middle of the night - an annoyance, but one that she has to find a way of dealing with, whether that's through a friendly chat or more formal routes. I wouldn't have bought my house without access to the back, it would have been a complete nightmare when we had building work done. We also have access across our garden for the next house in the row and the only time that's ever caused a problem is when I was expressing breastmilk in my pj's looking out over the garden and builder after builder suddenly arrived without warning. Since then they've always sent a text when they're getting people in to do stuff grin

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