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I need legal help - they want to scaffold my garden

(52 Posts)
lidlstory Wed 17-Jun-15 10:48:23

We moved into a rented house a couple of months ago. Not long after we moved in we got an email from the managing agent to say that our LL (who usually lives at the property) had agreed to allow the next door neighbours (a college) to erect scaffolding in our garden so they could carry out maintenance work on their roof. It would 'only' be up for 11 weeks from June to August. Apparently he had forgotten he had agreed to it.

Our house is quite special because, in an area where noone has a garden, we have a big front courtyard behind high gates. The front of the house opens out completely so in the summer you can use the whole space and it's private and safe, with high walls all round. We have young children and a dog. It's also right by the sea.

We pay the highest rent available in this area. He really took top dollar.

So the agent has come back to me to say the neighbours are going for a court order to force us to allow the scaffolding which will be inside our courtyard on the party wall. They have quoted various legislation (party wall, essential maintenance) and the agent thinks they have a strong case and is suggesting we get legal advice unless we want to take their compensation of £250. We don't need the money, we just want our summer.

I am so livid. We rented this place for a peaceful summer by the sea and it's going to turn into a noisy nightmare and I won't even be able to relax because the children will have an instant climbing frame to amuse them, plus we won't be able to eat outside, etc.

I am torn between telling them to go for the court order in the hope this will at least take the summer to come through and demanding a very high compensation from the LL (2 months rent at least) on the grounds that we will go away for at least a month. Or requesting to surrender the lease.

I would love some legal advice on how long a court order would take to come through and whether they are likely to win.

Sorry for the essay smile

GaryBaldy Wed 17-Jun-15 10:51:10

As a tenant you are entitled to peaceful enjoyment of the property...what you are describing doesn't sound peaceful at all therefore IME in breach of the tenancy agreement.

RepeatAdNauseum Wed 17-Jun-15 10:56:00

Court orders for this type of thing near me would be prioritised, as presumably the work is booked - it might take a fortnight, so delay things by a few weeks, but then you'd just be looking at late June to late August or early September instead. You could call the council and see what waiting times are like for you, and when this would be likely to get to court? They may also give an opinion on whether they'd be likely to win.

If the landlord has given permission, and the agent thinks they have a strong case because it's essential maintenance, then all you'd do is sour relations further and potentially delay by a few weeks.

Has there been any discussion about higher compensation from the landlord? You could certainly negotiate a lower rent payment between June and completion, because not only do you lose the garden that made the house more expensive, but you've got a lot of inconvenience too. I'd certainly ask the agent/landlord what they are offering to make this less of a problem.

I'm wondering if the landlord didn't "forget", but knows that your options are limited once you've moved in, and so just didn't tell you until now.

SayThisOnlyOnce Wed 17-Jun-15 11:01:19

That's disgraceful on the part of the LL! Especially as with it being a college I doubt they want to delay their building work. They'll be trying to get it done before the new term.

I have no legal knowledge so am not going to give you duff info. But very good luck in getting something sorted. I think the idea of enough dosh to take a long holiday/trip/relocate somewhere nice is a good one.

TranmereRover Wed 17-Jun-15 11:07:15

Landlord and tenant law is really, really technical and there are yards of regualtions requiring very specific notice periods to be given on each side, whcih your LL seems to have failed to provide. Equally as Gary Baldy says, you have a right of quiet enjoyment which means you have the right to your property all to yourself without intrusion by / on behalf of the landlord. YOur landlord has screwed up and I am not sure how the neighbour can enforce the agreement against you when you've been unaware but this is so specific, get some specialist advice - CAB as first port of call.
At the very least, you are going to get a substantial reduction in rent but what you want is summer- best outcome will be delay in works so you get summer

NB - the Agent acts for the LANDLORD not you, so take what he says about their ability to get a court order with a pinch of salt until you have taken advice. In the meantime, tell them you're taking advice adn ask for the written proposal from the landlord on commercial terms when / if the scaffolding is put up. EMphasise why you took the property and how significant the lack of amenity is.

Finally - It may not be as bad as you think - have you got details of how far it will intrude into the property / hours of work etc? while the scaffolding will be partly in your property, where will they access the roof from etc? will you need to give workmen access to the garden at all? get all the info.

lidlstory Wed 17-Jun-15 11:08:39

The thing is, we really wanted to be here for the summer. That was the plan.

Depressing that the court order won't take long - and that it will trump peaceful enjoyment.

LL has been very uncontactable, he is living it up elsewhere, so I have said our first requirement is for him to come forward with his proposal.

I don't really care about souring relations with the neighbours are we are only here for 12 months. LL gets a year off traveling, college gets its new roof, who gets shafted? Us. sad

I have said provisionally we would consider 2 month's rent (which is 8 times their offer). The damage to the roof was done in the storms last year, so they could have done the work at xmas. But actually I don't want the compensation which will not really make any difference to us. It's the impact it will have on my family that is upsetting me.

Enidblytonrules Wed 17-Jun-15 11:08:41

No advice but seems rather convenient that the LL who NORMALLY LIVES THERE, rents the property out at premium price and 'FORGETS' that he has agreed to this work. Seems like you are paying for him to get away from the noise and inconvenient of the maintenance work!

lidlstory Wed 17-Jun-15 11:10:44

They sent some plans etc a few weeks ago. I responded very clearly stating that we would be exercising our right to peaceful enjoyment and would not allow the scaffolding.

The courtyard is at the front of the house and the house is built onto it. The scaffolding would be right in front of our noses.

TranmereRover Wed 17-Jun-15 11:12:48

right in front of your nose, but how far into the garden? is the garden still useable and where are the workers going up and down?

lidlstory Wed 17-Jun-15 11:15:21

The works are along the side wall, which is the party wall. One third of the courtyard, from the non-party wall, is for the car. So the scaffolding would be on the bit we use which is currently filled with plants, a table, etc. The scaffolding presumably would not protrude too much but it will be right next to where we, in a fairer world, would be dining al fresco and generally living the dream...

OTheHugeManatee Wed 17-Jun-15 11:15:56

See a solicitor with expertise in property law. You get a 30-minute consultation free. My hunch is he has fucked up massively and is now trying to get your compliance just by being obstructive and absent, plus a bit of agency bullying. You need a good lawyer in your side.

lidlstory Wed 17-Jun-15 11:16:31

I don't know where the workers would go up and down but the only access to our house is through a ten foot metal gate that opens with a code. I imagine they're going to climb down as necessary.

Superexcited Wed 17-Jun-15 11:32:40

Have you read up on the a party wall act?

www.gov.uk/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance

I don't think the neighbour is deliberately trying to ruin your summer but if he needs to maintain his property and needs to come onto your land (well landlords) in order to do this then it had to be done but he does have to give you at least 2 months notice. Of course he has already given this notice to your landlord and your landlord has agreed to the works.
Will you still have a reasonable chunk of garden to enjoy?
Will the work be noisy?

I think the best option might be for your to move out if you are unhappy with the works going on whilst you are there. Your landlord should have informed you of these works prior to you moving in. Looking at the party wall agreement act though it does look like the neighbour has a right to carry out essential maintenance to his property even if it means encroaching on neighbouring properties (so long as he gives the relevant notice and keeps disruption to the minimum possible).

lidlstory Wed 17-Jun-15 13:15:55

Well, obviously noone thinks the neighbour is deliberately trying to ruin my summer. That would be ridiculous. But the fact is it will have a massive impact on our family life and, because our LL was given due notice, they are entitled to do it. We don't even have the option of moving out, because we are on a 12 month lease, so we would have to get the LL to agree to a surrender, and what if he doesn't? Can we force him to?

Collaborate Wed 17-Jun-15 14:18:07

Speak directly to the neighbour (the college) - not their contractor, but the college Principal instead. Explain what your requirements are (presumably you want to have the summer months with no works taking place). Perhaps you would agree to work starting in October? Tell them you want them to pay for legal advice for you, and you want an agreement drawing up that very clearly limits:
1. Working hours (say 9am - 6pm)
2. No work weekends
3. All scaffolding to be removed by a certain date, and compensation of, say, £150wk until it is removed (this could rise the longer they go over the deadline)
4. Compensation for disruption.
5. No swearing on site.
6. Safety wall to be erected at ground level.

Don't deal with the LL's agent. It's the neighbour who you're negotiating with.

Superexcited Wed 17-Jun-15 14:41:21

Which bit of it is going to have a huge impact on your summer?

Is it the scaffolding overhanging your garden? If it is then you might be worrying excessively because it might be only overhanging a little leaving you plenty of space?

Is it the potential noise? If it is then the college could have any building work done over the summer some of which wouldn't require a party wall agreement. If you are out at work during the day (I don't know if you will be) then you will avoid most of the noisy periods. Even if very residential streets there is often some building work going on which creates a certain amount of noise as people need to maintain their properties.

Is it your children potentially climbing on the scaffolding? If it is then insist that the scaffolders erect a safety curtain over the scaffolding and fence it off if necessary so that your children can still play out safely without you needing to monitor them much more closely than usual.

I think if you work with the college and find out exactly how it is going to impact on you then you can work together to minimise the disruption.

I dint know if your landlord can legally hold you to the 12 month lease though as this building work is a significant factor that he hadn't made you aware of. Check whether he has breached his contract by not informing you of the building work if you do want to move out. He may agree to terminating the lease early.

PausingFlatly Wed 17-Jun-15 14:51:06

I think Edinblytonrules may be onto something.

Not sure how that helps you. But it might be useful, amid your dealings with the college principal, to find out just how long ago they informed your LL of the works.

BitterChocolate Wed 17-Jun-15 15:29:11

I think you might be able to force your landlord to release you from your contract, but you will probably need to get legal advice and send him a solicitor's letter. He failed to mention important information, it doesn't really matter whether it was deliberate or forgetfulness. If you had been aware of the full facts you would not have considered renting this property at any price.

lidlstory Wed 17-Jun-15 17:00:39

BitterChocolate I think now what I want is a release from the contract.

I got legal advice today and the upshot of it is that I have no rights with the contractor, because they have the consent of my LL and therefore minimal legal exposure. I have a very likely claim with the LL, but he will only offer me compensation, which is not of much interest to us. He has offered to write some cracking letters to all parties and negotiate our release from the contract, I'm just wavering now over going ahead - it will cost a bit.

lidlstory Wed 17-Jun-15 17:05:00

superexcited we both work from home and obviously DC will be off for the summer. The courtyard is square and the scaffolding will be down one whole side - I'm sure they could put safety protection in place but this would take up even more room.

We had several options when we rented this house - we picked this one because it had the best outside space, the house isn't anything special at all, definitely not in the premium rent league he is charging.

We have a mutual friend with the LL. I don't like to think he did it on purpose, but it is possible. The agent got back to me today to say that he has spoken to the LL who will get back to him.... on Friday! We know how this goes, don't we, he doesn't get in touch on Friday, it all runs into next week, blah blah.

Am feeling livid angry

RooibosTeaAgain Wed 17-Jun-15 17:15:35

How frustrating.
Personally if I could find somewhere else I would and insist on being released from the contract immediately and would not want to pay rent after end of June.
He knew about this and failed to inform you. It would be highly unlikely that he will be able to find new tenants for July onwards. Also depending on how things go the building works may take much longer than initially planned.

DorisLessingsCat Wed 17-Jun-15 17:24:55

It sounds like your best option is to move.

It's not the builders' fault, they were acting in good faith. They will have picked the summer as the students are away and they have the best chance of a long spell of good weather.

Just start your new house search. It would be really unlikely that your current LL would try to enforce the contract.

Is everything else above board? Is the deposit protected? Is there an up to date gas safety check? Just wondering if you have any other leverage over him.

Superexcited Wed 17-Jun-15 17:39:06

Just look to move somewhere else. Working from home with a huge roof being retiled next door is going to drive you insane. The LL has no reason to hold you to the contract when he has failed to disclose something so significant.

lalalonglegs Wed 17-Jun-15 18:16:34

I agree: if you possibly can, move away.

LIZS Wed 17-Jun-15 18:38:33

I would guess the college have planned the work to coincide with the summer break as far as possible. Agree you might be best speaking to the principal , or whoever is managing the project from the college, possibly the bursar, to try to reach a compromise about the intrusion and whether the scaffolding on your side is really required for the full period of work. If you have children they have a duty to keep them safe and hoard off the area, your council HSE officer could advise.

Agree with pp that it seems very convenient that ll forgot and is not living in the property at the moment. hmm

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