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Dangerous garden wall - neighbours responsibility

(55 Posts)
HarrietVaneAgain Fri 04-Apr-14 19:56:33

We have just brought an Edwardian semi with a long garden. The walls both side are brick and flint and the deeds require them to be replaced with brick. The side which is our responsiblity was replaced 5 years ago at the cost of £2500.

The other side (the non semi side) is original and the responsibility of our elderly neighbours. When we had the survey done we were warned it was liable to fall over at anytime and that falling flints would pose a hazard to young children. Our vendors spoke to the neighbour about this and we chatted to them. In the nicest possible way they told us that they had no intention of doing anything the attitude was that it had been fine for 100 years so why worry now. We brought the house anyway.

Since then it's got worse chunks of flint the size of a foot have fallen out of the wall and I could easily see them killing or seriously injuring a child if they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have three buckets full of flints. Other bits lean a lot and could easily collapse into the garden. We have restricted the access to large parts of the wall to our 4 and 2 year olds. But can't keep them away from all of it especially when the worst part is by the side gate which we use daily.

I know one of the couple is seriously ill and I've absolutely no intention of causing them stress but I would really like to do something about a situation that I now feel is dangerous for my kids. I think the could be asset rich cash poor and I'm not sure if they have the money to repair it.

Thanks for reading all that! I guess my questions are. How would I go about approaching them on this and, if it came to it, can I force them to repair/rebuild?

Mrsladybirdface Fri 04-Apr-14 20:26:07

could you put a temporary fence up running alongside?

MillyMollyMama Fri 04-Apr-14 20:27:20

Walls can be dangerous as was discovered in tragic circumstances in Edinburgh this week. So you should report it to the Buildings Inspectorate in your local Council. If the wall kills a child they will have a very big compensation claim. It is also ridiculous to think walls last forever, they don't.

If nothing works with the council, put a substantial fence up on your side to contain anything falling from the wall. It is better than having the worry of it.

HarrietVaneAgain Fri 04-Apr-14 20:36:52

Yes it was the Scottish tragedy which got me worried. Just noticed I type the cost wrong it was £12500. Will fence off some of it but it's the only access to the house that's on the flat so I have to use if with the buggy. This is my dream garden and I'm cross that I can't access a lot of it safely.

danceponydance Fri 04-Apr-14 20:38:06

I googled "dangerous structures building control" and this link was the first result. It gives clear advice on what you can do in relation to reporting it. If you try looking at your local council's website then they will have contact details and information for Building Control and dangerous structures. You will need to decide whether you think this is an emergency situation that requires a call out over the weekend or can wait till Monday.

BrownSauceSandwich Fri 04-Apr-14 20:41:27

I'm sorry for your neighbours, but there's no way you can carry on in this situation. Start by speaking to them again, explaining about the material dropping into your garden. Tell them you're sorry for the timing (even though that's their fault), but that you're going to have to get it inspected - you may find that the very idea of an enforcing officer is enough to persuade them of the need to fix it. You might want to check out your councils neighbour mediation provision, but the bottom line is that, as long as the deeds say it's their wall, environmental health can force them to make it safe.

Don't worry about their financial situation... If they are, as you say, elderly, not in great health, and asset rich/cash poor, that makes them ideal candidates for equity release. Sorry if that sounds a bit hard-faced, but you don't have to value their children's inheritance over your children's safety.

NCRegular Fri 04-Apr-14 20:42:10

I think the best thing is to get the building inspectorate around also, and pop a copy through the door of the news article about the poor child in Scotland's sad tragic death.

HarrietVaneAgain Fri 04-Apr-14 21:03:05

Thanks for your help it hadn't occurred to me that the council would be able to enforce a repair. I will speak to them again before contacting the council. Even though I dread doing it I can't put their issues above my children's safety.

HarrietVaneAgain Fri 04-Apr-14 21:05:12

Plus they have lived there for fourty years so could have maintained it in that time.

NCRegular Fri 04-Apr-14 21:07:56

If the house is too much for them, they can downsize to somewhere more suitable for the changes in their health, and release equity to help pay for care and equipment which may be a good thing for them.

Lambstales Fri 04-Apr-14 21:50:58

I had this situation twenty years ago. I immediately fenced the poor wall off.
How long are your gardens? £12500 for a wall. No wonder the neighbours are sad Even if they are not old.

Cretaceous Fri 04-Apr-14 22:17:55

This is so sad for your poor neighbours. They did say before you bought the house that they wouldn't be replacing the wall. If one is seriously ill, this is the last thing they need. I doubt they have the money, and to have the stress of sorting out equity release or moving at this time is just so heartless. Is the person who is seriously ill likely to die soon? Can you not wait until after then? I can't believe how lacking in empathy everyone is, at what must be a terrible time for your neighbours.

Obviously, you don't want anything happening to your children, and I'm sure they don't either. Could you not take down the wall yourself, and put up a fence? Or find a cheaper alternative. It would be different if the situation had happened since you moved in, but you bought it like that. sad

miramar Fri 04-Apr-14 22:25:55

Err the OP said it's in the deeds that the wall must be replaced with brick.

Ignoring the issue because the elderly neighbours are ill or have already stated they don't want to deal with it is silly advice. This is a dangerous structure. It was in the news just this week that a falling wall killed a child. How should OP explain her inaction to a coroner?

Cretaceous Fri 04-Apr-14 22:40:07

I'm not saying she should be inactive, but that it's heartless to put it on an elderly couple when one is seriously ill. I'm saying if it were me, I'd deal with it myself, as I would feel terrible about causing stress to them just as one is seriously ill, as I had chosen to buy the house.

I certainly think the wall needs to be dealt with though. But terrible timing, as they must be so stressed and upset already. My mum is seriously ill at the moment, and the thought of this being landed on me at this time would be just too much. (But I am much younger, and have kept our fences in good condition smile)

HarrietVaneAgain Fri 04-Apr-14 22:40:39

I'm not sure why the situation is different because I knew the wall was defective Cretaceous? If something you own is a danger to others then you have the responsiblity to fix it. It's not like there are hundreds of houses on the market to choose from at the moment. I can't take down their wall without their permission and I would potentially take on all the responsibility for it if I did.

We are talking about 150ft of high brick wall so it will be expensive.

I agree I don't want them to worry. The condition my neighbour has is long term so it's not like I can wait a few months. If be happy to get quotes/do legwork for them and only do the minimum to make it safe but I can't if they don't agree discuss it at all.

miramar Fri 04-Apr-14 22:47:21

What would be heartless is to ignore the situation knowing that someone could be seriously injured or killed as a result of your inaction.

Advising the OP to remove a wall that doesn't belong to her, replace it with a structure that she knows is disallowed in the title deeds, and saying the OP should suck it up because she bought the house knowing the wall needed to be fixed and her neighbours weren't keen is very strange advice

Cretaceous Fri 04-Apr-14 22:53:58

I'm not advising at all. I'm just surprised at how heartless some of the replies are. It does sound like I'm saying suck it up, but really I'm just saying if they are elderly and one is very ill, it will be too much for them to deal with. Do they not have any children who could sort it all out?

PS I'm not suggesting inaction at all - maybe just the wrong action smile

HarrietVaneAgain Fri 04-Apr-14 22:59:40

Also I've never suggested they consider equity release or anything like that. Not to drip feed but they have recently got back from a pretty fancy holiday (after all they've been through they deserve it) so while I know nothing about their finances I don't think they are completely broke.

Floralnomad Fri 04-Apr-14 23:08:31

The councils building regs person can condemn walls so get them involved . Also write a formal letter to your neighbours ( keep a copy) ,dated and informing them of the issue and the dangers . That way should an accident occur they will not be able to claim they didn't know about the problem and will be liable for any claims you need to make as they have failed to address the problem .

miramar Fri 04-Apr-14 23:08:38

Cretaceous Fri 04-Apr-14 22:17

Is the person who is seriously ill likely to die soon? Can you not wait until after then?

Could you not take down the wall yourself, and put up a fence? Or find a cheaper alternative. It would be different if the situation had happened since you moved in, but you bought it like that.

These are the comments that seemed to look like advice. The first suggests inaction until someone is bereaved- and you say you find other posters heartless? So OP would have to decide what's an appropriate amount of time after her neighbour is widowed before raising this?

MillyMollyMama Fri 04-Apr-14 23:17:49

I do think your first port of call is with the council. This wall is long and so will be expensive to replace. Just think of the cost of a building with long walls. I do actually think people should live in houses they can actually afford to maintain. It's possible to cut your coat according to your cloth isn't it? Some people just don't want to.

You cannot take the wall down. You probably cannot force them to repair it without court action. It is cheaper to put up a fence if the Council fail to act, but try them first.

MummytoMog Fri 04-Apr-14 23:18:22

Could you look at getting more reasonable quotes - £2500 sounds fine. £12500 sounds ludicrous. No wonder they don't want to do it. I'm sure you could force them to do it, but it does feel like this is being overcosted.

Cretaceous Fri 04-Apr-14 23:22:32

Yes, Harriet, it wasn't really your posts I was talking about. I thought your suggestion of helping them with the legwork was a good one, because as you get older, these things are a worry. It might be they do have the money then, or their children would help them out. I just think that all the talk of downsizing, equity release etc is easy to say, but would take them ages to sort out, and the last thing they would want to deal with if one of them is very ill. It's the sort of thing you do when your partner has died, not when your time is taken up with hospital appointments etc.

Miramar, I just feel sorry for the couple, as they are elderly and under stress. Obviously they should downsize, but that's hard to do. I assumed from the first post that sadly one would die within the next few weeks. It's not the raising the issue, it's just the lack of empathy of certain posters. I've spent a lot of time in the last few weeks among elderly people who worry ridiculously about things that would be small to us.

HarrietVaneAgain Fri 04-Apr-14 23:23:32

The quote is an estimate of what our vendors hinted they had spent per meter. I've not looked into this in detail. It might be that re-pointing and repair would be fine. God I hope so.

Cretaceous Fri 04-Apr-14 23:31:23

I don't mean to have made you feel bad, as you sound like you will approach it in an empathetic way. smile I'm sure it'll turn out to be a piece of cake.

People are right, in that they do need to do something about it. I think I'm just a mug. My DP (who doesn't work in building at all) once built a small wall for free for our neighbour who couldn't afford to get the builders in. And it wasn't even on our side!

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