Legal right to access the side of your house? (with diagram!)

(28 Posts)
Lemonylemony Fri 31-Jul-20 08:00:56

The house we are buying is built right up to the edge of its boundary - ie the side wall of the house is on the boundary of the plot. There is a door built into this wall in the side of a rear extension - built over 30 years ago - so this door opens right into the neighbour’s garden.

The estate agent said there was an easement that gave the owners of ‘our’ property the right to use the neighbour’s side access gate to access the side of the house & this door. However there is no evidence of any easement in the deeds.

The solicitors are currently working on this. However I just wanted to ask on here if anyone has any insight into the legal situation here, general right of access to the outside of your property if it requires access to your neighbour’s land etc.

We don’t know if we’ll keep the door long term, but obviously we will need access to the side of the building for maintenance as a minimum. There are also 2 windows on this wall on upper stories that will need cleaning!

The current owners say they never use this door. But it has existed for over 30 years. What rights do we have to access this door if there is no official easement in the deeds? Is it possible to have one created, and if there is one created, does the neighbour have any right to revoke it at any time?

I need to fully understand the legal situation here before we complete the purchase.

I dug out the colouring pencils for you, MN, know how we all love a diagram.

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lunar1 Fri 31-Jul-20 08:05:11

I wouldn't buy it. If the door hasn't been used in 30 years you have no idea what the neighbours reaction would be to someone suddenly accessing their garden. While it might turn out to be legally allowed it wouldn't make for a relaxing living arrangement if they weren't happy, or sold next year to someone who didn't like it.

ElsieBeard Fri 31-Jul-20 08:10:43

That's bizarre. ..I would not buy it either. get rid of the door and clean the windows from the inside?

Lemonylemony Fri 31-Jul-20 08:11:22

Knew the first reaction would be “don’t buy it” grin

Thanks, that’s not the question right now though. Just trying to understand the legal situation. As I said we may well not keep the door anyway, we’ll probably park at the back and use the rear entry, but will still need access to the outside of that wall on occasion in any case.

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NothingIsWrong Fri 31-Jul-20 08:12:38

The Access to Neighbouring Land Act will give you the right of access to maintain your property. But relying on it will a PITA.

NewHouseNewMe Fri 31-Jul-20 08:12:50

What a diagram! I applaud your dedication to the colouring pencils.

Is the vendor the person who put in this door? Given there's no mention of it on the deeds and it is not in active use, I would assume that you have no access rights unless the solicitor says otherwise.

I don't know that you "need" access to that side of the house - many terraces do not have it.

NewHouseNewMe Fri 31-Jul-20 08:13:42

@NothingIsWrong That wouldn't extend to having a door though..


PotteringAlong Fri 31-Jul-20 08:14:40

I think if there is no official easement then you have no legal rights at all to be in the neighbours garden. Not to walk out of the door and not for maintainance.

You can ask the neighbours, but they can say no.

My0My Fri 31-Jul-20 08:18:04

I think it’s down to your rights and your solicitor would be best placed to advise. It’s difficult but usually neighbours do allow access for repairs but not all the time. Windows cleaning every month wouldn’t be acceptable in my view. Repointing brickwork yes.

NothingIsWrong Fri 31-Jul-20 08:18:11


*@NothingIsWrong* That wouldn't extend to having a door though..

No it wouldn't, but it would solve the maintenance issue if the door was blocked up.

I wouldn't recommend relying on it though, as it requires going to court if the neighbour objects, which obviously isn't cheap.

Windows can be changed so that the can be cleaned from the inside, and if the door was blocked up there would be very little access needed - possibly cleaning gutters twice a year, during which you could check to see if any pointing etc needed doing.

Personally, I don't think I would buy it without the door being blocked up first, and an easement being agreed with the neighbour for maintencance access only. They must be aware of the door, and might be quite pleased to see it removed!

Lemonylemony Fri 31-Jul-20 08:18:21

What a diagram! I applaud your dedication to the colouring pencils.
<takes a bow>

Is the vendor the person who put in this door?
No, they bought 30 years ago and it was already there - they have no other information about when it was done apparently.

I don't know that you "need" access to that side of the house - many terraces do not have it.
Because it is a wall with windows in that will need cleaning ideally (on stairwells so not easily/safely accessible from indoors), general maintenance/repair on occasion etc.

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C4tastrophe Fri 31-Jul-20 08:18:26

I wouldn't buy it either, not unless you are going to brick that door up.
And, you can fall out with your neighbours, or even if you get on well, you can get new ones that are not so pleasant.

Rose1605 Fri 31-Jul-20 08:22:16

I am not an expert - if you want an expert go to, but as I understand it, if there isn’t anything in the deeds and the door hasn’t been used at all, I don’t think there would be a right to use their land to access that door. Makes you wonder why someone would put in a door there though, so worth looking into further as that is odd. You are allowed to access their land for maintenance , but not just wander on to their land for that. Not sure about the exact rules /notice / right to refusal though. Your solicitor should be able to advise (neighbouring land act)

Pipandmum Fri 31-Jul-20 08:33:12

Your lawyer can explain your rights under the law. But I believe the fact the door exists is irrelevant if it actually hasn't been used for a number of years.
As for maintenance- you have the 'right' to maintain your property, and if that means going on your neighbours land to do so they would have to have a pretty good reason for not allowing you to. But you would need to ask their permission to do so.
As for cleaning the windows - I doubt that is maintenance, but this comes under being on friendly terms with them and asking politely if you could just do it every other month or whenever at their convenience.

stairgates Fri 31-Jul-20 08:37:57

Did there used to be a shared path there which your neighbours have claimed somewhere down the line?

NewHouseNewMe Fri 31-Jul-20 08:41:47

It's a strange one for sure! If there are elderly people on the street, they could probably tell you all about it. We have a few people on our street who start conversations with "back in 1955.." grin

Are you otherwise sold on the house?

Lemonylemony Fri 31-Jul-20 09:02:07

Ooh, maybe. It would line up directly with an access lane that serves the back of the neighbour’s property & others to the east (“our” garden is longer and the access lane borders the back half of it).

The title plan shows the building extending right to the edge of the property’s red line though, and no mention of shared ROW in the deeds at all.

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Lemonylemony Fri 31-Jul-20 09:02:44

That was to “ Did there used to be a shared path there which your neighbours have claimed somewhere down the line?” btw

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NotBabiesForLong Fri 31-Jul-20 09:07:54

I would tell the owners you need them to confirm the access arrangements with the neighbours. Then meet with the neighbours and owners together and confirm whatever is agreed.

This way you will find out in one go if all is reasonable or not.

There is no point in finding out via distant solicitors what the point of law is if there is going to be an almighty neighbourly feud to enforce it.

kittenpeak Fri 31-Jul-20 09:18:05

@Lemonylemony a bit different to your situation but still I viewed a end of terrace recently which was next to a gravel drive way which served as access to the rest of the houses (so they can access their gardens without going through the house, and they can also access their garages). I was concerned because WE would own the driveway and were responsible for it, ie if they damaged the driveway we would have to pay to fix it. We would also be responsible for keeping it safe, ie clear of debris, falling trees etc. This put me off massively.

The agent said I could apply for an easement which meant the other houses wouldn't have access to the drive way (so opposite to you as your easement says you NEED access, but I'm sure it's similar). Unless I misunderstood her, my understanding from the agent was that an easement would be done on an ownership basis, so when we applied for it and then sold the property , the easement would then cease for the next owners. (Also, she was very inexperienced so this could be wrong).

What I am saying, is that an easement could have been put in place 30 years ago, but that could have been many owners ago. You need to find out from your solicitor if an easment is an agreement between two properties , or two owners (so if both properties have changed hands multiple times in 30 years the original easement could now be irrelevant). If you apply for one, your current neighbour could refuse.

If your solicitor cant find evidence of an easment, it probably doesn't exist anymore. Has she looked into the deeds for the neighbouring property? Putting an easement in place could be very expensive and just cause so many problems with your neighbours. I personally wouldn't want my neighbour being able to access my garden all the time. What if you're carrying the lawnmower through your door and trip and damage their property? What if you paint the door bright pink and they don't like looking at a bright pink door all day long?

For me it's not worth it. When I next buy a house I am not prepared to share with other home owners. I want everything to be mine.

Would be keen to hear how you get on!

Lemonylemony Fri 31-Jul-20 09:28:27

Yep we’ve asked the vendors - via the solicitors as that is how everything is done - for further clarification on all current access arrangements. I do feel I need to understand the legal situation before we sign on the dotted line. I don’t think (hope) its really a major thing especially if we’re thinking to block the door up anyway. I do wonder how they’ve lived for 30 years with a door they never open. It’s obscure glass too.

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kittenpeak Fri 31-Jul-20 09:44:15

@Lemonylemony so if you block the door off, you'll just need to go through the house to get to the garden? ie no side access?

You're right it does seem odd that the door wasn't used for 30 years. You'll just need to ensure that neighbours give you permission to access their garden when you need to do the work to remove / block off the old door.

It's such a faff - there is always something odd like this that crops up when buying a house

Yorkshirehillbilly Fri 31-Jul-20 10:16:58

The neighbour could extend to their boundary especially at ground floor level and then you would have no access to maintain that side of the house. As your property has been extended to the boundary it would be hard to refuse planning permission to other neighbours to do the same. Even if they put up a canopy on that side you would lose access to maintain gutters etc. That’s why I would never buy a house that had been extended right up to a boundary and which has gutters etc on that side as you can’t guarantee that your neighbour won’t change their house in future or will allow you access. If you can’t prove the easement and can’t be sure the neighbour can’t infill the gap then I wouldn’t buy it.

BruceAndNosh Fri 31-Jul-20 10:22:13

Has anyone actually checked what is on the other side when you open the door?
It could be Narnia, not the neighbour's garden...

JacobReesMogadishu Fri 31-Jul-20 10:32:51

Unless it's in your deeds then you wouldn't be allowed access for window cleaning. You can have access for maintenance but I don't think window cleaning counts.

I have windows which hinge at the side and fully open so I can clean them from inside. Could be an option?

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