Ways to tackle neigh­bours from hell who build for years

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Sharon Dale

AN English­man’s home is his cs­tle and now there is a new weapon in the ar­moury to com­bat neigh­bours from hell who cre­ate havoc with build­ing work.

Ox­ley & Coward So­lic­i­tors LLP in Rother­ham say that a new case from the Court of Ap­peals shows that home own­ers whose build­ing work can be shown to tor­ment their neigh­bours could find them­selves in court for ha­rass­ment. Prop­erty own­ers who carry out build­ing works could find them­selves li­able not just for nui­sance, but for ha­rass­ment if their be­hav­iour dur­ing the works amounts to de­lib­er­ate and per­sis­tent tor­ment­ing, as in the re­cent case of Jones and Love­grove.

Sa­man­tha Jones and Rachel Love­grove moved into their new home in Not­ting­ham in 2002 and within weeks their next door neigh­bours, Liam and Les­ley Ruth started ma­jor works to en­large their house, both on the ground floor and by adding a third storey.

The work, which should have been com­pleted within a year, in­stead dragged on for five, leav­ing Jones and Love­grove to suf­fer from the re­sult­ing noise, dust, pol­lu­tion and vi­bra­tion. This does not in­clude tres­pass by the Ruth’s, who erected scaf­fold­ing in their gar­den with­out per­mis­sion, made holes in the gable end wall of Jones and Love­grove’s prop­erty to in­sert purlins and caused sub­stan­tial dam­age with the in­creased struc­tural loads caused by the new third storey.

Jones and Love­grove won their claim for nui­sance and tres­pass, win­ning sub­stan­tial dam­ages; but what makes this case un­usual is Sa­man­tha Jones also claimed dam­ages for per­sonal in­jury un­der the Pro­tec­tion from Ha­rass­ment Act 1997, which she claimed had been caused by Mr Ruth and his fam­ily. Se­vere back pain brought on by anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion meant Ms Jones had been un­able to work since 2005 and was re­ceiv­ing phys­io­ther­apy and coun­selling.

She claimed her anx­i­ety was caused by the Ruth’s ag­gres­sive and in­tim­ida­tory be­hav­iour, their re­fusal to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on the progress of the work and ig­nor­ing re­peated re­quests to re­duce the noise and make good the dam­age they had caused – not to men­tion the abu­sive notes left by the Ruth’s con­cern­ing the same sex re­la­tion­ship of Jones and Love­grove.

The judge agreed the be­hav­iour was ha­rass­ment and awarded Ms Jones £6,000 for dis­tress and anx­i­ety but ruled her in­juries and loss of earn­ings were not fore­see­able. The Court of Ap­peal dis­agreed, say­ing the judge had been wrong to ap­ply neg­li­gence cri­te­ria to the claim. They said there was no re­quire­ment of “fore­see­abil­ity” un­der the Pro­tec­tion from Ha­rass­ment Act and awarded Ms Jones the full amount she had claimed.

“This judg­ment does not say that build­ing works on their own will amount to ha­rass­ment, but it does give com­fort to peo­ple who are faced with ex­treme be­hav­iour by a neigh­bour,” said Ox­ley and Coward’s prop­erty lit­i­ga­tion part­ner, Mamoon Chaud­hary.

“We have all heard sto­ries about dif­fi­cult and ag­gres­sive neigh­bours who refuse to put mat­ters right and this judg­ment paves the way for them to be found guilty of ha­rass­ment and forced to pay a very high price, what­ever it may be. It’s im­por­tant to keep neigh­bours in mind when buy­ing a prop­erty. Ask­ing if there have been any pre­vi­ous dis­putes is a stan­dard ques­tion dur­ing the con­veyanc­ing process and if a seller doesn’t dis­close any dis­pute, they will be in trou­ble for mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

For those home­own­ers who do not have the lux­ury of a moat around their prop­erty, this case shows they might be ad­vised to build bridges with their neigh­bours and reach a con­struc­tive agree­ment first.

“If you do get in­volved with neigh­bours want­ing to use part of your build­ing for their own de­vel­op­ment, you need to find out what your rights are for any com­pen­sa­tion and deal with it at the out­set,” says Mamoon.

www.ox­cow.co.uk

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