Carping about our neighbour’s new pond
Send your property problems to: Property Clinic, The Daily Telegraph, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT
Our new neighbour has embarked on the construction of a large carp pond. He has had more than 100 tonnes of earth removed, excavating a hole that is about 6ft deep, 12ft wide and 14ft long. It is almost touching the boundary fence between the two houses. All that separates our garage from this fence is a narrow path.
Although he has tried to assure us that an appropriate lining — 12 inches of concrete — and filters will be installed, we have no experience of these matters and have strong reservations about the longterm effect this large body of water might have on our property.
The local planning department officials seem to feel that it is a permitted development, although they have said that this could be a civil matter.
John Winter writes:
The cause for worry here is knowing that the work is being done properly. If the structure is well engineered, ensuring that the sides of the excavation are properly supported, and the excavation is drained intelligently, taking out neither too little nor too much ground water, there should not be a problem during the construction phase.
Once completed, a 12in concrete lining will support anything and should stop water leaking out of the pool and making the ground wet. I do not see that this body of water will have any ill effects on your property.
Having reassured you, I am concerned at your neighbour’s rather unneighbourly behaviour.
The Party Wall Act requires a person digging below the foundations of an adjacent property to serve a notice of his/her intentions, and the recipient of the notice has the right to employ a surveyor at the expense of the person submitting the proposals.
I am not sure of the layout of your property, but it seems that the foundations to your garage are likely to entitle you to receive such a notice and your neighbour is at fault if he just went ahead without your agreement. This is presumably what the planner had in mind when he talked about a “civil matter”.
John Winter runs his own architectural practice.
BRICKS & MORTAR
My daughter has had her 1920s detached house reroofed. New slates have been fixed over roofing felt. She has also had new PVC soffits and fascia boards fitted by the same firm, with no ventilation grills.
Bearing in mind that there is now no ventilation, I have heard that this could cause problems to the roof timbers. Is this correct and if so, what corrective action is necessary?
David Snell writes:
One answer might be that if your daughter has not experienced any condensation problems over the winter months, things could be left as they are.
If you do decide to ventilate the roof, it is not that difficult to do retrospectively with round soffit ventilators fitted into the plastic. You could even argue that the company that carried out the work should have known that this was best practice and require them to pay for it or carry out the work themselves.
However, ventilation at soffit level alone will not truly work and it would also be necessary to have it at ridge level as well, either in the form of ridge tiles or by grills in the gable ends.
David Snell is contributing editor to ‘Homebuilding & Renovating’ magazine and author of ‘Building Your Own Home’, available at £25 plus £2.25 from 0870 155 7222.
In 1988 I married a woman who lived with her two teenage sons in a tiny house she had bought two years before. In 1990 I sold my own previous residence, intending that we should buy a larger home together. The next year the property next door to my wife’s house came on the market; we bought it, knocked through and extended our home. This second house is in my name and the deeds remain separate.
We pay full council tax on each, although some utility bills and the television licence are recognised as for a single property. Now we wish to move, raising the issue of a large capital gain on our “second” marital home.
It would obviously be easier for us to separate the houses and sell one at a time, and we have toyed with the idea of keeping one house for rental income during our retirement.
I had in mind to ask Revenue and Customs for a declaration that we have one property only, but understand they will not discuss Capital Gains Tax (CGT) matters prior to a sale. Where do I stand?
Maggie Fleming writes:
There is no explicit guidance in the legislation as to what constitutes a dwelling house qualifying for CGT relief.
There is some case law, but that is mostly concerned with mansion houses with outbuildings. We shall therefore have to rely on common sense and a common-sense approach would indicate that, although the properties have separate deeds, they constitute a single residence.
The important fact is that you have converted two properties into one by knocking through the walls and establishing internal communication. I cannot see that Revenue and Customs will argue with that.
If you sell the property as it is, there should be no difficulty. If you separate the houses and sell them one at a time, there should still be no problem with Revenue and Customs – the legislation specifically permits relief to apply on the sale of part of a dwelling house.
However, if you decide to sell the titles separately or to retain one of the houses as a rental property, I recommend that, to be on the safe side, you take photographs of the property before ‘‘reseparation’’ to prove that this had been a single household. You should also keep documentary evidence — such as the utility bills and the TV licence.
Maggie Fleming is a director of Isis Financial Planners and a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation.
POINTS OF LAW
We recently had a full survey done of our house. The surveyor was with us for nearly nine hours and insisted on taking photographs of the house even though I told him that for security purposes I would prefer if he did not.
If the present buyer does not buy the house, what happens to the photos? Is he not contravening the Data Protection Act by gathering data not relevant to the survey, and what can I do about it now he has the photos? David Fleming writes: Your problem is a very difficult one. I do not think you have a claim in trespass since you clearly invited the surveyor into your property and it is not clear that a claim for trespass can arise where a “guest” abuses his position by doing unauthorised acts such as taking photographs.
Nor do I think the Data Protection Act will help. In certain circumstances, photographs of people have been held to be subject to the Act but I do not think this can extend to photographs of the inside of a house.
It seems to me that the practical way forward for you is to write a formal letter of complaint to the senior partner of the firm of chartered surveyors concerned. Certainly it would be reasonable to ask for an assurance that the photographs would not be sent to anyone other than the buyer and you should ask the same thing of the buyer himself. David Fleming is head of property litigation at William Heath & Co.