Litigation Partner, Kellie Jones provides expert commentary in The Sunday Times looking at the following question...
Q: My neighbour has been doing works for two years and the builders have damaged my property. They’ve removed the coping stones from our boundary wall — rainwater and frost have brought large sections of plaster off my side. They have not fixed guttering on his new extension and failed to replace flags, causing water run-off and flooding of my garage. Rubble and debris have been left between the extension and my house — this blocks a drain. The works have left one of my walls exposed to the elements and they haven’t rendered it as promised. I allowed their scaffolding on my property; they jammed the flashing up the side of my house and rain got in, bringing bits of ceiling down in two rooms. I have asked the builders to repair the damage but they are now ignoring my calls. My neighbour is avoiding me. What can I do?
Litigation Partner, Kellie Jones comments:
Trying to resolve matters amicably is always best. If your neighbour is not taking your calls, pop round. They are instructing the builders so should be willing to find a solution. Start by bringing up insurance. Your neighbour, or his builders, may have cover and though you won’t be able to claim directly, reminding him that he may not be personally out of pocket for fixing any damage could help to bring him to the table.
Keep proper records of your conversations (or attempts at conversations) — emails, texts or dated handwritten notes, for instance — as these can provide vital evidence if legal action is taken. If you haven’t been keeping records, it’s not too late: send one lengthy email outlining the (attempted) interactions in chronological order. If this email isn’t disputed or if you don’t get a reply, then that could help any subsequent claims.
If talking doesn’t resolve things, you may need to threaten a claim against your neighbour and/or the builders. I’d recommend you take legal advice at that point. Also, speak with your own insurers beforehand. You may have a claim in damages for the cost of repairs to your property.
And if you need to urgently carry out work yourself to prevent the damage worsening, you could also claim for the cost of that work once it has been completed. Before you begin, though, you must speak with a surveyor to assess the work required, and take before and after photos. If your builders fix everything and you have no evidence of the initial damage, it’s your word against his.
Litigation is a last resort, given the costs. The threat of a claim may encourage your neighbour to negotiate a settlement. This could be done at a meeting or a mediation. The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution will be able to recommend a mediator within your price range.
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My neighbour’s builders have damaged my property. What can I do?