I have the world’s worst neighbours either side of me

Property Clinic: Shoddy work carried out by ‘builder’ next door is costing me dearly

Litigation with your neighbours could worsen what are already fractious relationships. Photograph: Getty

Litigation with your neighbours could worsen what are already fractious relationships. Photograph: Getty


I have the world’s worst neighbours either side of me. One was diverting water through a bizarre piping system which flooded my biocycle unit on numerous occasions, yet the local council refused to act.

It was built by neighbour number two, a “builder”. The same builder was responsible for developing houses on our rural road, which have left the roadside in a shocking state. Our local authority refuses to enforce planning, despite the serious traffic danger this presents to pedestrians and road users.

The builder has the water run-off in pipes for the houses running into a field at my boundary. It blocked my pipes with debris. His concrete pipes are not connected to anything. It is creating a serious problem if someone falls into the pool it forms. I cannot talk to the builder. He dug out a huge drain then, exposing the piping that remains unfinished.

I have had to pay to get the piping at my property cleared. The county council refuses to act. What can I do?

The position you find yourself in is unfortunate, but not unusual. What you describe, or variations of it, occur frequently.

The drainage issue is likely to be the outcome of an attempt by the builder to implement a Sustainable Drainage System (SuDS), as a requirement or condition of the planning permission.

SuDS is a requirement for development projects whereby the design of the surface water drainage system replicates, as near as possible, natural drainage systems, by allowing for the filtration of the water to the groundwater in adjacent or nearby open spaces. This is as an alternative to previous practices whereby it was piped directly to an existing surface water sewer or stream. Attenuation tanks and limited lengths of pipelines may form part of a SuDS.

It’s not clear from your query if you have already inspected the planning file. I suggest that your best course of action is to engage a chartered building surveyor or engineer to carry out a site inspection, inspect the planning file and prepare a report.

The primary objective of the report is to address the issue of compliance with the planning permission. It should also assess any implications for safety of the dug-out drain and pool. You should present the report to your solicitor and seek legal advice. It will inform your solicitor in relation to dealing with the county council.

Litigation with your neighbours should be a last resort, as it is stressful, costly, has an uncertain outcome and will seriously worsen what are already likely to be fractious relationships.

You have not provided details of the condition of the road. The work carried out by house builders on adjacent public roads is usually limited to road openings for connections to services. A licence is required for road openings and the work, including reinstatement, is subject to the approval of the county council.

Planning conditions which require the set-back of frontage walls or fences, especially for a series of one-off housing developments, may result in varying road widths and inconsistent surfaces. The set-back area required by the planning conditions is generally not acquired formally by the council and is not taken in-charge, in the short term, for maintenance purposes.

Increased traffic, due to additional houses, combined with heavy agricultural vehicles, causes significant damage to rural roads. Damage is more visible at the set-back areas because of inconsistent surface gradients and sub-standard construction.

If your engineer or surveyor inspects the road and finds non-compliance with the relevant planning permissions, it should be documented in his/her report.

Settlement due to inadequate backfilling and substandard reinstatement of surfaces at road openings are common problems.

Lobbying local public representatives, especially by a group of residents or residents’ association, may assist in getting a dangerous public road prioritised for improvement. – Patrick Shine

Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor, a chartered civil engineer and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland