My neighbour’s building works have exposed my home to rain and damp. What can I do?
Property Clinic: Neighbours must have an agreement on the treatment of a boundary
An appropriate professional should be employed to advise on measures to prevent water ingress.
I live in a small cottage. It is the first of a terrace of six properties. Built in the 1770s and Grade 2 listed, each property has a ground-floor extension housing a kitchen and bathroom. The roof on my extension has lead flashing bridging the tiny gap between mine and my neighbour’s extension roof.
My neighbour informed me that this arrangement was agreed with the previous owner of my property. Now my neighbour is building a wall on the edge of his roof and has peeled back the flashing to expose the gap between us, leaving my home open to rain and damp, which apparently was the problem before it was remedied with the flashing. What can I do? My neighbour is unapproachable and aggressive. He has refused to talk to me. My questions are as follows:
1. Does he need planning permission for his wall?
2. Can brick be laid on top of flashing?
3. Can he expose a neighbour’s property to deterioration in this way, without recourse?
I will be so grateful for advice as I don’t know where to turn, or what is right and what to do. I have been in the property for eight months.
I shall assume for the purposes of this response that your neighbour is not proposing to build on a party wall and that the boundary between you is somewhere within the cavity/void between the two independent walls. This is a very common scenario and there needs to be agreement between neighbours on the treatment of this boundary.
There is no ‘grading’ system for historic properties in Ireland, and a property is recorded as being either protected or not protected
He generally will need planning permission or a Section 5 Declaration of Exempt Development if the property is a protected structure. Please note that there is no ‘grading’ system for historic properties in Ireland, and a property is recorded as being either protected or not protected. The protected status applies to all elements of the property including its environs, and not just specific elements of a property, as in the UK. The enforcement section of the local authority can be contacted and they will issue enforcement proceedings against the neighbour if required.
Some developments are exempted from the requirement to obtain planning permission, including some extensions to residential property and other minor alterations. However, because the subject property is (assumed to be) protected, these exemptions do not apply, and planning permission for material alterations must be sought and approved in advance of any works commencing. An accredited conservation professional should also be engaged to ensure any design and construction works are carried out in accordance with good conservation principles.
Your neighbour should have consulted you about the proposed treatment of the boundary
In any case, your neighbour should have consulted you about the proposed treatment of the boundary and flashing detail which straddles the boundary. A neighbour cannot expose an adjoining property to potential deterioration in this way. Any damage caused to your property as a result of the works should be repaired and made good by the neighbour.
Very often, the builder next door would arrange a pre-works schedule of condition on your property, which would record its condition before he starts work and act as a benchmark should damage occur during the works.
A new flashing and gutter detail should be built into the new brickwork wall to prevent rainwater ingress or further damp issues. You should employ an appropriate professional (a charted building surveyor/architect/engineer) at this stage to look after your interests, who will advise on the correct course of action to keep water ingress out of your property. It may indeed be possible for the existing lead flashing to be re-instated on completion of your neighbour’s works if it is in good condition and cut to the correct lengths.
Pat McGovern is a chartered building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland