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16/09/2013 at 18:51

Tanking, as suggested above, may be the solution. We had a property with a garage wall shared with a neighbours garden, that is, the wall retained all one side of  his garden. His land was right up to the garage wall all the way along.

We never had a problem with damp, maybe try this first?

 

16/09/2013 at 19:00

If a surveyor comes to see the problem, drop a note in through the neighbour's door, saying the surveyor will need access to the wall.  He may refuse, but realistically from what you describe the wall must be inspected at some point.

If the extension was built many, many years ago the neighbouring garden must have been put against the extension comparatively recently.  The Edwardians didn't go in for patios.

16/09/2013 at 20:15

I know what you mean, Welshonion:-;  I think part of the garden at least has been built up, as some of it is higher than the rest of the garden.  And thanks all for the tanking idea.  We have a damp proof specialist (another one!) coming on Thursday, so I'll ask him if he can do it.  As you say KT, if it can keep damp out of a cellar it should be able to sort out one wall.  It would certainly be less hassle than litigation. 

Thanks everyone again for your advice, I'm grateful that you've all taken the time to write with ideas. 

16/09/2013 at 23:43

Be aware that if the problem is worked around now when you come to sell your buyer's surveyor may see the problem and flag it up. It won't go away if the banked up garden next door is not tackled, unfortunately.

17/09/2013 at 01:27

Hello Gail, You're surveyor should have picked up on this, if you are to send letter's out it should be to them, as they missed a major flaw. I bet the old owners knew the mess they had made by building upto the boundry. Never a good idea to build to the boundry when you can not clean gutters ect with going onto someone else's land. How would you go on if he put a couple of shed's up. Would you ask him to move his shed's so you can get access? Or worse he builds to the boundry. It would be like "do you mind pulling your extension down so I can paint the side of my house". I would think that the neighbour is within his rights to refuse access via his property. Nobody has the right to go onto someone else's property without the landowners permission. Even the police without a good reason, its trespass. If his garden has been raised that would be illegal, but you would have to prove that it has, and it's not you're garden that has been dug out by the old owners. It could be very expensive to try and get a court order allowing you permission. Hopefully the damp proof specialist coming will have better idea's of how to do the job. I know where I live, some solicitors have a Saturday morning clinic for free advice and a chat. In the hope they eventually get the job. Would be well worth having a look what's in your area, I hope you find a amicable way out of this, even if it takes begging him on bended knees. Good Luck 

17/09/2013 at 09:15

I'm thinking too that we'll have a problem selling, as any surveyor doing their job properly will see it.  If he tries to put sheds in his garden I think he would need planning permission (we're in a conservation area), and so hopefully we'd be able to block him doing that.  His garden (and ours) are pretty small anyway, so hopefully he'll never want to:-;  I'll admit I regret the day we bought this house, a nice modern one with an inbuilt damp proof course would have been much better!  Access is the one thing we did check though, apparently we have a right to go in to his garden if it's just for repairs to our house.  And we wouldn't be interested in making any alterations, so we'd only ever want access for maintenance.  I know what you mean about litigation, the thought of ending up with an endless law suit scares the life out of me!

17/09/2013 at 09:43

Yes Gail, you most definitely do have the legal right to enter his property to maintain yours. It is your right and his obligation.  And it is always so much better if neighbours can understand their obligations as well as their rights.

I think that a soilicitors letter, which will not be too expensive, will make him see sense. After all, I'm sure that he fears the cost of litigation just as much as you do.

17/09/2013 at 13:36

It seems that two of the (as yet) unanswered questions are:

1. Does your neighbour's patio actually raise the original level of the ground? Or...

2. ...was material removed from the top before laying the patio to result in a finished patio which is no higher than what was originally there?

There is one way you might be able to determine that, or at least get some idea: you could try to compare his patio level with his own damp course, if there is one. If there isn't one, then just below the lower cross rail (doorstep) of his door.

If the top of his patio is less than 6 inches from the damp course (or equivalent level) it could indicate a possibility that building the patio raised the original ground level.

I'm not a builder so you need a someone more expert than me to confirm the 6 inch criteria, especially if the property is very old.

I just remember building a patio at my last house (1950s) in ignorance of the risks attached to it ending up only 3 or 4 inches from the damp course.

Fortunately, I found out in time to ensure there was a much lower channel right next to the wall so the DPC was not breached and splash back of heavy rain didn't create a problem But it was not a satisfactory way to build the patio. I could have caused my own house huge problems.

I'm glad we had the whole thing dug out a few years later for a properly built conservatory, so all subsequent damp risks were resolved for us and our subsequent buyers.

17/09/2013 at 16:41

 

Thank you Waterbutts, I'm sure as well that we have the right to enter his garden for maintenance.  I think your idea of a solicitors letter is a good one, as you say he has an obligation to make sure he doesn't damage our property. 

And thank you Birdy for your points, I've been wondering something similar.  Because our kitchen extension was built around 1920 (before today's tight regulations probably!), we can't rule out the possibility that the kitchen floor was cut down a little into the ground.  And there's no way really of finding out.  But his patio isn't higher than the back of his house (it's a little lower in fact), which suggests that the patio may have been built up from the original ground level.  The edging of the patio definitely has, as it's higher than the ground level even of his garden.  The next time he's out, I'm going to stick my head out of our kitchen window to see if there's any damp course visible (he did mention putting one in).  Thanks that's a good point, I didn't think to look at that before.  And it's interesting what you say about your patio and splash back.  I'd defnitely feel easier if he would pull his patio away from our house a little!  Thanks for your points, they're very helpful.

17/09/2013 at 16:51

Yes you have a right, but not without you're neighbours permission. You can not just send the builders round if he has refused, you will need a court order. But getting a court order could be refused, if he say's that it will stop him enjoying his garden and land.

17/09/2013 at 19:16

 

Gail Peacock wrote (see)

 But his patio isn't higher than the back of his house (it's a little lower in fact), which suggests that the patio may have been built up from the original ground level.  

Gail: I'm not sure what you mean by 'the back of his house'.

1. If you mean his 'back garden' then logically, if his patio is lower than the rest of the garden,  that would suggest the ground was dug out to accommodate the new patio in order to avoid causing damp problems to buildings - in other words, it was not the neighbour's patio that has caused your damp problem.

2. If, however, you mean his patio is only 'a little lower' than his DPC level (or equivalent) AND if by 'a little lower' you mean less than 6 inches, this could mean the patio has been laid on top of the (then) existing ground level and that whoever is responsible for building the patio would seem to have done so irresponsibly because it has raised the ground level too much -  but even then, only if it can be proved that water levels and 'splash back' of rain are the cause of your damp problem (And not, for example, an underground water course).

It is also important to see which way the water runs off his patio:

Does it run...

  1. into his garden (as it should)?
  2. back towards his house? This could be very destructive for his house and means shoddy building and disregard of levels and own property.
  3. Sideways towards your house? This could explain your damp problem and also means shoddy building and disregard of levell and risk to neighbouring property.

 

They are just a few  considerations that might help you define the problem and ascertain liability.

17/09/2013 at 20:13

 

Hi Birdy,

The patio is built behind the back wall of his house.  Some of it is the same level as the rest of his garden, and the bit directly behind his back wall is lower than the rest of the garden (and some of the patio).  After reading your comments, it does strike me that the lowest part of his patio, where it meets his back wall, is only just below the bottom of his back door. It's definitely not as much as 6 inches below. So you're probably right, it might be bridging any damp course he has as well, because there's no room for it between the patio and the back door.  I think the main patio level has been raised up a bit.  The patio levels drop towards a drain just behind his back wall, which is on the other side of the garden from our wall.  So I guess that directs the water away from our wall, which is something:-; 

Thank you, reading your post has given me a bit of hope that we can resolve the issue.  We're going to take the damaged plaster off the wall inside, and use a dehimidifier for a while before we re-plaster.  We're hoping that taking the old concrete render off the wall and replacing with lime render will go some way to solving the problem, now that the water can escape from the wall.  We're just keeping our fingers crossed that he doesn't decide to paint it with masonry paint and trap the water again:-;  If that doesn't work, we'll go to a solicitor and put some of the points you've raised, and see what can be done.  Thank you again, I really appreciate your time. 

17/09/2013 at 20:52

My neighbour had a terrible damp problem last year - tiles falling off walls etc.

Experts came and searched  out the area of the greatest damp and found the cause was underfloor water pipes whose joints had corroded and been leaking for years.

They took her vynil flooring up in the kitchen and saw the evidence in the wet concrete underneath. Took week to dry out and had to fight tomget insurance to pay up but no problems since repaired 

I'm not telling you this to frighten you, only to suggest you give a thorough investigation of all the possibilities. Eg:

  1. Wet floor: do some of your pipes run under the concrete floor?
  2. Damp floor: has floor membrane been punctured or poorly laid?
  3. Damp wall/floor eg behind units: has DPC of wall been breached?
  4. Walls Damp at top: is the rain overflowing gutters?
  5. ... or is there a roof leak?

You don't want to go through expensive repair processes and find you have attended to the symptoms (eg by replastering)  but not the cause which is something else.

17/09/2013 at 21:51

Gail Peacock said:

We're just keeping our fingers crossed that he doesn't decide to paint it with masonry paint and trap the water again

Unless I've misunderstood, the above refers to the outside surface of your kitchen wall. It's yours - not his - so he has no right to do anything to it that compromises your property.

i don't known whether you can still talk with your neighbour but if you can, I would be inclined to explain you are trying to resolve a damp problem and need nothing to be done to your wall to jeopardise your investigation of the cause. 

18/09/2013 at 08:38

 

Hi Birdy,

We thought it was a roof problem at first, since it is damp where the bottom of the roof meets the wall.  We had a few roofers around to look, and they couldn't find anything wrong with the roof, which is one relief I guess:-;  The floor isn't damp, but it's hard to tell because it's concrete overlaid with modern tiles that damp wouldn't be able to get through.  You're right though, we could have a leak, perhaps we'll investigate.  We probably do have pipes underneath, but I'm not sure.  Don't worry about scaring me, to be honest it would be a relief if it was the floor, at least that's something we could get fixed without our neighbour's permission!

I spoke to a party wall surveyor about our rights over the wall.  Sadly because it's a party wall, he's entitled to do what he likes on his side, even though for example painting it with non breathable paint like masonry paint would damage the lime render we've had put on, and stop the wall from breathing again, making our damp problem worse.  Apparently we could pursue him through the courts for damage to our kitchen, but apparently it would be costly and we might not win.  Nuts isn't it?  We've asked our neighbour not to paint it, that we would lime wash it if he wanted, and explained to him why.  I guess we just have to keep our fingers crossed.  To be honest we're seriously thinking of just selling the house and getting a nice modern one with a damp proof already built in:-;

18/09/2013 at 09:33

You really have done the right thing by putting lime render on your outside wall.  This allows the wall to breathe.

Our neighbours put a waterproof coating on their gable-end, which they have to come onto our land to maintain.  It would never occur to us to stop the workmen coming back to re-do it, over and over again!  The only stipulation we make is that they clear up after themselves.

Both our and their house are stone built.  Fingers crossed, we have lime render which should not need anything done to it for at least 10 years. I love the way it changes colour as it dries out and then when it gets wet when it rains.

We have no damp course and I would assume, not much foundation either.

18/09/2013 at 11:28

Gail Peacock said: Sadly because it's a party wall, he's entitled to do what he likes on his side, even though for example painting it with non breathable paint like masonry paint would damage the lime render we've had put on, and stop the wall from breathing again.

That seems tantamount to saying:

  1. his actions on the wall are allowed to affect your side of the wall, in particular - in this case its effectiveness as a barrier againt the elements (which compromises one of the purposes of a wall which is to protect from the elements) -
  2. but that your actions on the wall are not allowed to affect his side of the wall - in his case due to his 'asthetical response' to a finish that is not to his taste.

That seems too one sided (no pun intended) to stand in law.

My instinct would be to get a second opinion on that specific point in terms of your respective legal rights - party wall legislation is one thing but I would have thought that  protection of property from the actions of a-n-other would take precedence here.

"Unfortunately," I hear something reminding me, " the law has nothing to do with common sense!"  ... But I would try for a second opinion.

18/09/2013 at 17:08

Hi Welshonion, I agree, lime looks beautiful on a wall doesn't it.  I wish we had you as neighbours instead of who we have:-;  He was in the garden recently cutting back some roses that were overhanging our wall.  I didn't mind them being there, so I never asked him to prune them, looks like he's gearing up for litigation.  I wish he'd just discuss it with us instead, save us all a lot of trouble!

Hi Birdy,
 I know what you mean, it does seem very one sided!  I think we will get an opinion from another surveyor, none of this seems fair at all. And as you say, the law doesn't seem to bear much resemblence to reality!  I'm thinking the Party Wall Act certainly doesn't, I hope the bloomin wall collapses into the neighbour's garden.  The solicitor I was speaking to advised me to look into keeping the wall dry on our side instead.  I looked into it, and apparently we could get it tanked (like they do for cellars), but unfortunately we're in a conservation area and so we'd need planning permission to do it.  (Because it's damp proofing.)  The surveyor who looked at the wall and who knows the local conservation committee said that they'll very likely tell us no, that we'd have to deal with the neighbour and get it sorted with him.  So back to litigation.

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