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16/09/2013 at 15:09

Can anyone help please?  We recently moved into an old property with solid walls.  We have a kitchen extension (built by a previous owner), and the left hand wall is very damp.  Every time it rains, plaster falls off the wall and the ceiling just above it. A mason who did some work for us identified 2 problems.  The first was that the wall was rendered in concrete, which had cracked and was letting water in.  Since the water couldn't escape again, it was trapped, and when he took the plaster off he discovered considerable frost damage to the bricks.  To remedy it, he suggested removing the old plaster and re-rendering in lime to let the water escape.  To do this we needed our neighbour's permission.  After much complaining and threatening to sue us if we damaged his plants, he agreed to let us do it if our guys finished it within the week that he and his wife were away on holiday.  The guys managed it, even plastering in the rain to get it done!  But they identified a second problem that we don't know how to fix.  Our neighbour's garden has been built up to a level a few inches higher than our kitchen floor.  This includes a patio edging and a flower bed, which are right against the wall.  Our guys said that this is bridging our internal damp proof course, and preventing a specialist from injecting an extenernal damp course. They said that unless our neighbour lowered his patio and bed by a few inches, and allowed a damp course to be injected, rising damp would ensure that an already saturated wall would remain wet.  A damp proof specialist and a structural surveyor confirmed that this is correct.

When our neighbour returned from holiday, we explained the situation and asked if he would lower his garden level a little.  He said over his dead body, that we are upsetting his wife, he will sue us for trespass if anyone goes into his garden even to look at the wall, and asked us to leave.

Please does anyone have any ideas?  We're rather at the end of our rope!  We don't want to go down the litigation route, as you hear stories of neighbours running up tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees, but we can't leave the wall the way it is.  As well as worrying about an already fragile wall, we're concerned about the damp in the roof rafters.

Many thanks.

16/09/2013 at 15:16
  1. He is causing a legal nuisance by raising the land on his side without taking adequate steps to stop damp coming through.  I am assuming that the patio was built after your extension. if he won't talk to you , then you will have to go down the legal route. Did you have a survey before you bought the property?
16/09/2013 at 15:19

Is his garden trespassing on your side, or is your kitchen wall right on the boundary. If it is right on the boundary, you still have a right to go on next doors land for maintenance.

16/09/2013 at 15:23

I think that with his belligerent attitude, you will have to see a solicitor. Maybe a letter, reminding him of the law in this case, will  make him understand . Our neighbours built a new conservatory and terraced the garden.Immediately afterwards our garage flooded every time it rained. They soon put in a soakaway for the water which was running down their garden , and breaching the garage walls damp course.  if they had not, they would have been liable for any damage caused.  It sounds like you already have a case if he has raised the land level on his side, and it is causing you a nuisance. (wet walls)

16/09/2013 at 15:31

I agree that your neighbour's gardening activities are causing damage and he should be liable a) to remove the nuisance causing the damage and b) pay for repairs caused by his neglect or wilful damage.

A survey should have identified this problem so if you had one, you may have recourse against the surveyor.

As for damp injections, we've just had our entire house injected again after problems with the road outside led to water finding its way up our walls again.  The garage wall has land raised to about 3' high on one side so they simply injected just above that height to protect the rest of the wall and the bedroom above so it is possible to inject from inside and higher than usual.   However, it is a garage wall so no plastering or decoration needed. 

16/09/2013 at 15:40

 

Hi Fidgetbones, and many thanks for your advice.

Yes we had a full structural survey done, at a cost of £624:-;  We're wondering too if the surveyor may be liable for some of the costs.  He said in the survey that without access to our neighbour's garden he couldn't see the outside of the wall.  He's right, but he could definitely see the height of the patio through our kitchen window. 

As far as we know, our kitchen wall is on the boundary, because the garden wall continues in exactly the same line on from it.  I'm hoping that gives us access for repairs.:-;  Sounds like you had a similar problem, and managed to sort it without a long legal battle.  I think I'll pay a solicitor for an hour's worth of advice, I'm sure we have a case too.  I'm just hoping our neighbour isn't daft enough to enter into a long drawn out legal battle, I'm worried that his bullish atttitude might outweigh his common sense!

Thanks again for your help and your time, I appreciate it.

16/09/2013 at 15:51

 

Hi Obelixx,

Many thanks for your suggestions.  It's interesting that you had a higher damp proof course put in, maybe we could do that.  We don't mind redecorating as long as the new damp proofing keeps the wall dry.  We have another damp specialist coming to look at the wall on Thursday, I'll ask him if he can solve the problem that way.

Thanks again.

16/09/2013 at 16:06

Inecting higher up would protect the wall above the injection point but not help much with the part below and if you have electrical wires and sockets in that part you'll end up with rusty back parts in your sockets.  We did before getting our walls fixed and had to have some replaced.  Another expense to take into account.

Good luck with the solicitor.  It should help clarify your situation.

16/09/2013 at 16:09

Sorry, but injecting the walls is useless.  Think about it.  Is it really feasible that anything injected could do any good?  The salesmen are very persuasive. They are apt to bring out moisture meters (designed for wood, not plaster) and talk technical.  Most old stone builings do not have or need a damp-proof course.  You have not got rising damp; you have penetrating damp.

The position must be relayed to the neighbour in writing, so he can study it at his leisure.  If your wall can only be reached by going on his land he cannot deny you access.  There have been court cases about this; he is in the wrong. You may have to arrange to do it by appoinment but he cannot deny you.

He is also causing damage to your property; again he is in the wrong. You would be quite within your rights to get a digger in and dig a ditch to keep your wall dry.  He would not like that, so it is up to him to come to a mutually agreeable remedy with you.

I'm rather surprised that a full structural survey was so cheap - they are expensive things.

16/09/2013 at 16:16

I agree with Welshonion. He must be shown that his opinion is erroneous (solicitor's letter will do this)and he must be shown what the alternative could be if he fails to understand his responsibilities (digger moving in).

I don't think £600 is unusually cheap though.

16/09/2013 at 16:23

By all means consult a solicitor, maybe your home insurance has a legal expenses clause, but be aware that going to court is not for the faint-hearted and it is very, very, very expensive.  It will take far longer than you could imagine, and you want this problem sorted soon.

Do not let anybody persuade you that a damp-proof course will cure this.  They are wrong, and it will not.

16/09/2013 at 16:29

The only cure will be to lower the soil level on the other side.  Usually the threat of being landed with the bill for the damage will bring him in line. Good luck.

16/09/2013 at 16:53

Would tanking help?  It might need a dpc somewhere as well.

16/09/2013 at 16:56

Everyone seems to be jumping against the neighbour.

Stop.

If the extension was built right up to the boundary by the last owners (which is not normally allowed due to issues like this) then it is entirely possible that next doors garden is the level your garden used to be. How would you like to be told to lower part of your garden as next door has built an extension?

 Legally they should have been served notice that the extension was being built up to the boundary party wall and would have had the right to veto: if permission was ever sought...so tread carefully.

If we are talking about extension built using part of an old garden wall instead of building a new wall, then there is no wonder that there are water ingress problems as it will not have been designed to be an internal wall.

16/09/2013 at 17:03
16/09/2013 at 17:19

This can only be sorted out by a surveyor.  Gail mentions another damp specialist visiting on Thursday.  I have rather a jaundiced view of damp specialists, especially where stone-built properties are concerned.

16/09/2013 at 17:36

You have a very good point, blairs. In fact, the problem may be even more complicated if both houses have been bought and sold since the extension was put up.

Party wall awards must have been signed unless the extension is really ancient, and both sets of solicitors might  have had sight of them during the sale of the house.They would have outlined the state of the gardens and houses before work was done and any "creep" of soil would then be dateable.

I agree completely about damp proofing. We had a similar problem but fortunately the problem was caused by our own garden level. Huge costs spelled out by companies to "fix" the damp. One pick, one shovel and one wheelbarrow later, no damp.

Tanking would only solve the internal damp. It would not address the issue of the external brickwork, the ceiling and the rafters.

16/09/2013 at 18:16

Interesting thread. Gail - did you have all the correct certification for the extension when you bought the house?  I know English law is often different from up here but any extension requires signing off by Building Control and it's often the cause of delays in house sales here because that type of thing hasn't been done. Your solicitor should have requested and obtained all the necessary paperwork for you when you were buying. I think my first port of call would be the lawyer to get some clarification. Surveyors are also inclined to be very cautious so his report needs careful checking too as I find it odd if he was so ready to pass the building as sound. From your description of the neighbour's reaction - I wonder if he knows he shouldn't have put beds and borders against the wall and is worried about what may now happen. 

I'd agree with the others about the damp proofing - these companies are interested in selling you their product. Nothing else.

16/09/2013 at 18:37

 

Many thanks everyone for your help, I appreciate it.  The surveyor reckons the kitchen extension was built in the early 20th century, so we don't have any paperwork for it.  On our solicitor's advice we paid for indemnity insurance against any alterations without guarantees, in case anything went wrong with the work.  Looks like we might be needing it:-;  I phoned our buildings insurer, and we don't have legal cover.  I think we'll get another structural surveyor around to see what can be done, it's a bit beyond me:-;  Thanks again everyone for all your help and advice.

16/09/2013 at 18:48

If the extension was built 100 years ago (early 20th century) I don't think you have any realistic chance of proving whether or not the neighbour's ground level has been raised since that time.  Even if it has, and your wall forms the boundary line I don't know if you have any legal sanction against him.

I'm certainly no expert but from avidly watching many home improvement programmes I think the tanking option has to be worth investigation.  If it can completely damp-proof a cellar it should be able to sort out one wall.  It's possible a moisture barrier will also need to be installed to prevent damp attacking the ceiling.

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