Access to Neighbouring Land

It is often the case that a property owner cannot carry out works of repair or improvement to their own property without going onto the land of their neighbour. There is actually no automatic right to enter upon the land of the neighbour. A home owner would need a legal right or easement to go on the neighbour’s property to carry out works or have the neighbour’s consent to doing so.

Any unauthorised entry by a property owner is a trespass which may be restrained by an injunction. In order to deal with this difficult situation parliament enacted the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992. This legislation enables a homeowner who wishes to carry out works that are reasonably necessary for the preservation of the whole or any part of his property and it is impossible or substantially more difficult for him to do so without the consent of a neighbour, to apply to the Court for an Access Order should the neighbour refuse access to his property.

Works which are “reasonably necessary for the preservation of the land” comprise the following:-

• Basic preservation works – such as maintenance, repair or renewal of any part of a building or structure on the owner’s land.
• Altering, adjusting or improving the homeowner’s land or demolishing the whole or any part of the building or structure upon it.
• Anything that is a necessary incident of carrying out the works, including the right to enter upon the neighbour’s land for certain purposes of inspection.

The Court will not make an Access Order if it is satisfied that the making of it would either interfere with, or disturb, the enjoyment of a neighbour’s land by the occupant or cause that person hardship to such a degree that it would be unreasonable.

It should be noted that the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 does not provide a means for a homeowner to go onto the neighbouring owner’s land to improve or redevelop his own property. In conclusion, the Act provides a very restricted and temporary form of compulsory acquisition of a legal right of access.

John Rutherford