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Legal A-Z: “A” – Access to Neighbouring Land

Q: Can I enter onto my neighbour’s land to repair my boundary wall?


A property owner may be liable for trespass if he ventures onto his neighbour’s land without permission, licence, or a contractual or statutory right. 

A building owner wanting to build or repair a wall on or near the boundary, or to build special foundations to strengthen an existing structure, may rely on the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (“PWA 1996”) even when the neighbour happily grants access to his land.  An award made by a surveyor under PWA 1996 gives statutory rights to both parties which will become valuable if a dispute arises about the work or damage caused.

Following an Award, the building owner can enter onto even a reluctant neighbour’s land on 14 days’ notice, exclusively to carry out the works described in the Award.  In return, the Award may require the building owner to pay compensation to his neighbour for any unnecessary inconvenience caused.

If the works are not Party Wall works but are works of basic preservation to the property (such as repairing buildings and lopping trees), the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 (“ANLA 1992”) may be engaged.

As reliance on ANLA 1992 involves applying for a court order granting access to a neighbour’s land, it is a remedy of last resort.  An Order (like an Award under PWA 1996) will prescribe the terms upon which the building owner is allowed access to his neighbour’s land.

Under both PWA 1996 and ANLA 1992, if the building owner does something in excess of what is permitted by the Award or Order, he will treated as a trespasser, and the neighbour will be entitled to sue for damages.

(Previously published in hard copy by RICS Real Estate Journal)