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Adding lock to gate that is "half" on neighbour's RWP

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Adding lock to gate that is "half" on neighbour's RWP

23 replies 1.4K views
Hi all,

We actually bought our house a few months ago, but we thought this might be the best place to ask this as it relates to deeds.

We live in a Victorian terrace with a shared alleyway, with the alleyway and "flying freehold" above owned by our neighbour. Obviously we have a RWP through the alley. The neighbour the other side of us also has a RWP through the alley and through our garden so she can take her bins out etc. The neighbour who owns the alley and flying freehold is rather, ahem, "particular" neighbour. She often tells off workmen/waterboard workers etc who are in the alley, even though they have permission to be there. She's had disputes with our previous owners and ones before that relating to boundaries. The neighbours all around have warned us of how she can be quite spiteful if you get on the wrong side of her (e.g. slamming doors) and we've been on the receiving end of a radio being played extremely loudly at 7am at times (Classical FM, thankfully she's not a heavy metal fan!). She doesn't really speak to us (though we had a decent conversation in the garden the other week for the first time).

It's all made us very wary of making any changes to shared areas/boundaries etc (e.g. the other week she was leaning over the hedge between us and well and truly pruning it back on our side, we decided to take it on the chin as we know anytime in the past people have raised issues that it's easily led to disputes etc, which we want to avoid).

We recently got a dog and have found that work people/our friendly neighbour (/maybe even this difficult neighbour who could be trying to spite us) have left the gate open numerous times. It can only be closed with a bolt from one side currently. I am going to add a spring to the gate, but I would also like to add a double sided long throw lock to it and give the friendly neighbour a couple of set of keys (she actually drove the chat as she asked if there's any way we could make the gate open-able from both sides - currently she has to go through our garden to open it from the back). Said gate is fixed to our extension wall, but the bolt itself currently goes into a round groove cut into the "unfriendly" neighbour's fence. We'd also just generally like a lock as it'll add a small amount of security (currently someone could just let themselves into the neighbours garden, then unbolt our gate from over her fence, if they wanted to - as proven by the water company when they needed access - they got shouted at by said neighbour).

Long winded explanation so far, apologies - just trying to get across the whole context. The unfriendly neighbour has a historic RWP in the deeds that gives her a tiny passageway into our back garden to where the old Victorian toilets would have been (long gone). As a result I'm wary of adding the lock if she has ground to make us remove it/start an official dispute.

Just looking for advice here. I'll post all the deeds' wording and images below. Does she still have a right of way into our back garden even though there is no purpose for her to be there? If she ever had a genuine reason to need to get in for maintenance, we would happily unlock the gate for her. Can she prevent us adding the lock/make us remove it once there? Would we have to offer a key? Hopefully you get the gist of my thoughts :)

I know one obvious solution is to go to her and just ask her (we've been putting notes through the door to warn her of workmen coming to try to appease her and let her know when it would be noisy - she wouldn't return "hellos" to us at that point), but we're trying to give her some "breathing space" and would rather just do it if there's no ramifications.

--------

Deeds wording as below:

The registered title shows that the Property is subject to the following rights.

  1. a right for the owners of the adjoining and neighbouring properties to use any services which pass through this property
  2. a right of way over the access coloured blue on plan 4 for the owners of number 18 (friendly neighbour) and a right of way for the owners of 14 over the land coloured yellow on plan 2 (unfriendly neighbour)
  3. a right for the owners of the adjoining properties to enter this property to carry out repairs and maintenance
  4. Full right of support over this property for the said roofs, eaves, gutters and spouts which protrude over their properties into or over this property
Plan 1


Plan 2


Plan 3

Pl





Plan 4



My drawing of current set up (plans don't show the extension, for context, nor obviously the placement of the gate - note that it's the gate marked as "to our garden" that would be the one I add a lock to on the right hand side of the gate - the hinged side is against our property). The hatched blue area is the only RWP the "unfriendly" neighbour has on our land and the gate extends just beyond it


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Replies

  • davilowndavilown Forumite
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    Can you not just put a lock in the gate to your garden and give your friendly neighbour some keys?
    Back in Debt £204,000 on a £230,900 mortgage) Overpayment £37 pm - Aim to be Mortgage free by 2034
    Building extension loan £20,105 of £30,000 left to pay
  • edited 7 April at 1:03PM
    princeofpoundsprinceofpounds Forumite
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    edited 7 April at 1:03PM
    You're over complicating this, although full marks for trying to give context. 

    As far as I can tell, the essential elements are this:

    - You want to put a lock on your garden gate.
    - Your neighbour has a right of way into your garden to access a communal toilet block.
    - The communal toilet block no longer exists.
    - Your current lock bolts into a fence owned by the neighbour.

    Let's take it in (roughly) reverse order.

    - You have no standing right to lock 'into' the neighbour's fence, unless you have been doing so for 20 years without permission or opposition. So they can probably object to that if they wish to, but they may not even really think about it. If they do object, you will need to install your own post or similar fixed object - not hard but may narrow the gate a bit.

    - The exact wording around the toilet block could be important. You do not post it, but are there any obligations to maintain it or otherwise provide it? The exact wording of the ROW is also important - is the access for any purpose, or only for access to a toilet block?

    - The right of way to the toilet block does not expire just because it is not used. There have been cases where rights of way have not been used for 175 years and still upheld in court.

    - Are there ways the right of way could be removed? Possibly:
    a) The cleanest way would be a Deed of Release - you pay the neighbour to give it up in writing, essentially. Could be an approach worth considering, but maybe not as a first option as a tricky neighbour may start using the ROW to drive up the value of stopping the annoyance.
    b) There may be a case for removing the ROW because the nature of the dominant land has fundamentally changed (no toilet block) and there is no prospect of it being restored. However, this is a very difficult thing to argue and will depend on lots of legal details. Consult a specialist solicitor on that one - I bet they would recommend paying for a Deed of Release if it can be agreed.

    - Can you put a lock on the gate? This is a weirdly complex area in law. You are not allowed to 'substantially interfere' with a ROW. The question is whether the new type of lock is an interference above and beyond what has historically existed. Possibly not, but I cannot be sure (partly as I don't know what type of lock you mean). Also, you will need to give a key to the difficult neighbour in theory (in practice it may not be demanded).

    Broadly-speaking, I think you have two choices to make. You can just do it, and hope that your neighbour doesn't cotton on. It is not a high cost if you need to reverse it later down the line. It's quite unlikely she would bother to legally enforce her ROW, but she may be petty in other ways that cause trouble, and it would count as a dispute if you ever want to sell the property.

    Or, you can try to engage her. Either appeal to whatever priorities she has (e.g. security), or offer money for the ROW to be extinguished. 

    Personally I would just do it, and then plan B would be offer to buy out the ROW.
  • princeofpoundsprinceofpounds Forumite
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    davilown said:
    Can you not just put a lock in the gate to your garden and give your friendly neighbour some keys?
    I think - and I may be wrong - that the OP is talking about exactly that. But the problem is that the unfriendly neighbour has a ROW into the OP's garden through that gate as well, to a toilet block that no longer exists.
  • theoreticatheoretica Forumite
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    Does your other neighbour ever come through that gate?  Offering them a key wouldn't be any more access than they have already.
    But a banker, engaged at enormous expense,
    Had the whole of their cash in his care.
    Lewis Carroll
  • edited 7 April at 1:45PM
    Martin_the_UnjustMartin_the_Unjust Forumite
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    edited 7 April at 1:45PM
    1. Put a lock on the gate.
    2. Give anyone who has right of way and needs to use it a key to the lock.
    3. Give anyone who has right of way but doesn’t need to use a key to a different lock
    In the unlikely event that they try it and realise it doesn’t work apologise and give them the correct key (then change the lock a couple of days later)



  • twopennytwopenny Forumite
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    At least the unfriendly neighbour is keeping an eye out for your security by having a go at the workmen? Getting them onside for that could help build bridges.
    Could you indtall a gate that locks into your side is the first thing.
    Could you then give her a key and if she leaves it open you then have a genuine unarguable right to go further.
    But i agree first and easiest is to look at the exact wording for right of access. Possibly able to get that changed.

    The only normal people you know are the ones you don’t know very well

  • joe90mitchjoe90mitch Forumite
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    davilown said:
    Can you not just put a lock in the gate to your garden and give your friendly neighbour some keys?
    I think - and I may be wrong - that the OP is talking about exactly that. But the problem is that the unfriendly neighbour has a ROW into the OP's garden through that gate as well, to a toilet block that no longer exists.
    Yeah exactly that. Me and the "friendly" neighbour have planned to share keys, she definitely needs access for her back garden for bins and whenever works needs doing in it - she has no other access to back garden. Haven't discussed it yet with "unfriendly" neighbour who has no "real world" reason to come into our back garden and never has.
  • joe90mitchjoe90mitch Forumite
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    Does your other neighbour ever come through that gate?  Offering them a key wouldn't be any more access than they have already.
    No she doesn't at all. And agreed, I was just wary that it could cause a dispute or have legal ramifications etc. 
  • edited 7 April at 3:57PM
    joe90mitchjoe90mitch Forumite
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    edited 7 April at 3:57PM
    twopenny said:
    At least the unfriendly neighbour is keeping an eye out for your security by having a go at the workmen? Getting them onside for that could help build bridges.
    Could you indtall a gate that locks into your side is the first thing.
    Could you then give her a key and if she leaves it open you then have a genuine unarguable right to go further.
    But i agree first and easiest is to look at the exact wording for right of access. Possibly able to get that changed.
    Haha I wish I could put that positive spin on - she shouted at the waterboard workers who were fixing a sewage leak in my back garden that I had reported. They tried to go into her garden to view the manhole there and got shouted at, they also asked her if she could move her car so they could access the manhole on the street and she refused. Then just two days ago she shouted at an electrician we had round - he was taking all his equipment out of the house with his hands full and a big gust of wind slammed our door shut. So yes, difficult to work with her at times :smile:

    Can't install the lock on our side - unless I'm being thick that would mean we'd have to move the hinges to the other side - i.e. into her fence. And I assume I can't just drill things into her fence without permission.

    Yes could definitely give her a key, not even really against this. She might even say what's the point. As I hope I've gotten across, half the concern is just me and my partner being concerned that she might take things badly and so are just trying to keep her out of the loop. Half tempted to just add the lock, if she mentions it apologise and say we didn't realise she technically had access as there's nothing for her to access and then just offer her a key.

    Thanks for this point re wording and also to @princeofpounds. Though I'm confused, I posted everything in my pack relating to the right of access of other neighbours, there's no other text. This was the solicitors summary pack though. Is there more detailed stuff written elsewhere?
  • joe90mitchjoe90mitch Forumite
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    You're over complicating this, although full marks for trying to give context. 

    As far as I can tell, the essential elements are this:

    - You want to put a lock on your garden gate.
    - Your neighbour has a right of way into your garden to access a communal toilet block.
    - The communal toilet block no longer exists.
    - Your current lock bolts into a fence owned by the neighbour.

    Let's take it in (roughly) reverse order.

    - You have no standing right to lock 'into' the neighbour's fence, unless you have been doing so for 20 years without permission or opposition. So they can probably object to that if they wish to, but they may not even really think about it. If they do object, you will need to install your own post or similar fixed object - not hard but may narrow the gate a bit.

    - The exact wording around the toilet block could be important. You do not post it, but are there any obligations to maintain it or otherwise provide it? The exact wording of the ROW is also important - is the access for any purpose, or only for access to a toilet block?

    - The right of way to the toilet block does not expire just because it is not used. There have been cases where rights of way have not been used for 175 years and still upheld in court.

    - Are there ways the right of way could be removed? Possibly:
    a) The cleanest way would be a Deed of Release - you pay the neighbour to give it up in writing, essentially. Could be an approach worth considering, but maybe not as a first option as a tricky neighbour may start using the ROW to drive up the value of stopping the annoyance.
    b) There may be a case for removing the ROW because the nature of the dominant land has fundamentally changed (no toilet block) and there is no prospect of it being restored. However, this is a very difficult thing to argue and will depend on lots of legal details. Consult a specialist solicitor on that one - I bet they would recommend paying for a Deed of Release if it can be agreed.

    - Can you put a lock on the gate? This is a weirdly complex area in law. You are not allowed to 'substantially interfere' with a ROW. The question is whether the new type of lock is an interference above and beyond what has historically existed. Possibly not, but I cannot be sure (partly as I don't know what type of lock you mean). Also, you will need to give a key to the difficult neighbour in theory (in practice it may not be demanded).

    Broadly-speaking, I think you have two choices to make. You can just do it, and hope that your neighbour doesn't cotton on. It is not a high cost if you need to reverse it later down the line. It's quite unlikely she would bother to legally enforce her ROW, but she may be petty in other ways that cause trouble, and it would count as a dispute if you ever want to sell the property.

    Or, you can try to engage her. Either appeal to whatever priorities she has (e.g. security), or offer money for the ROW to be extinguished. 

    Personally I would just do it, and then plan B would be offer to buy out the ROW.
    Thanks so much for the detailed reply. I'm sure I am overthinking it and apologies for the hugely detailed posts ;) But it's good to know where we stand from a legal POV, even if it isn't necessarily what I hoped to hear (but perhaps is what I expected).

    As per prior post, there's nothing saying we have to maintain the toilet block etc from the section in the solicitor's pack that I copied into my original post. Would this be elsewhere?

    The current "lock" is simply a normal gate bolt with no lock, attached on the garden side of the gate, bolting into her fence post. Something like this, but instead of the second piece being attached to the fence post, someone has just drilled/chiselled into the fence post itself to leave a hole big enough you push the bolt into. In theory you can open it from our garden only (but if someone were to let themselves into her garden, they could undo it). The new lock is the one linked here and I would again just install it so the bolt itself goes into the existing hole. In terms of how long the current bolt has been closing into her fencepost, I couldn't tell you - but I would assume that it went up at the same time as the extension to our house, which I know happened around 2005 - so just under 20 years, typical ;)

    I think your plan sounds sensible. If she took umbrage and asked us to remove it, would that count as a dispute? I.e. if we heard nothing from her but then received a letter from her solicitor saying we have to remove the lock and we duly obliged, would it count as a dispute at that point? Or is it only if we respond saying we don't agree with that position?

    Thanks a lot!


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