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  • FIRST POST
    • emma_spaghetti
    • By emma_spaghetti 4th Jul 18, 10:54 PM
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    emma_spaghetti
    Potentially dangerous boundary wall
    • #1
    • 4th Jul 18, 10:54 PM
    Potentially dangerous boundary wall 4th Jul 18 at 10:54 PM
    Hi there

    Hoping someone can share some advice or help guide me in the right direction.

    There's an old 100ft boundary wall + steps with pathway joining the houses in our street. It's co-owned by 9 houses and is in a poor state of repair (confirmed by a Building Control report and a brief visit + follow up report from a structural engineer) however is not an imminent danger at this very moment in time. The point is Building Control say it could well be soon, e.g. if we have a particularly harsh Winter. It leans in places, has trees/plants growing out of it, render falling off in places, deep cracks etc.

    We have been told if anything were to fall on a car or person, we are liable for compensation costs because the house deeds state it is our responsibility to contribute to the wall's upkeep, and therefore myself and 2 other neighbours are very keen to get it (ideally) repaired / stabilised or 2) worst case scenario, rebuilt. Various sources (a builder and a structural engineer) believe repairing it will only make it worse/crumble, and a rebuild is the way to go.

    Unfortunately the remaining neighbours are not playing ball and are ignoring our letters/calls to discuss this. It is not financially viable to split a rebuild cost (quoted 30k+ !!) between the 3 of us. I also appreciate it is an awful lot of money.

    So my questions are:

    1. Where do we stand legally on this, given the wall isn't an imminent danger but could well be in the near future (and why should we wait until it is dangerous before we can get anything enforced and risk other people's safety)? We know Building Control can enforce work if it does become dangerous. If we can enforce work / costs at this point before we reach that critical status, how would we go about it?

    My concern here is that the whole wall needs to be sorted as one project. There are pillars which seem unstable but they are on the boundary between two houses so I don't think they can't be repaired by just one owner.

    Similarly, I can't see how sections can be re-rendered individually as the work will involve parts of the wall belonging to someone else who may not have given consent. Can we go ahead and act on their behalf without taking on extra liability for payment and do we have to give notice or follow a set procedure?

    2 - if a full survey is needed to determine the extent of the damage and the repair work required then can this cost be split out amongst all the owners. It doesn't seem fair that those who are willing to do the investigating should bear the associated costs. If it can be split then how would this work practically?

    3 - if works are necessary, what will be the basis for splitting the costs? Will everything be shared equally? Some owners have taken more care than others by removing weeds but there's one house where there's a tree growing from the wall which must have caused more extensive damage. Would that cost be shared or fall on the owner of that section? If the wall needs to be rebuilt then I guess this would be irrelevant.

    4 - when it comes to paying for the work, how might that be arranged? I presume the contractor would be wary of agreeing to the work knowing they have to collect payment from nine customers and what happens if they have trouble collecting from some owners? Does our liability as individual owners end when when we pay our share?

    Appreciate this is a tricky one to answer and will be a unique case to us, but I imagine there are a lot of issues with boundary walls up and down the country.
Page 1
    • RiversTam
    • By RiversTam 4th Jul 18, 11:58 PM
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    RiversTam
    • #2
    • 4th Jul 18, 11:58 PM
    • #2
    • 4th Jul 18, 11:58 PM
    Can you not just remove the wall from yours and your neighbours boundary and replace with something more suitable?

    You are only liable for the wall on your property, so just sort that bit out and leave the others to deal with a mess after winter when it finally collapses.
    The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.
    • G_M
    • By G_M 5th Jul 18, 2:57 AM
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    G_M
    • #3
    • 5th Jul 18, 2:57 AM
    • #3
    • 5th Jul 18, 2:57 AM
    Can you not just remove the wall from yours and your neighbours boundary and replace with something more suitable?

    You are only liable for the wall on your property, so just sort that bit out and leave the others to deal with a mess after winter when it finally collapses.
    Originally posted by RiversTam
    OP said:
    It's co-owned by 9 houses
    . That implies strongly that the entire wall iss in joint ownership, not that each house owns 1 of 9 sections.

    This seems unusual, but we can only take at face value what the OP has written.
    • G_M
    • By G_M 5th Jul 18, 3:35 AM
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    G_M
    • #4
    • 5th Jul 18, 3:35 AM
    • #4
    • 5th Jul 18, 3:35 AM
    Hi Emma.

    Is the wall brick? stone? what?
    1. Where do we stand legally on this, given the wall isn't an imminent danger but could well be in the near future (and why should we wait until it is dangerous before we can get anything enforced and risk other people's safety)?
    Even if it is not now "an imminent danger", if it were to collapse now and cause damage or injury, the fact you are aware of its poor condition could make you criminally liable, not just civil liable.

    We know Building Control can enforce work if it does become dangerous. If we can enforce work / costs at this point before we reach that critical status, how would we go about it?
    Through a solicitor.

    My concern here is that the whole wall needs to be sorted as one project. There are pillars which seem unstable but they are on the boundary between two houses so I don't think they can't be repaired by just one owner.
    Not sure why it has to be one project. Surely you could repair or re-build the most damaged section(s)?

    A similar length stone wall exists near me. I've been driving passed it and watching sectionss being sorted out over the last 2 years or more!

    Similarly, I can't see how sections can be re-rendered individually as the work will involve parts of the wall belonging to someone else who may not have given consent.
    I thought you said:

    "It's co-owned by 9 houses ". This needs to be clarified.
    Is the entre wall co-owned, or do different owners own different sections?
    Where & how (exact quotes!) is ownership documented?

    Can we go ahead and act on their behalf without taking on extra liability for payment and do we have to give notice or follow a set procedure?
    If you proceed without agreement you will be liable to the contractors for full payment.
    Trying to extract payment retrospectively, without prior consent, from other co-owners would be difficult.

    2 - if a full survey is needed to determine the extent of the damage and the repair work required then can this cost be split out amongst all the owners.
    Of course. It is part of the project cost. But again, you need owner consent.

    It doesn't seem fair that those who are willing to do the investigating should bear the associated costs. If it can be split then how would this work practically?
    The costs of investigation are added tto the costs of repair.

    3 - if works are necessary, what will be the basis for splitting the costs? Will everything be shared equally? Some owners have taken more care than others by removing weeds but there's one house where there's a tree growing from the wall which must have caused more extensive damage.
    Assuming as you first said, the wall is co-owned, the cost would be shared equally.

    Would that cost be shared or fall on the owner of that section?
    If your first statement is wrong and each section is oned by a different person, then of course that person is liable not just for repair or that section, for any legal liability reulting from disrepair/collapse

    If the wall needs to be rebuilt then I guess this would be irrelevant.

    4 - when it comes to paying for the work, how might that be arranged? I presume the contractor would be wary of agreeing to the work knowing they have to collect payment from nine customers and what happens if they have trouble collecting from some owners?
    Some will have to instruct the contractor. That person will pay the contractor.

    Does our liability as individual owners end when when we pay our share?
    Depends on the ownership status of the wall, which beccomes murkier the more I read!
    Appreciate this is a tricky one to answer and will be a unique case to us, but I imagine there are a lot of issues with boundary walls up and down the country.
    Originally posted by emma_spaghetti
    Last edited by G_M; 06-07-2018 at 3:45 AM.
    • moneyistooshorttomention
    • By moneyistooshorttomention 5th Jul 18, 8:05 AM
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    moneyistooshorttomention
    • #5
    • 5th Jul 18, 8:05 AM
    • #5
    • 5th Jul 18, 8:05 AM
    What is the exact wording down in the paperwork about you all being jointly liable to pay for this wall?

    Does it say things like "jointly and severally liable" for instance? Or is it just vague wording like "all 9 houses own the wall".

    If you quote us the exact wording it might help figure this out.

    Personally - I'd have my doubts the owner of the section with tree in would be due to pay more than a one-ninth share (though I can understand your logic that they've let it deteriorate more).

    My other thought is that, if I were one of the other owners involved, I would want/need to have an absolutely EXACT guaranteed price for my one-ninth share. My initial impression of your post was "30,000. Right - divide that by 9 and I'd be due for 3,333 exactly". Then you mention a report on it and I'm wondering too whether the 30,000 price quoted is an estimate, rather than 'written quotation'.

    So I'd say you need to give the other owners a written/absolutely exact/absolutely guaranteed not to increase price that included literally every penny that would be payable. Otherwise - I can see that part of what these 6 owners will be worrying about is not just "She says one-ninth of 30,000" but "Wonder if I can rely on that being the absolute exact amount of money I'd have to pay - or whether she'd be back for more and telling us the price had only been an estimate and the builders had charged more. Plus is the cost of the survey included in that - or she'd be back for more for that".

    Some people at least want "cast iron"/can rely exactly on every single word written down and would fear getting landed with finding they've "written a blank cheque/given carte blanche to just carry on spending and upping the bill". Hence saying they will need to be given exact figures they can rely on to the penny basically and then they might be more amenable (as they wouldnt worry they'd "written a blank cheque").

    EDIT; I admit to surprise you've obviously put in some effort getting the opinions of these "professionals" - but I don't see any mention of all 9 households having a meeting about this and all having their one-ninth share of the discussion about this? Has there been a communal road meeting ever about this - or has it just been an "over the wall" discussion with 2 of the other road owners. I'm sorta wondering where the "minutes of the meeting" are at which all 9 households discussed getting the opinions of these guys and authorised you to ask for it...
    Last edited by moneyistooshorttomention; 05-07-2018 at 8:22 AM.
    No (Brexit) deal = no big deal #shrugs and leave anyway

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    • PasturesNew
    • By PasturesNew 5th Jul 18, 8:13 AM
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    PasturesNew
    • #6
    • 5th Jul 18, 8:13 AM
    • #6
    • 5th Jul 18, 8:13 AM
    As others have said, until the EXACT wording has been typed up by you it's hard to know how much "power" anybody has to "force" it to be done.

    The long and short of it comes down to this: If all 9 are equally responsible for paying for it, then you need to all be in agreement that you're equally responsible for it.

    Being responsible is different to be able/willing to pay. First you need the understanding and agreement, with the wording laid down in front of you all, that that's how it is.

    Many people buy houses and sign deeds without thinking through some of the stuff in there, believing "it's been there 100 years, it won't affect me...." and at the point of buying you'll sign anything.

    So, once all 9 have agreed it IS in the deeds - and 1/9th IS theirs... how to move forward.

    Quotes/what could be done. You'd need to discuss the differences between "fix and repair costs" and/or "let's knock it all down, start from scratch, change it a bit". There will be a vast array of prices.

    The 9 then need to agree, in principal, which option should be pursued.

    Now - payment. There will be some who will pay ... and some who refuse to ... and some who simply can't.

    Let's take a bill of, say, 3,000 each... if one household is a single person looking for work, their ENTIRE annual income is 3,000 and they already are living with 1/week spare. So where's that 3k going to come from?

    But the first part is the actual wording in the deeds .... and getting everybody on board to understand that "at this stage" you're just going to get everybody on board that "something needs to be done" without anybody feeling they'll be forced/pressurised into something and possibly sued if they can't/won't pay.

    It could take some time really ..... unless everybody has deep pockets and been looking at that wall for the last 5 years thinking "ooh that'll want doing some time" ... then it'll be a MASSIVE amount without warning.
    • AnotherJoe
    • By AnotherJoe 5th Jul 18, 8:25 AM
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    AnotherJoe
    • #7
    • 5th Jul 18, 8:25 AM
    • #7
    • 5th Jul 18, 8:25 AM

    Appreciate this is a tricky one to answer and will be a unique case to us, but I imagine there are a lot of issues with boundary walls up and down the country.
    Originally posted by emma_spaghetti

    Its very tricky, but not at all unique, and a reason to avoid any house with such shared facilties.



    I owned a house where there was a garage block of 6 owned by a terrace of 6 houses, when the roof started to deteriorate 5 of the owners (inc me) were happy to pay to have it fixed, one wouldn't (possibly non coincidentally he was a landlord) and the end result was everyone patched up their own bits but it was a worse situation. Live and learn I'd never buy anything with such a shared maintenance responsibility again.



    I dont know what the answer is, possibly some sort of legal approach, there must be similarities with flats where leaseholders have a shared responsibility to fix the structure and some leaseholders wont/cant pay, but it will be expensive for all.
    • eddddy
    • By eddddy 5th Jul 18, 8:27 AM
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    eddddy
    • #8
    • 5th Jul 18, 8:27 AM
    • #8
    • 5th Jul 18, 8:27 AM
    It's unlikely that the wall is jointly owned by 9 parties.

    Are your properties leasehold or freehold?

    More likely scenarios include:
    • If the houses are leasehold, the freeholder owns the wall - and the leaseholders are required to contribute to its costs.
    • If the houses are freehold, each house freeholder owns their own section of wall.
    • Or again, if the properties are freehold, somebody else owns the wall, but the house freeholders are required (covenanted) to contribute to maintenance costs (like freehold house owners on an an unadopted road).
    • emma_spaghetti
    • By emma_spaghetti 5th Jul 18, 9:05 PM
    • 56 Posts
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    emma_spaghetti
    • #9
    • 5th Jul 18, 9:05 PM
    • #9
    • 5th Jul 18, 9:05 PM
    Can you not just remove the wall from yours and your neighbours boundary and replace with something more suitable? Yes that is what we are proposing. Unfortunately you will see that it's probably an all or nothing job when I work out how to upload the photos.

    You are only liable for the wall on your property, so just sort that bit out and leave the others to deal with a mess after winter when it finally collapses.
    Originally posted by RiversTam
    My concern is if another part of the wall collapses further along, it will bring our part with it.
    • emma_spaghetti
    • By emma_spaghetti 5th Jul 18, 9:33 PM
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    emma_spaghetti
    OK, I have been digging into the house deeds a bit more this evening. Here is the drawing from our title plan - looks like we each own our section of wall rather than everyone having liability for the entire wall as previously thought:

    https://ibb.co/dszuhJ

    The exact wording on our land registry says:

    "(01.03.1963) The Freehold land shown edged with ref on the plan of the above Title filed at the Registry and being (our address).

    The land has the benefit of a right of way over the passageway tinted brown on the filed plan subject to the payment of a proportionate part of the expense of keeping the same in repair and properly cleansed and a right of way over the pavement or terrace and the steps leading thereto tinted yellow on the filed plan subject to the payment of a fair proportionate part of the expense of keeping the said payment or terrace and steps in repair and properly cleansed."

    Quite a wordy sentence which doesn't shed much light; it mentions the steps and passageway but not actually the wall!

    My neighbours deeds date back 4 years more than mine and don't even mention the passageway let alone the wall!

    For reference, here are some images of the wall at various points. It is a brick wall with cement rendering and iron railings:

    https://ibb.co/fyJbwd
    https://ibb.co/eo5d9y
    https://ibb.co/k2Oy9y
    https://ibb.co/kRJ9Gd
    https://ibb.co/kwDbwd
    https://ibb.co/jR73bd
    https://ibb.co/hGiy9y
    https://ibb.co/c0CQpy

    Yes in an ideal world the neighbours would repair parts of the wall that need attention most (and which they own), but we don't have everyone on board to agree to that. The builder and engineer believe this could cause more damage to the wall than good because of its current state. Also, if another part of wall were to come down because a neighbour refused to fix their bit, it could bring down even more sections of wall and cause more complications further along!

    At the moment the 30k rebuild figure is nothing more than a rough ballpark. We're really in the early stages of understanding how on earth we approach this, hence coming here for some guidance. We'e posted letters through doors and have now got 4 out of 9 neighbours 'discussing' the topic but nothing agreed yet as we don't actually know where we turn yet.

    We meet Building Control again tomorrow for their advice armed with what we know (e.g. the ownership, the structural engineer's visit notes etc) and are hoping they can guide us.
    • eddddy
    • By eddddy 5th Jul 18, 9:57 PM
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    eddddy
    Realistically, you cannot force others to repair their sections of the wall - and you cannot repair their wall without their consent.

    If others aren't willing to cooperate, perhaps your best option is to...
    • Repair just your own section of wall
    • Put your neighbours on notice (i.e. tell them) that you think their section of wall might fall down, and it might pull down your new section of wall at the same time

    Then if the neighbours do nothing, and their section of wall falls and pulls over your new section of wall... they should be liable for rebuilding your section of wall.
    • PasturesNew
    • By PasturesNew 5th Jul 18, 10:20 PM
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    PasturesNew
    From your plan/deeds: It won't mention the wall if there's nothing to pay for the wall. Those deeds are just saying the path/steps have to always be available for people to use them.... so, on first looks... it looks like the bit of wall in front of your house is yours to sort out... ditto the other owners as/when they fancy getting round to it.

    Of course, you'd get a better price if it were all done at the same time, but if some can't/won't, then it looks like that might be that.

    Your bit of wall, your bill... and while you're at it, don't block the path your rubble, there's a good chap.
    • G_M
    • By G_M 6th Jul 18, 4:01 AM
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    G_M
    . looks like we each own our section of wall rather than everyone having liability for the entire wall as previously thought:
    CORRECT

    https://ibb.co/dszuhJ

    The exact wording on our land registry says:

    "(01.03.1963) The Freehold land shown edged with ref RED?on the plan of the above Title filed at the Registry and being (our address).

    The land has the benefit of a right of way over the passageway tinted brown on the filed plan subject to the payment of a proportionate part of the expense of keeping the same in repair and properly cleansed and a right of way over the pavement or terrace and the steps leading thereto tinted yellow on the filed plan subject to the payment of a fair proportionate part of the expense of keeping the said payment or terrace and steps in repair and properly cleansed."

    Quite a wordy sentence which doesn't shed much light; it mentions the steps and passageway but not actually the wall!
    Sheds perfect light.
    That section of the wall that forms the boundary to your property (edged in [red?) of the Plan, is yours.
    The passagway is not yours, but you have certain obligations ( to clean/maintain it).
    Originally posted by emma_spaghetti
    I agree with others that 30K for the entire wall seems a lot. If it were built with expensive stone, and were high as well as long, maybe. But that....?

    Irrespective, it is only your section that needs concern you. And by building a piller of some kind at each end of your section, you can protect it from being damaged if the neighbouring section were to collapse.

    Worry about your wall, not the other 8 people's.
    • casper_g
    • By casper_g 6th Jul 18, 6:13 AM
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    casper_g
    Sheds perfect light.
    That section of the wall that forms the boundary to your property (edged in [red?) of the Plan, is yours.
    The passagway is not yours, but you have certain obligations ( to clean/maintain it).

    I agree with others that 30K for the entire wall seems a lot. If it were built with expensive stone, and were high as well as long, maybe. But that....?

    Irrespective, it is only your section that needs concern you. And by building a piller of some kind at each end of your section, you can protect it from being damaged if the neighbouring section were to collapse.

    Worry about your wall, not the other 8 people's.
    Originally posted by G_M
    I understood this rather differently - the "passageway" runs along the rear of the houses (brown on the plan) and the "pavement or terrace" runs along the front. The passageway is irrelevant to the OP's question, as this is about the "pavement or terrace" at the front.

    Each house owns its own section of each of the "pavement or terrace" but has a right of way over the sections owned by other properties. The wall in question is is between the normal public pavement and the privately-owned "pavement or terrace" over which each property has a right of way. The "pavement or terrace" is higher than the pavement - hence the need for the steps!

    The wall is not a simple boundary wall but also the retaining wall that keeps the "pavement or terrace" in place. This is relevant for understanding why the wall is expensive to rebuild/replace and why the failure of a section is likely to have a serious impact on the adjacent sections and significant liability implications.
    • G_M
    • By G_M 6th Jul 18, 9:20 AM
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    G_M
    Ah! I thought the wall was at the back (brown on the Plan). Hadn't checked the photos. Yes as a retaining wall it would be more costly.

    Like pinklady below, I think there now seem 3 possible interpretations:

    1) the wall, which is excluded from the Deeds description ("the said payment or terrace and steps ") belongs to and is therefore the responsibility of the council.

    2) Though it could also be argued that collapse of the wall would damage the terrace which IS the property owners' responsibility.

    3) the wall may fall within the property boundary (red on the Plan) so be the property owner's responsibility.

    One for a specialist lawyer I think.
    Last edited by G_M; 06-07-2018 at 9:35 AM.
    • pinklady21
    • By pinklady21 6th Jul 18, 9:22 AM
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    pinklady21
    Hmm. I wonder whether this boundary wall is indeed actually owned by the house owners at all. The red line on the plan seems to run over the yellow area, but inside the boundary.
    While the scale of the plan may be the issue there, if the deeds say nothing about the wall, nor who maintains the boundaries, I wonder if it is the neighbouring landowner on the other side?
    Has it been adopted by the Council?
    Is that why they are taking an interest?
    I must caveat by saying I am not a lawyer.....but I think you need to consult one. What did your conveyancer tell you about the maintenance of the boundaries when you purchased?
    Why do you think you own this wall?
    Why do you think you are responsible for maintaining it?

    Do you have legal protection cover with your house insurance? Ask them if they can help.
    Are you in Scotland? Here, we have something called "Statutory Notices", whereby if the owners cannot agree to a common repair, the council, can for a fee, step in , carry out the works and bill each owner for their share.
    Have to establish ownership and responsibility first though.
    Let us know how you get on - and best of luck.
    • emma_spaghetti
    • By emma_spaghetti 6th Jul 18, 9:30 AM
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    emma_spaghetti
    I understood this rather differently - the "passageway" runs along the rear of the houses (brown on the plan) and the "pavement or terrace" runs along the front. The passageway is irrelevant to the OP's question, as this is about the "pavement or terrace" at the front.

    Each house owns its own section of each of the "pavement or terrace" but has a right of way over the sections owned by other properties. The wall in question is is between the normal public pavement and the privately-owned "pavement or terrace" over which each property has a right of way. The "pavement or terrace" is higher than the pavement - hence the need for the steps!

    The wall is not a simple boundary wall but also the retaining wall that keeps the "pavement or terrace" in place. This is relevant for understanding why the wall is expensive to rebuild/replace and why the failure of a section is likely to have a serious impact on the adjacent sections and significant liability implications.
    Originally posted by casper_g
    Thank you casper_g, you've hit the nail on the head the row of houses also sit up against the footpath hence the price tag.
    • moneyistooshorttomention
    • By moneyistooshorttomention 6th Jul 18, 10:03 AM
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    moneyistooshorttomention
    I've just gone back and re-read that legal wording and...yep..I'm interpreting it as the 9 houses just own the steps and passageway. The wall itself doesn't seem to be mentioned.

    I'm wondering if OP thinks the wall is in the ownership of those 9 houses because of something like someone verbally describing it as "our wall" and/or someone (wrongly) thinking it's owned by the houses.

    I agree with the others - that I'd start now by finding if the wall really IS in the ownership of those 9 houses or no. If it isn't - then it does look like it's the Council's responsibility to repair it and the Council that would be liable if it falls onto anyone's head.

    I would have interpreted your title plan as "I own my bit of the passageway (with everyone else having ROW over it) - as the red line is inside the line that constitutes the wall. I don't own the wall".
    Last edited by moneyistooshorttomention; 06-07-2018 at 10:06 AM.
    No (Brexit) deal = no big deal #shrugs and leave anyway

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    • elsien
    • By elsien 6th Jul 18, 10:11 AM
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    elsien
    Are all the houses owner occupied? just wondering if the lack of response is because any tenants aren't interested and the landlords are'nt aware of your letters?
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
    • moneyistooshorttomention
    • By moneyistooshorttomention 6th Jul 18, 11:20 AM
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    moneyistooshorttomention
    But OP hasnt found out yet whether this wall really is owned/therefore the responsibility of the 9 houses.

    That's the first step imo.

    To be honest, I'm a little surprised that's not already been checked - as one of the first things I did re a nearby wall was to establish "not on my title plan/not mentioned in my deeds as my responsibility = nowt to do with me #shrugs", though I've every suspicion it will come down at some point...but it's owned by someone else....
    No (Brexit) deal = no big deal #shrugs and leave anyway

    These boots are made for walkin' and that's just what they'll do....
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