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Access to neighbouring land

The wall of our property backs on to our neighbour's courtyard. We have planning consent for a window in this wall, but our neighbours insist that it be installed from inside our property. Our deeds say we have "full right and liberty at all reasonable times to enter upon (next door's) land for the purpose of repairing, maintaining or renewing the boundary wall". If we cannot go on to their land, will we always require permission for access? We are told by the neighbours that we have to give at least seven days' notice and that they will give us just two hours of access each time, but only for maintenance work.

There are two possible rights you may have in this case, but I do not think either will allow you to go into the courtyard to install a new window. First, your deeds give you the right to go into your neighbour's courtyard to repair, maintain or renew the boundary wall. Unless the wall is falling down, this will not include any right to improve the wall by putting in a new window. Such a non-essential improvement goes beyond what the courts will normally hold to be a "repair" or a "renewal". Your express right is therefore no good to you for this purpose.

Secondly, the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 2002 allows you to make an application to the court for an access order to enable you to carry out certain works on your land. Unfortunately the rights are framed in similar terms to the deeds. To get an access order you will have to show a need to undertake "maintenance, repair or renewal" of your own buildings. A new window is unlikely to qualify.

Once the new window is installed, it becomes part of the wall. Both your express rights and the 1992 Act will then allow you into the courtyard to maintain the window.

"Reasonable" access means access that is objectively reasonable to both sides. Your neighbour will not be able to dictate specific times and dates simply to stop you from exercising your rights. It will be a question of balancing the disruption to your neighbours against what is needed to carry out any works.

If the neighbours continue to be obstructive, you can go to court to get an injunction or invoke the procedures under the 1992 Act.

This is a lot of trouble for one window, so the best advice is always to try to sort things out with your neighbours instead.

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