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Stuart J
Stuart J, Solicitor
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 22624
Experience:  PGD Law. 20 years legal profession, 6 as partner in High Street practice
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Our cottage is adjacent to our neighbours garden. The thatch

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Our cottage is adjacent to our neighbour's garden. The thatch overhangs their land and our services run under their land alongside our outer wall. We have always enjoyed unencumbered access for the purpose of maintenance, meter readings, window cleaning and the like. Following a change of ownership, the new neighbours have erected a locked gate, saying that we are to knock and gain their permission rather than continue to enjoy automatic access. We understand that there may be reference to an easement in one or both title deeds. Before spending a lot of money on solicitors to determine the legal situation, can you offer a brief comment on our rights, with and without any easement. Many thanks.
Hello, I am Law Denning and I am a practising solicitor in a High Street practice. I have been an expert on this website in UK law since 2008. During that time, as you appreciate, I have answered thousands of questions from satisfied users on a variety of subjects. Because we are all in practice with clients and court and other users, I might not always respond in minutes. Please bear with me in that case

It is my pleasure to try and assist you with this today. Please bear with me while I gather some further information from you in order for me to be able to advise you fully.

Unless I have all the facts that I need, my answer would not be accurate.

Have you checked your deeds on this point?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I have looked at some old documents relating to past transfers of our property but none seem to carry any reference to easements, rights of way or access. I imagine full details would be available from Land Registry but I am at a loss to know which documents to apply for.

I can give you
some general guidance. If you have enjoyed unhindered access WITHOUT CONSENT or
objection and not in secret for 20 years and can prove that, then regardless
what the deeds say, you have acquired in all probability a Prescriptive
Easement which enables you to carry on using the access.

The same thing
applies to the overhanging roof.

If you have
indeed acquired the right of access then any interference with that must be
substantial and I think it be very difficult for anyone to argue that a locked
gate was not a substantial interference. It is a pedestrian access, would be
sufficient for them to let you have a key.

You would have
had to use the access on a regular and frequent basis and not simply for the
odd bit of maintenance now and again.

Whether you have
acquired a prescriptive easement therefore comes down to how much use you
previously enjoyed and under what circumstances.

With regard to
access for maintenance which appears to be your main priority, the neighbours
are unable to refuse this and if they do, you are entitled to seek an
injunction under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act and ask the court to award
costs against the neighbour. You can do that for any access you require in
order to "preserve" your property.

The property is
presumably registered at the land registry and there may be references to
rights of way or easements or conveyances and without seeing the land registry
deeds, it is very difficult to know which documents you would need.

It would also be
worthwhile getting the neighbour's land registry title deeds which you can get
for 3 pounds here!ut/p/b1/04_SjzS0tDQwMTIxMjLXj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOKNjSxMDA1NjDwsjM3MDTxN3dyNDUNMjQ1MjPWDU_P0c6McFQH3SLFU/

as a general rule
you will need any transfers or conveyances referred to.

Once you have all
those, would probably be quicker to sit down with a solicitor who can, if
appropriate, write a strongly worded letter to the neighbour.

Does that answer
the question. Can I assist any further?

I am happy to
follow up any individual point you make

I am off-line
shortly until tomorrow but am generally online and off-line each day and most

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