Nick Horton responds to a query regarding a neighbour’s actions. First published in The Times October 2014.
Q: Last year the house next to mine was purchased and the new owner embarked on a basement excavation and rebuild. Five months later the noise and vibrations are still horrendous, and I am extremely concerned about a crack that has recently appeared in the front of my house. Do I have recourse against any of this?
A: Firstly, it will be important to establish how serious your crack is and what other damage there is, which may not be visible. A building surveyor will be able to assess the nature of the problems, their likely cause, the required repair works and roughly what the repairs will cost.
Secondly, claims could then be brought either in negligence or in private nuisance, or (if the next door house is attached to yours or is sufficiently close) under the Party Wall etc Act 1996. These types of claim will be aimed at obtaining compensation to cover the cost of the necessary remedial works.
Thirdly, though, if you are more concerned about stopping your neighbour’s actions, then although you could seek an injunction as part of one of the actions described above (subject to meeting certain criteria) it may be more cost effective to see first whether the local authority will undertake the necessary enforcement – either via its environmental health department if the noise or vibration levels are beyond what is considered reasonable, or possibly via the planning enforcement team if your neighbour is in breach of any conditions forming part of his planning permission.