Real Estate

Farmer’s hay bales block our view

We had a falling out with the farmer next door over a parking space. I thought we had resolved the matter amicably but now I see he’s built an enormous wall of hay bales along the border of his land. It completely blocks our views. We are sure he has done this out of spite, although he’s saying his hay has always been stored there. Surely, he can’t do this — the views are one of the main reasons why we paid so much for our house in the first place.

Unfortunately, there may be little you can do. English law does not recognise a legal right to “a view or prospect”. But it may be worth checking your deeds just in case the farmer’s land is subject to a restrictive covenant which prevents him putting up structures close to your boundary or outside a defined area. You might also check with your local planning authority in case the “wall” infringes planning regulations.

But it is making it very dark in our ground-floor rooms — we need to have the lights on all day.

You may be on stronger ground here. As long as your windows and doors have been in the same place for the past 20 years, you may have a right to light (“ancient lights”). If the reduction in the light coming in to your rooms means that you cannot use them comfortably during the day without artificial lighting, you may be entitled to an injunction and damages.

But what if the hay rots down in the autumn? The wall could topple into our garden. Or what if it catches fire if some of the local lads think it’s a good place to have a smoke? We’ve only just finished putting up an expensive shed where I’m intending to write my memoirs.

Again, you are on stronger ground here. If someone puts something on his land which is “likely to do mischief if it escapes” then he is liable for any damage it causes. So you might be able to get an injunction requiring him to remove it to avoid that happening.

Andrew Hindle is a Senior Associate in the Property team at Boodle Hatfield

Extending a lease under probate

My mother died last month. As an executor under her will I am selling her flat. However, I’ve just found out the lease has only 10 years to run. Is there anything I can do to maximise the value or the marketability of the property?

Provided that your mother owned the flat for at least two years before her death and two years have not elapsed since the grant of probate, as her personal representative you can exercise the right to extend the lease by a further 90 years, if you wish.

Great. How much will it cost?

You should seek specialist valuation advice regarding the cost of extending the lease. But you should be warned that, as the lease has fallen under 80 years, you will be liable to pay so-called “marriage value”. Marriage value is the increase in the value of the property following completion of the lease extension, which reflects the additional market value of the longer lease.

But the flat is in central London — the increase in value could run into the hundreds of thousands! I don’t want to pay that amount only to sell it on. Is there nothing else I could do?

If you do not want to fund the lease extension, an alternative would be to market the property on the basis that upon exchange of contracts you will serve the notice of claim to extend and then assign the benefit of the claim to the purchaser. This will be of considerable value to the purchaser who otherwise would have to wait two years following the purchase of the flat before being able to serve the notice to extend the lease. By this time, the lease will have shortened by a further two years and the cost of extending the lease will have increased considerably.

Amanda McNeil is a Partner and Head of real estate litigation at Howard Kennedy

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