Before the building owner starts work he must serve one or more notices on the “adjoining owner”. But who are they? The neighbours, right? Well yes, but it is not necessarily that simple
“Adjoining owner” is defined in section 20 of the 1996 Act as “any owner … of buildings, storeys, or room adjoining those of the building owner”. So far, so good. But what is meant by “owner”?[pullquote_right]If an adjoining owner is missed they might apply for an injunction stopping the works…[/pullquote_right]
Obviously the owners of adjoining leases and tenancies of longer than a year and owners of adjoining freeholds are included. In addition, the term “owner” includes the following.
A person who receives, or is entitled to receive, the whole or a part of the rent.
A person in receipt of rent is not just the landlord. For example, it is common with leasehold flats for the management company to be a party to the lease and to be entitled to receive the rents. They are therefore adjoining owners. It might also include the landlord’s managing agent, if they are “entitled” to receive the rent.
A person who is in possession of land
(i.e. a tenant) unless their tenancy is for a term of a year or less, or a tenant at will, or they are a mortgage company that has taken possession of the land. This might include licensees or lodgers, depending on the terms of their agreements, and might, at least in theory, include a squatter.
A person who has entered into a contract to purchase the adjoining owners’ land.
Locating all of the adjoining owners and ensuring they receive notice of the works can be quite tricky. The person serving the notice, usually the building owner’s solicitor or surveyor, should therefore undertake a number of enquiries before doing so.
- Obtain an official copy of the register from the Land Registry for each of the neighbouring freeholds, and where there are leases, a copy of the entry for each lease;
- If the official copy of a lease shows that there is a management company then obtain a copy of the lease. This will show whether the management company is entitled to receive the rent;
- Ask the tenants of any adjoining leasehold for a copy of their last rent or service charge demand. This will usually contain a notice under section 47 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 at which the tenant is to pay rent. This will give you the contact details of the landlord’s agents;
- Write to the owners of the freeholds and leases of each property and ask them who is in occupation of their land, and on what terms; and
- Search the Day List at the Land Registry. This will tell you if there are any potential purchasers.
It is important that any potential adjoining owners are served with the required notices in good time before the works are due to commence. If an adjoining owner is missed they might apply for an injunction stopping the works until they are served with a notice, or they may issue a claim for damages.