Consumer rights: Can we stop our neighbour's building plans
What to do about construction noise, disruption and loss of light?...Do employees' have rights after taking time off sick
Sunday 18 April 2010
Q. About 12 families live in our small development. The houses are all close and one of our neighbours is planning to build another floor on to their house. The rest of us are all worried about the noise and disruption the building work will cause and we're also concerned that we'll be left with big bills for cleaning the dust and cement off our windows, walls and paintwork.
Apart from that, the house in question will be much bigger than the rest and look out of place. Some of us objected to the local council when the neighbour originally applied for planning permission, but we were ignored and we weren't successful in appealing.
However – we can still stop the building going ahead. Although planning permission has been granted, all the owners belong to the management company which owns the freehold of the flats and houses. The management company has to give written permission before the work goes ahead. There's a meeting coming up next month to discuss this. Do you think we should just say no?
Name and address withheld
A. Neighbour disputes are always difficult. What are you really objecting to? You have to be careful not to make unreasonable objections, and unreasonable is hard to define. Mind you, your neighbour shouldn't be unreasonable either.
You need to think this through carefully, and if you are determined to object, make sure you're on solid ground – take advice from a solicitor with specialist knowledge of property and planning. If there are a dozen of you involved, you could split the cost and even pay for an experienced solicitor to be at the meeting. Someone in the group may already have a solicitor who is up to the job.
It might be reasonable to refuse permission for the extra floor to be built if, in some way, you would lose out financially because of it. But it would have to a significant loss. Could it cause the value of your homes to go down? But also consider that having a bigger house on the development might attract buyers with more money and push up the desirability of the development?
Even if the extra storey would cut out some of your light, that's not likely to be a good enough reason to withhold permission. If you're just worried that the months of work will be inconvenient, that may not be enough of a reason to say no either. What will this cost you? If there are likely to be cleaning bills, calculate how much they'll cost each neighbour. You could ask at the meeting that the person who wants the extension pays for those expenses and pays for any other cleaning around the development that needs doing to restore it to its original condition after the builders have left. When it comes to noise and disruption, usually builders can only work between 8am and 6pm, Mondays to Fridays and between 8am and 1pm on Saturdays, but check what your local authority by-laws say.
If you do withhold permission, your neighbour may take the view that it's unreasonable and take court action. That leaves everyone facing court and lawyers' fees, which you want to avoid if at all possible.
The most important thing is not to ruin good neighbourly relationships. You all have to go on living together, run the management company and agree how to resolve any future problems that crop up. Don't forget that, if you decide to sell, you'd have to let any potential buyer know if you were in dispute with your neighbour. Go to the meeting well-informed and with your objections – but have suggestions as to how the objections can be surmounted. It might be possible to negotiate that work starts later and finishes earlier and never on a Saturday, for instance. Good legal advice now may save you a lot of money in the long run.
Q. I've been off work for the past six weeks after a serious operation and the doctor says I won't be ready to go back for another month or maybe two. My boss has been OK about it up until now, but yesterday he called and told me that he'd stop my wages if I'm not back to work by the beginning of May. Can he do that? I'm worried I won't be able to pay the bills.
A. Without seeing your written terms and conditions of employment, it's hard to know exactly what your entitlement to sick pay is. At the very least, you are likely to be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP – the minimum amount set by the Government), but employers can be more generous.
If your employer has paid your full wages until now and is willing to carry on for another two weeks, he is being more generous than the law requires. The details of his company sick pay scheme should be in your contract. You should have a copy and that may tell you what you need to know.
Some employers pay only the SSP set down by the Government. Some pay full wages for the first few weeks of illness and then reduce it to half-pay or right down to the SSP level. My guess is that when your boss said he'd stop your pay what he meant was that your contract allows for you to get full pay for the first eight weeks of illness and after that it drops to the SSP level.
There are rules about who can and can't qualify for SSP sick pay, but if you're an employee rather than working on a self-employed basis, earn more than the lower earnings limit, which is £97 from 6 April 2010, and haven't already had 28 weeks of SSP from your employer in the past three years, you're likely to qualify. That means that you will go on getting £79.15 a week for the rest of the time you're off as long as that doesn't exceed 28 weeks. The money will be paid to you by your employer.
That may not sound like good news. Most of us spend what we earn, so it's likely that your bills and spending comes to more than £79 a week. Whether you are entitled to additional help in paying for mortgage interest, rent or council tax depends on whether you have a partner who is earning, how much in total is coming into the household and how many children you have.
If, for some reason, you aren't entitled to SSP, or you are still unable to work when the 28 weeks are up, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance.
My suggestion is to make an appointment to see an adviser at your nearest advice centre such as the Citizens Advice Bureau. If you're not well enough to go, perhaps your partner could go, taking all the paper work, including your work contract. Failing that, you might be able to arrange for a home visit. You'll find details of advice centres in your phone book.
Do you need a financial makeover?
Write to Julian Knight at the Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF email@example.com
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
How couples can protect their financial interests when cohabiting
Money alert: Overdrafts at HSBC and First Direct
'Dismal' eurozone data sparks concerns
How to protect your assets if the stock markets begin to head south again
Child Maintenance Service to replace Child Support Agency - but is it better?
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
- 4 Kajieme Powell: Missouri police release video footage of second man killed by officers
- 5 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
iJobs Money & Business
£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading Financial Services orga...
£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...
£55000 - £65000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Technical Cons...
£525 - £585 per day: Orgtel: Lead Business Analyst - Investment Banking - Lond...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony