Ask the expert: Your sister can reverse the costs of getting her friend's car towed

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Question: More than a year ago, my sister agreed verbally to allow a friend to leave the car he was "restoring" on her driveway.

Despite repeated requests to remove the vehicle he has refused to do so. The Citizens Advice Bureau, the Local Council and the police have all said they cannot help. Can she arrange for the car (untaxed and unroadworthy) to be towed off her property? Who would be liable?

Answer: It depends upon the terms of the original agreement between your sister and her friend. If the friend did not pay any money to your sister, the car was probably kept on her land under the terms of a licence.

As soon as your sister withdraws her consent then the car may constitute trespass and she is entitled to sue for her damages arising from the trespass, such as towing costs.

She should write to her friend asking him to remove the car by a given date, providing reasonable notice and specifying that if the car is not removed by that given date she will cause the car to be removed and claim her costs from him.

Should that become necessary, she should obtain, say, three quotes for its removal and choose the cheapest (because she has a duty to minimise her costs). The friend can then be sued in the Small Claims Court if he fails to pay her.

Question: We are buying a house with an adjoining two-acre field on which the sellers have grazed sheep. We want to buy our daughter a pony, which we would keep there and build some jumps for her to practice on. The sellers say that we may need planning permission – are they right?

Answer: Yes. Planning permission will be necessary, as this will be treated as development, because there will be a material change in the use of the land. The current use will be "agriculture", which under planning legislation includes the breeding and keeping of livestock (for the production of food or using in the farming of land) and the use of the land as grazing land.

If your daughter's pony were only to be kept on the field for the primary purpose of grazing, the use would still be "agriculture" and there would then be no change of use and no requirement for planning permission. But even if you do not erect jumps, your intended use of the field goes beyond grazing and there will be a material change in the way the field will be used.

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