Q. Several years ago my neighbour built an extension at the back of his property. The wall of the extension comes within a couple feet of my boundary fence. Do you think this may affect the value of my house? I don't think he got planning permission, so is it true that after a while the structure becomes legal anyway?
A. It is not possible for me to comment on the possible effect of your neighbour's extension on saleability. You will need to speak to a reputable local estate agent or qualified surveyor. Such extensions are not uncommon. There are three things that the extension should probably have complied with:
1. The Party Wall Act. This requires prior notice to a neighbour of all structures affecting the boundary structures and/or excavations within specified distances of an existing boundary structure. Unfortunately, the Act does not create a specific right of action where the requisite notice is not served.
2. Planning Acts. Unless the structure was permitted because of its size, planning consent would have been required. After four years, however, the council loses its right to take enforcement action.
3. Building regulations. Any extension, unless an exempted conservatory, must comply with building regulations.
Q. My wife and I separated some time ago and we agreed she would stay in the house with our young son. Now she wants her boyfriend to move in, which I'm not happy about. I don't want to force a sale but is there any other way I can get my money out of the house and my name off the mortgage without making my child homeless?
A. In principle, there is no reason why your wife and new partner cannot look to remortgage the property in their joint names and "buy out" your share of the property. In practice, this will depend upon their joint-income capacity and ability to secure a mortgage. More crucially, you will need to agree what your share of interest in the property is to be.
Where financial settlement agreements are made upon the breakdown of a marriage, factors such as income disparity, pension funds, savings, investments and debts must be taken into account. In many cases, this means that what's left in a house after the mortgage has been paid is not necessary shared equally. It sounds like you need to go through the figures with a specialist family lawyer to work out what you can reasonably expect to achieve.
What's your problem?
If you have a question for Ask the Expert email email@example.com. Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential estate team team at Thrings LLP (thrings.com)
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