Is our neighbour going up a blind alley?

Our lawyer, Fiona McNulty advises how to check the title deeds of a property to determine legal access rights among neighbours
Legal cartoon
© Merrily Harpur
Question: We have an alley that runs from the road along the back of 12 houses, including ours. A new person has moved in and wants to start driving his car down the alley to get to a garage at the bottom of his garden.

A few of the houses still have garages but they haven’t been used for years as the alley is tight and overgrown, and manoeuvring into a garage would be tricky. Can he do this after all these years?

Answer: Yes, he can — if he has a right to do so in his title deeds. Look at your title deeds to see whether you have a right to use it on foot only, or with vehicles. As some of the houses have garages, even if they haven’t been used for a while, that suggests that the alleyway has at some time been used for the passage of vehicles. If you have a right of way in your title deeds, then it is likely to follow that your neighbour will have, too.

If ownership of the alley is not known and is not obvious from your title deeds, a search can be made of the index map at the Land Registry to see whether the alley is registered there.

If it is registered, then an official copy of the register of title can be obtained and any user rights can be considered. You could also obtain an official copy of the register of title relating to your neighbour’s property to determine what rights he has.

Even if ownership of the alley is unknown because it is not registered at the Land Registry, that doesn’t mean that your neighbour does not have a right to use it. When he bought the property, his solicitor may have obtained a statutory declaration from the seller confirming the rights which the seller had used during his period of ownership.

I am sure that if someone owns the alley and discovers that your new neighbour is using it without authority, that owner will take steps to prevent him from so doing. Indeed, it sounds as though the alley needs to be cleared before anyone can use it.

What's your problem?


If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP (www.thrings.com).

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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