Too big a break

Our lawyer Fiona McNulty looks at the issue of a dispute between neighbours regarding an overlapping balcony
Balcony dispute cartoon
© Malcolm Willett (
Question: My house is in a conservation area. In 1999, my neighbours trespassed on my property, damaged a mature wisteria, then damaged my garage and erected a balcony that rests on my property.

The council said building plans were passed but my solicitor asked the neighbour to remove the balcony or compensate me. Nothing happened and I ran out of money for solicitors.

The house has changed hands and the new owner is not interested in my concerns. The balcony is now derelict and rotting and I fear I will have difficulties selling my house. What can I do?

Answer: I am sorry to say that there is not an easy solution. You did the right thing in contacting a solicitor at the time but, since more than six years have now passed, the Limitations Act will prevent you from taking further action (although the court has discretion on this).

At the time, an injunction or claim for damages could have been pursued but you would have incurred costs that may or may not have been recoverable from your neighbour. The best approach in these kinds of matters is to come to an agreement with the neighbour but this has failed.

I think the best thing you can do now is to make your property as presentable as possible, screen the balcony if you can (with furniture, a screen or pot plant) and go ahead with your sale. Your estate agent may be able to give further advice about presenting the property.

Anyone in similar circumstances should, at the outset, see if the Citizens Advice Bureau can help.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors

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