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I have just moved in to a new (to me. 6 years old) house and have yet to meet the neighbors. I have since noticed my inside garage wall was damp. Inspecting outside the dampness was caused by the neighbor having built up the ground level with a patio. Rectifying this would involve ensuring a gap between the neighbors patio and my garage wall above the damp proof course.

I live in the UK. It's a small patio that would require one row of slabs lifting, cutting digging out their sub base and relaying the row of shorter slabs. I'm aware I could probably pursue it legally, but I'd rather ask nicely first to avoid 'falling out' with them Sooner rather than later would be best.

How can I ask my new neighbor to rectify this without causing hostility towards me?

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I agree with Astralbee on that you should know your rights - and the limit of them. But I propose a different negotiation strategy.

In the first meeting, I would introduce myself, get to know my neighbor, have a nice smalltalk and build as much of a rapport with them as I could. You know how important first impressions are. I would mention the damp in my garage, maybe even ask if the former owner ever talked about it, but don't propose any way to rectify it. And don't even mention that the cause of the problen lies on their property. Even stated objectively, it could (subconciously) be interpreted as blaming or attacking your neighbour.

This first mention gives your neighbor time to think about the problem. Maybe theiy know about the cause and feel guilty, maybe they don't care. But since you did not put the blame on them, they can at least think objectively about it.

Then, a few days later, talk to your neighbour again. First have some smalltalk again, to get into a light and friendly mood. Then mention that you found the cause of the damp. Ask your neighbour if he would be okay with your idea of rectifying the problem. Offer your help in replacing the slabs. Ask if they have another idea. Depending on how old the patio is, they might have plans to replace it in the future. Maybe they can speed up those plans. Give your reasons why you want to address the problem as soon as possible, like

Once the autumn rain sets in, it will only get worse. And in winter the damp could do real damage. Besides, I would want to work on the patio as long as the weather is mild.

It's important to ask them for their ideas and willingness to work on a solution instead of pushing your ideas on them. That way they feel at least somewhat in control of the situation, even if they are legally bound to rectify the patio.

However, if they show no interest in helping you, please consult Astralbees answer for a perfect response.

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Totally understand that you want to pursue this interpersonally before anything legal. However, no matter what your approach is, I strongly recommend that you properly understand your legal position before you approach them. Even if you don't want to "get legal" with them in your opening gambit, you really don't know how they will respond to it and you might need to fall back on your legal position. In my opinion (and based on experience of very similar situations) the worst thing is not necessarily your neighbour refusing to act - they may offer a solution that is not adequate to you.

For your introduction, go over there and say:

Hi, I'm your new neighbour, my name is Mark, my family are etc etc.

Properly introduce yourself before you get to business. Allow them to respond. Ask their name if they don't give it, remember it, and use it during the rest of the conversation - using someone's name when you are on good terms is a sign you are interested in them; but when someone is not interested in being helpful using their name can show you mean business and will follow up your words with actions. No matter what happens, using their name will send the right message.

Go on to say:

Sorry to come to you with a problem on our first meeting, but I've found some damp in my garage and it looks like it is being caused by your patio blocking the damp course.

Make sure you speak of the damp problem in the present tense (ie it "is being caused by" and not in the past like it is historic).

Now, for whatever happens next you need to be in the know legally speaking.

I am not an expert in the law, but your legal position covers at least the following:

  • If any space/land/driveways between your property are "shared" your title deeds will outline what your access rights are and may well also detail what you can/can't do on it (eg build a patio on it). Property doesn't have to be leasehold to include conditions like this - freehold properties that are close together often do too, especially where paths/driveways join.
  • Even if there is no "shared" land, where properties join neighbours have to grant reasonable access to one another for the purpose of repairing your own property. "Reasonable", or whatever similar word is used in law, just means you can't march onto the property and start work, you have to let them know and have some flexibility on timing.

Because you bought the property in this condition, I'm not sure if legally you can ask them to fix it and pay for it. If they are super-nice neighbours and they offer to do just that - happy days! But obviously the work has to be completed to a standard you are happy with, so be cautious about what you accept. Ask to see a detailed quotation for the work so that you know what is being done and by whom.

But, even if they don't feel like they should pay to fix it (and I don't know that they are obliged to, you'd have to ask a solicitor), you are at least legally entitled to access their property and carry out whatever work needed to fix your problem, and that doesn't include fixing up their patio to their preferred standard. So your neighbour may well be faced with a decision - do they pay to fix your damp course and make sure their patio is made good along with it, or do they allow you to rip up their patio in order to fix your damp course, leaving their patio in goodness knows what state?

Get some proper advice on this first, but I think that is the position your neighbour will be in. So if they refuse to do anything for you, just say:

Okay, well I didn't expect you to pay to repair my property, but I must get access for my workmen to access my damp course via your property. That will mean digging up whatever part of your patio is blocking it. I'll get some quotes for the work and then we can discuss a convenient time for them to carry out the work.

Then leave politely. This will give your neighbour time to think about it. They will likely reason as I have above - that it may be in their best interest to be involved in the work.

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    Being just in the process of installing a patio in my garden, I had the joy of looking at the legal aspects as well. A patio must have sufficient drainage. I'll have some area on each side of my home, which cannot extend to the wall with the neighbours. (Also cannot extend to my home). There is about 15 cm each side for drainage. The larger area has to be slightly sloped and it will run off into the grass. Not doing these things is unprofessional for a builder, and illegal. – gnasher729 Jul 2 '18 at 19:47
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    Most of this seems to just be telling the OP what to do. Can you edit this to explain more of the logic behind choosing these particular set of actions? – sphennings Jul 3 '18 at 14:04
  • @sphennings although my answer is lengthy, a lot of it is preamble about his possible legal rights which he needs to be armed with in advance of the discussion. I only give two prompted approaches and I feel I have adequately explained why I suggest it. Also, it meets the OP's criteria of ask his new neighbor to rectify it without causing hostility towards him, so of all the possible approaches I don't feel that one which meets that request needs further explanation. – Astralbee Jul 4 '18 at 11:30
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How can I ask my new neighbour to rectify this without causing hostility towards me?

Contrary to the other answers, I think that (as a fallback to being provoked or not) anyone bringing up the law to insist their new neighbours do work on/pay for/change something that has likely been there for a while is one of the surest ways to create hostility.

As someone who lives in a somewhat rural residential area, neighbours and neighbourly relations is a big part of my day to day and there is nothing more dividing that you could do than knock on your new neighbour's front door and demand they pay for a new patio. It may be within your rights, and you may have the law backing you up but in my experience no matter how you put it it will downright ruin any future relationship you could have with your neighbours and that is a lot more costly than some damp if you ask me.

Although I disagree on falling back to the law, I do agree with the other answers suggestion to try and build a relationship with them first. For me, neighbourly etiquette is that it's totally fine to ask them if they wouldn't mind fixing the patio if you have a relationship with them. Just common interactions, waving as you leave for work, introducing yourself to the neighbourhood, chatting if you see them doing yard work, doing favours when they would clearly be appreciated and the like are some good ways to build up a relationship. Inviting them over for dinner is the big one if you are up for it. If you don't have a relationship with them then I would push towards just making them aware and trying to bring it up in a way that doesn't sound accusatory. Then once you have asked/pointed it out it is in their hands. If they respond stubbornly or make it clear that they have no intention of fixing the patio then I would ask myself which is more important because I do not think you will be able to have a good relationship with them if your early interactions are all legal battles.

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