When You Can and Cannot Erect Scaffolding on Other People’s Land
Know your obligations and rights when looking to erect scaffolding on a neighbour’s land and understand the differences between scaffolding for repairs and home improvements.
There are any number of stories and anecdotes from householders concerning difficulties with uncooperative neighbours. Encroaching on each others’ property boundaries has caused much raised blood pressure over the years, often exacerbated by people not fully understanding the law and regulations.
Scaffolding can cause disputes between neighbours – some builders say that scaffolding always causes problems with loft conversions, even when everybody is operating fully within the law. In order to access the property being worked on, sometimes there’s no other option than to erect some of it on a neighbouring property. In these situations an understanding of regulations depending on the type of work being undertaken is very important.
Renovations, Repairs or Improvements?
The type of work being done largely determines the scaffolding situation regarding a neighbour’s property.
Repairs and renovations – for essential repairs and renovations it’s permissible to erect scaffolding on a neighbour’s land as long as notice is given. These have to be essential repairs.
Extensions or other improvement – for these it is not allowable to erect scaffolding on a neighbour’s land unless they expressly give permission.
Naturally, in both cases most property owners would likely appraise their neighbours of the situation and ask permission. Hopefully cooperation would prevail and permission given – but it would be important to show the neighbours exactly what the proposed work is.
In the case of repairs and renovations, it could well be the case that your neighbours stand to benefit if the next door property is being repaired and would be only too pleased to grant permission.
For extensions, the fact you may have secured planning permission wouldn’t give you the right to erect scaffolding on the neighbour’s property even it was proven as vital to carry out the work successfully. You’ll have to hope the neighbours are agreeable, and may need to have a ‘contingency plan’ if they don’t agree to your original plan. For example, it may be possible for a revised or alternative design to alleviate the need for scaffolding on their property.
Access to Neighbouring Land Act
In the case of repairs and renovations, if your neighbour proves uncooperative you can invoke the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992. The court would require convincing as to the reasons for accessing a neighbour’s land; the basic requirement is ‘preservation’ of an existing structure as opposed to ‘improvement’ as with a new extension or loft conversion.
If access is granted by the court, then they’ll stipulate exactly what work is being undertaken, when it’s due to start and the completion date. Your neighbour would be entitled to request alternative timescales if they wish, and may be entitled to some compensation if you’re likely to cause any disruption or damage to their land or property.
Neighbour Concerns and Disputes
Neighbours often oppose scaffolding, even when it is not directly affecting them. Typical concerns include:
- Scaffolding will block my access
- Scaffolding will look unsightly
- Scaffolding may be dangerous and fall on my car
- Building debris or tools could fall from the scaffolding on to my property
In my case, a neighbour complained several times, with concerns that the scaffolding would block their property and damage their cars, even though the scaffold poles were wholly on my land – they even moved their cars to my border so that the wing mirrors overhand the edge of their driveway, in an attempt to stop the scaffold going up. So, sometimes neighbours complain for no real reason – they just don’t want to see it there!
Ensure you or your builders engage a reputable scaffolder. They’ll be familiar with scaffolding regulations, but you’re obliged to ensure they’re adhered to. They should also have a scoffolder’s insurance policy that provides public liability insurance as well as insurance against damage to your property and neighbouring properties. A scaffolder also needs to hold the necessary licence to erect the scaffolding, and insurance must be in place to get it – Essex County Council says that you need to have £10 million public liability insurance to apply for a licence.
An experienced scaffolder will know how to erect scaffolding that causes as little intrusion and disruption as possible. If your neighbours realise you’re using true professionals they’re more likely to cooperate with you. However, even if you do use a good scaffolding firm, sometimes neighbours will still complain, raise concerns about the risk of damage to their property, and even tell you that your scaffolding spoils their view! My builder says that scaffolding is the biggest headache in any job, and once it is sorted, the rest of the job is usually plain sailing!