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Owners of property to rear of mine removed its roof - resulting in mould on my wall. What can I do?

The new owners removed the roof two years ago, leaving the other side of the end wall exposed to the elements

Twenty-five years ago, I built a conservatory on to the rear of my house, extending it right up to a warehouse, which now acts as the end wall. The warehouse will be demolished soon, as the owners of the site have obtained planning permission for apartments. The new owners removed the roof two years ago, which means that the other side of the end wall is now exposed to the elements. Over the last few months dampness has been appearing on my side of the wall, with black spots and green mould appearing on the paintwork. Are the new owners responsible for this damage, given that the problem has only arisen since the roof was removed? I have tried to approach them, but they don’t want to know.

This is a frustrating situation. Dampness in your property is cause for significant concern. Finding a solution is also more challenging when other parties are involved, and you are unable to fully control the remedy. You extended with best intentions to maximise the size of your home and have enjoyed the use of the extension without issue until recently. The proposed apartment development may take several years to complete but your issue will not wait and needs to be addressed quickly.

The subject wall is a party structure as defined in the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009. The rights and obligations of adjoining owners is set out in detail in sections 43 to 47, including in respect of works carried out to the party structure.

A once-internal wall surface is now exposed to the elements due to the warehouse roof being removed. The warehouse is likely to have a single-leaf masonry wall. The nature of the damage, with black spots, suggests there is a combination of damp penetration and cold bridging occurring. This is likely most prevalent where drylining boards in your extension have been fixed with plaster dabs or fixing plugs to the wall. It is important to have an expert carry out a detailed inspection to record the defect and the effects the removal of the roof has had on the interior of your premises. This will fully establish the nature of the issue, the cause of it and determine practical solutions. A chartered building surveyor would be best placed to inspect and report on this matter.

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The next step is to ensure the neighbour is aware of the dampness and that it only occurred after the warehouse roof was removed. Although there has been a lack of willingness to engage to date, it’s probably worth trying one more time to contact the new owners. If they continue to refuse to engage, the next communication should be done via your solicitor, outlining details of the dampness and including a reference to the relevant legislation. This will make it clear to the neighbour that this is a serious problem – which only occurred after they undertook works which affected the party structure – and requires their prompt action. The neighbour’s contact details may be established via a search of the referenced planning application on the local authority website.

A meeting should be proposed between both parties at the property to discuss the problem and explore ways of agreeing and resolving the issue. Section (44) (2) of the Act puts an obligation on a building owner who carries out works to a party structure, subsequently causing the damage, to make good all damage and reimburse all reasonable costs and expenses in making good.

If a dispute arises, section 45 of the Act sets out the procedure whereby you may apply to the District Court for a works order. This works order will allow you to enter their site to execute works to resolve the issue. The court shall have regard to section 44 of the Act and may consider any other relevant circumstances. This may include the reimbursement of reasonable costs and expenses incurred because of the issue. You should obtain legal advice to guide you through this process.

Damian King is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

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