It is well known that flat dwelling is not always free from strife, but few disagreements are likely to be as bitter as that between neighbours in a Central London apartment block after one of them carried out radical alterations which caused extensive damage to the flat upstairs.
The owner of the downstairs apartment (flat A) had given no notice to the upstairs tenants of flat B before builders arrived and stripped out the walls and ceiling of his apartment. A steel beam was inserted and a metal frame attached to the underside of the floor joists of the flat above.
The work caused serious damage to the floor and walls of flat B and ‘considerable disturbance’ to the upstairs tenants in the form of noise and dust. A judge later ruled that the owner of flat A had caused a nuisance and trespassed on his neighbours’ property and ordered him to pay them £87,627 in damages.
The owner of flat A challenged that decision, arguing that, on a correct interpretation of his long lease, he had been entitled to raise his ceiling into the void between the two apartments. In the alternative, he claimed that the award of compensation to his neighbours was excessive.
However, in dismissing his complaints, the Court of Appeal noted that the void between the apartments had been designed to muffle noise and inhibit the spread of fire. The owner of flat A had ‘in effect carried out a land grab by raising the ceiling of his flat’ into a part of the building that had not been demised to him.
He also had no right to enter his neighbours’ apartment to temporarily turn off their gas supply so that he could move a pipe and meter for aesthetic reasons. Ordering the owner of flat A to pay substantial legal costs, the Court found that the award of damages had been carefully based on the expert and factual evidence.