Homeowner wins right of way dispute over meter readings

A homeowner has won the right to walk over her neighbour’s land to inspect her gas and electricity meters and maintain her property.

The case involved two detached houses separated by a driveway.

The meters for 96 were set into the wall that was built along the boundary with 98. The driveway ran beside the wall on 98's side.

The legal documents for 96 contained two rights in the owner's favour.

Paragraph 3 provided the right "to erect and maintain ... gutters and downspouts” over 98’s driveway.

Paragraph 4 provided the right "to enter with workmen, tools and materials on adjoining land to carry out maintenance, repair and decoration”.

The owners of 98 argued that these rights did not extend to walking on their driveway merely to inspect the meters or check if maintenance work was required.

The Court of Appeal ruled against them. It held that it would be absurd if there were no right to inspect the property. The owner of 96 should not have to wait until damp had penetrated to her interior walls before seeing whether the wall required repair, nor was it right to say that the property could be inspected from the road.

The court accepted that maintenance, repair and decoration of a house did not obviously include reading its meters. However, the developer had positioned the meters on the boundary wall.

It could not have been the intention that the purchaser of 96 would be unable to read the meters. That would be absurd. Even if a right of access to read the meters was not spelt out, it was implicit.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or if you would like advice about resolving neighbour disputes.