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YOU AND THE LAW; QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: From feline rescue centre to neighbour's overgrown hedge.


What can I do about cat home?

A near neighbour has opened a cat rescue centre in her house. The person concerned is doing a good job but in the wrong place. The cats are over everyone's gardens, and one neighbour found one on her bed! The houses were built before the war, and the deeds say that none should be converted into a shop. But of course there were no cat rescue centres in those days.

AIf the neighbour has formally opened a cat rescue centre she should probably have applied for permission to the council's planning department for a "material change of use". You should alert the council to the situation and make known your objections.

It may well be however that the neighbour could argue that simply having cats is not a material change and she simply likes cats as pets. It would depend on factors such as how many cats she had at any one time, whether people were constantly coming and going, and whether any alterations have been made to the property to accommodate them.

Alternatively, having large numbers of cats may give rise to hygiene issues which could mean you could call in the council's environmental health officers. If the cats make a lot of noise this could possibly amount to a nuisance which would give you a claim against the neighbour.

Sinking feeling Q Our buildings insurers have refused to cover the cost of underpinning an extension to our house which is showing signs of subsidence.

They say the extension, which was put up 10 years ago, was built on soft ground. But the builders' work was checked by the council inspector, and the concrete footings were only poured when the ground was considered firm enough.

AIt sounds as though the builders encountered problems when your extension was first built. If the work was done properly and building regulations were followed then it is arguable that the insurers should pay for the work under the terms of the policy. Discuss with them the option of engaging an independent surveyor to assess the adequacy of the foundations.

If the surveyor finds in your favour then the insurers should pay out. It depends in part on the wording of the policy. You may find that other experts are required before a definite position can be established, for example a geotechnical survey. If the problems stem from defective workmanship and/or materials then you could claim against the builder.

No cash, no holiday Q My daughter-in-law works for a courier firm which is part of a franchise operation. She went up for the holiday pay she'd been promised, but her employer said he couldn't afford to pay her until the end of the week, which meant she couldn't afford to go away on holiday. Is there anything she can do about this?

AIt's unlawful for an employer to refuse or fail to pay wages, and the employee's remedy is to take the case to an employment tribunal. But assuming your daughter-in-law received her holiday pay the following Friday there would be no point bringing a claim to the tribunal.

Debt still on file Q We are currently selling our house. Our solicitor tells us that there's a charge registered against the property dated November 1988. It relates to a debt we repaid several years ago, but unfortunately we have no paperwork to prove this and the loan company has now ceased trading. Whose responsibility was it to have had the charge removed once the loan was settled, and what can we do about it now?

AThe loan company should have removed the charge, but of course you should have checked to ensure it did so and that you received a discharge certificate.

These things happen from time to time. Your local land registry may be able to help, but you will need to send them as much evidence as possible to show the loan was repaid in full and the charge should have been discharged. It would be handy if you had the original loan agreement, details of the finance company and bank statements showing a payment history. If the loan company was a limited company you might be able to approach the insolvency practitioner who acted in any liquidation; if the company was struck off, the Treasury Solicitor may be able to issue a discharge certificate. This is a complex area and you will need to take expert legal advice.

Bushwhacked Q My neighbour's hedge has grown so far over on to a public footpath that you can hardly get past without being scratched. Can I cut the branches back?

AStrictly speaking you can only cut the hedge back if it grows over on to your land. It's not clear from your question, but if the footpath runs over your land then you could cut the hedge back to the boundary. If the council owns the land then it would be up to them to take action - they may even have a duty to maintain the footpath. Check with your highways department.

Discuss this problem with your neighbour first: perhaps you could offer to help him cut back the hedge. But avoid neighbour disputes at all costs.


SUBSIDENCE PROBLEMS: A house which fell into a disused mine shaft
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 27, 2001
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