300,000 Neighbour Dispute Over Blocked Drain Shows Importance of Dialogue

24 Jun 2016

The tale of how a row over a £4,000 bill to fix a blocked drain left a couple with legal costs of more than £300,000 demonstrates just how difficult neighbourly disputes can be.

Property disputes happen all the time, here in London there are many every day, but all should be done to keep a dialogue open, because as this case shows sometimes the ramifications can be truly astonishing.

The Sun reported how Terry Court and her neighbours John and Bernadette Van Dijk ended up in court after they fell out over who was responsible for a flood in their back yard.

The case could have been settled for £4,000 but they couldn’t come to an agreement, so it reached the Court of Appeal in London where the court ruled in Mrs Court’s favour leaving the Van Dijks with an astronomical legal bill.

Mrs Courtmoved in to her home in York in 1999 but soon discovered that the drain in her back yard was cracked and employed a builder to repair it.

However, a few years later she noticed the yard was flooding again and she arranged for the drain to be fixed but after the work was done in 2007, Mr Van Dijk, 60, and his wife, 47, claimed it caused flooding in their yard and spent £4,000 to fix it and asked Mrs Court to chip in.

When she refused they sued her and the judge in that case agreed that the cause of the flooding in their yard was caused by the work done by Mrs Court’s contractor, so she was responsible for the bill.

But she appealed arguing that they had only claimed for damages based on the work done in 2007 and not 2000.Experts said that their flood was caused by a blockage created in 2000 not 2007.

As a result the Court of Appeal agreed and ruled that the original £4,227 bill should be paid by the Van Dijks, as well as their own legal costs of £220,000 plus Mrs Court’s legal bill of £89,000 bringing the total to £313,227.

As experts in London on property dispute resolution, we can see how situations can get so strained that something like this can happen. However, mediation should always be used to prevent such matters escalating.

This case shows that going to court can be very expensive for those who lose the case. In a situation where a relationship has broken down, it is always better to seek legal advice where intermediaries can nip things in the bud.

This is a sad tale, which we believe with good legal advice for both parties early on would have avoided the trauma it has caused. We hope many will learn a lesson from this sad tale.

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