Last edited 18 Feb 2016

Right of support

Where properties adjoin, there may be a mutual right of support for both land and buildings. This can apply to buildings that are joined, buildings that rely on the support of adjacent land, and to the land itself. This means that if works are carried out to land, buildings, retaining walls, excavations and so on, or if structures are demolished, the right of support of adjoining properties must be maintained.

Support may be ‘subjacent’ (from below) or ‘adjacent’ (from the neighbouring property).

The right to support arises naturally for land and this right cannot be removed. If support is withdrawn, resulting subsidence, damages may be sought. However, this natural right does not apply to buildings.

Where one party places an additional burden on the land, for example by building on it, there is no natural right of support, but one can be acquired:

  • Where it is expressly granted. For example it may be set out in a conveyance deed or a transfer deed.
  • Where it is impliedly granted or reserved. For example if properties are separated and the right was intended or mutual.
  • By prescription. Where the additional burden has existed for 20 years or more.

The acquisition of this 'easement' (a right which a person has over land owned by someone else) cannot be prevented.

The Party Wall etc. Act establishes a procedure for carrying out work to walls, boundary walls, party structures (such as floors) and excavations within 3 or 6 metres of a neighbouring building or structure (depending on the depth of the hole or of the proposed foundations). The Act requires that anyone carrying out such works must give notice of their intentions to adjoining owners and sets out procedures in the event that the adjoining owner does not agree to the proposed works. See Party Wall Act for more information.

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