We lost £130k fighting our neighbour who built extension touching our home – but now we’re taking her on again | The Sun
A COUPLE who blew £130,000 suing their neighbour over a loft extension have won the right to fight their case again.
Liz Peck and her husband Adam were furious after neighbour Debbie Ranford constructed her extension inches too close to their £1.5m home in south east London.
They took her to court but were criticised by a judge for using a "sledgehammer to crack a nut" over the "very minor" minor boundary issue last year.
The couple wanted Mrs Ranford to tear down her loft extension but instead Judge Simon Monty awarded them just £200 compensation and ordered them to pay the £130,000 legal costs of the case at Central London County Court.
But now they have been granted permission to appeal in the High Court in a bid to get their damages payout increased.
During the trial, the court heard that banker Mrs Ranford built the loft room at her two-storey flat in affluent East Dulwich in 2014 after getting consent from Mr and Mrs Peck.
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But business owner Mrs Peck told the court she was horrified when she learnt that her neighbour had built on the boundary line in order to get a bigger loft room.
Giving evidence, the 49-year-old told the court that the work they consented to should have stopped short of the boundary between the two properties.
Representing the couple, barrister Richard Egleton said Mrs Ranford had opted not to leave a gap between the two extensions because she did not want a smaller loft room.
The barrister claimed the work had resulted in a "clear trespass" and that Mrs Ranford should be ordered to dismantle the dormer.
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But Mrs Ranford said the Pecks consented to her building on top of the party wall.
She said the work to join the rooms was "unavoidable" and that none of her actual extension is on the Pecks' side of the boundary.
In his ruling, Judge Monty accepted that Mrs Ranford's builder had explained to Mrs Peck that he intended to build on the party wall, but that she had not actually agreed to it.
However, he said he would not make an injunction ordering Mrs Ranford to pull down her loft extension because the resulting trespass was "very minor" and instead awarded the Pecks £200 damages.
"The court has the power to award damages in lieu of an injunction. That in my judgment, is the appropriate relief in this case.
"I entirely reject Mr and Mrs Peck's case that the trespass was cynical and calculated. On the facts, it was not."
Returning to court, Mr Egleton, for the Pecks, argued that the dispute had put a blight on both houses which was not adequately marked by a £200 compensation payment.
And he said the dispute – and the massive costs it ran up – could have been avoided if Mrs Ranford had obtained an appropriate Party Wall Award before doing the work.
Mr Justice Roth said it was arguable that more damages should have been awarded on this basis.
But in granting permission for an appeal, he urged the neighbours to try to settle the "bitter dispute" without wasting even more money.
"This case was a financial disaster for Mr and Mrs Peck," he said in his ruling. "As is so often the case, the costs have vastly exceeded the amount of any damages that could ever have been awarded."
He urged the parties to try to settle their differences outside of court, pointing out that the neighbours could end up running up more lawyers' bills while arguing about lawyers' bills.
"The claim form limited the damages to £12,500 and huge costs have already been defrayed on both sides," he said.
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"While I have given permission to appeal on the Party Wall Award point, in no way am I expressing a view that such an appeal is likely to succeed.
"When one is dealing with what is likely to be on any view a relatively modest increase in the damages and an argument where more costs can be expended in arguing about costs, I think the parties should seek to mediate."
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