It is well known that neighbour disputes can adversely affect an owner’s ability to sell their property, as they have to be declared in the Seller’s Property Information Form and may well put off a prospective purchaser. If you live next to difficult neighbours and want to sell your property but feel trapped, the recent case of Raymond v Young may provide some comfort.
Peter and Lesley Raymond bought a farmhouse in Cumbria in 2009 as a second home. Steven and Fiona Young lived in the cottage next door and started a campaign of harassment, trespass and nuisance against their new neighbours. Mr Young, who was born and raised in the farmhouse, resented people like Mr and Mrs Raymond who were wealthy enough to purchase it as a second home.
The Raymonds brought a claim against the Youngs and at a trial they were found guilty of the allegations of harassment, trespass and nuisance. The judge granted an injunction to prevent this behaviour from continuing and made an award of damages of £155,000 for the diminution in the farm’s value resulting from the Youngs’ conduct, a further £20,000 for general damages for distress and inconvenience (loss of amenity) and ordered the Youngs to pay the Raymonds’ costs of around £200,000.
Mr and Mrs Young appealed against the award of £155,000 for diminution in value of the Raymonds’ farm on the basis that the injunction was a sufficient remedy. They also argued that the judge, in making the award, had failed to consider whether the diminution in value would be permanent and, if not, whether the Raymonds were likely to sell the farmhouse during the period that the property’s value was affected by the dispute.
The Court of Appeal distinguished damages in lieu of an injunction under the Senior Courts Act 1981 from common law damages for diminution in value or loss of amenity. The court decided that the trial judge was entitled to award common law damages for diminution in addition to granting an injunction. However, the trial judge had been wrong to award £20,000 for distress and inconvenience as this represented double recovery. The Court of Appeal confirmed that diminution in value and loss of amenity are two ways of calculating the same loss.
On the second argument, the Court of Appeal said that the injunction granted was personal to the Raymonds and that a future purchaser could not be sure that the Youngs would not start a campaign of harassment and nuisance against them. The trial judge was entitled to assume that the Raymonds were likely to try and sell the farmhouse because they had made a failed attempt to do so in 2011.
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