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We purchased a small cottage in Shropshire last year on the edge of a farm. It was idyllic — like something out of AE Housman. However, the neighbouring farmer has since installed solar panels on the roof of her barn. It ruins our view. Can we object to their installation?
The planning system does not protect a “right to a view” as such and because the solar panels have already been installed you cannot object to them being installed at this stage.
Well, can I ask the council’s planning department to have them removed?
If the installation needed planning permission and does not have it, then the local planning authority could take enforcement action and require their removal.
If the solar panels do not have planning permission, they may have been installed using permitted development rights. These are rights to carry out works without planning permission but subject to confirming that the design or external appearance of the solar equipment does not need the “prior approval” of the local planning authority.
So, it’s possible to request that the local planning authority order their removal, but it should be noted that enforcement action is discretionary and so may not be taken if the solar panels are not causing any harm.
What if the barn were a listed building — would that make a difference?
It might do. Any alteration works that would affect the listed building’s character as a building of special architectural or historic interest require Listed Building Consent. This is a statutory requirement and there is no equivalent of permitted development rights for listed buildings.
You can check whether or not the barn is listed using Historic England’s online register and the local planning authority will have an online portal containing listed building consents — if they exist — for the solar panels.
I’m sure the barn is listed. What are the consequences for the farmer if she does not have listed building consent?
If she needed consent and didn’t get it this could mean the farmer and/or whoever carried out or authorised the works is guilty of a criminal offence. If prosecuted the farmer could face imprisonment for up to two years or/and a fine could become payable.
Anthony McNamee is an associate at Farrer & Co
Tenants left our buyers in a mess
We’ve recently sold a house that we’d been renting out for a few years. Now our buyers are threatening legal action because the tenants had left the garage full of their junk. We live abroad and this is going to be tricky to sort out. Is there anything we can do?
Properties in England and Wales are usually sold with “vacant possession”. In short, that means that, unless agreed otherwise, by the date of completion all chattels (in other words, moveable objects) and people must be out of the property, so that the new owners can use it freely.
Therefore, on completion you should have removed all your belongings (and those of your tenants), and the rubbish in the garage.
But we included all sorts of other things in the purchase: there were carpets on the floors, for example; the curtains were left, and a few other things. Why is it any different?
Only those items that have been expressly agreed with the buyer should remain.
Really? What’s the worst that could happen if we just ignore them?
In such circumstances, even if completion has taken place and the keys handed over, the buyer could in principle make a claim against you for not handing over the property in vacant possession, and for any damages. In extreme cases (though yours does not sound like it is) they could rescind the contract and recover the deposit, as well as claiming damages.
In practice, the buyer is only likely to bring a claim if the cost of disposing of the rubbish in the garage is particularly high, or they are particularly determined. Completely ignoring them, though, may encourage them to take action.
So we’re stuck then?
It is worth noting that your tenants will almost certainly have been under a duty to remove the rubbish at the end of their tenancy. If there was a deposit, and you have not already given it back, it would be worth quantifying the cost of removing the rubbish, and proposing to retain that amount from the deposit. Communicating this to the buyers is likely to be a sensible first step.
Daniel Shein is an Associate in the property team at Goodman Derrick LLP
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