When an insured faced losing vehicular access to her home of seven years, and couldn’t demonstrate any prescriptive rights, we had to look into other options in order to resolve her difficult situation.
We issued a policy in November 2008 to cover vehicular access across unregistered land, owned by the local authority, between our insured’s property and a neighbour’s. Our insured drove across the land to park her car at the rear of her property, and she did so without issue for seven years.
In November 2015, the local authority wrote to our insured and the neighbour to inform them they wanted to dispose of their interest in the land, and offered it for sale. The neighbour promptly declared they intended to purchase the land and extend their property over it. This would have obstructed our insured’s vehicular access, and so she made a claim against the policy.
Not if I buy it first
Unfortunately, our insured was unable to produce sufficient evidence of prescriptive rights over the access way, so a legal defence wasn’t an option. On top of that, the neighbour had a history of obstructing the access by parking their car across it; even if the neighbour hadn’t hoped to build over the land, it seemed unlikely they would be open to reaching any kind of agreement.
As such, we felt the best option for preventing a permanent obstruction of the access would be for our insured to attempt to purchase the land herself. Our policy would cover the costs of doing so, and it would be the most straightforward method of ensuring the access was kept clear.
Picking the best option
The local authority put forward a figure of £7,500 (plus costs) to our insured and their neighbour in June 2016, along with a restriction that limited use of the land to access only. This meant the neighbour could no longer block our insured’s access by building an extension. Not only that, our insured also managed to resolve her earlier disagreement with the neighbour, who ceased obstructing the access.
With the threat of permanent obstruction removed, and the disagreement resolved, it seemed no longer necessary for our insured to purchase the land. But the local authority was keen to sell the land, and told our insured that, if she was not prepared to purchase the land, she would need to enter into a licence to continue using it.
Although a licence would have been a cheaper option for us, the local authority would have had the option to terminate it at any time. Rather than leave our insured in an uncertain position, we opted to continue discussions to purchase the land.
The price of certainty
After negotiations over costs, and stipulating that the local authority would have to bring the land into a decent state before any transfer, we successfully secured the purchase of the land for £5,000.
Along with other legal fees, the total cost of the claim came to £7,800. Considering that our insured no longer had to worry about accessing the rear of her property, and had arguably increased the value of her property, the cost of the policy, a mere £242, was a price well worth paying!