Man's bid to access neighbour's roof denied

SINGAPORE - A home owner who suspected water leaks in his three-storey semi-detached house came from the two-storey home next door has been refused a court order to access his neighbour's roof to carry out checks.

Mr Andrew Hanam was told by the High Court that there was no valid easement - or legal right of way - in which he could enter businessman Lam Vui's property without his consent. Justice Belinda Ang, in judgment grounds released on Thursday, said Mr Hanam's application was "patently misconceived".

The ruling is now expected to be a reference for landed property owners sharing common walls where one side has built a higher extended wall to accommodate additional floors.

Mr Hanam, a lawyer who represented himself, discovered the leaks in his house in Thomson Green in March last year.

It is divided from Mr Lam's home by a two-storey "party wall", while Mr Hanam's third storey sits on his side of this.

A contractor advised Mr Hanam last year that the leaks were coming from either his third-storey wall or the area where this meets the party wall.

Both neighbours held talks over the matter and Mr Lam was willing to grant access, provided Mr Hanam was prepared to repair any damage to his roof and deposit a $5,000 banker's guarantee.

Mr Lam had previously had a bad experience with leaks in his roof caused by a past owner of Mr Hanam's house.

Mr Hanam rejected his neighbour's offer and in January offered a written undertaking identical to the one set out in a publication called Be Good Neighbours, issued by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Building and Construction Authority.

Mr Lam told Mr Hanam to first get a registered engineer's report on the cause and solution to the leaks. He argued that Mr Hanam had not proved the leak was from the party wall as there was no damage on his side of the wall and added that the leaks could have come from alterations to Mr Hanam's third storey.

But the discussion ended in deadlock, prompting Mr Hanam to take the case to court. He sought to inspect the party wall, conduct tests to see if the leak came from any part of the party wall and to carry out repairs. In March, Mr Lam's lawyer, Mr Bernard Sahagar, told the court he would allow access to a surveyor or engineer if hired by Mr Hanam to identify the problem and find a solution. Mr Hanam rejected this.

Justice Ang found Mr Hanam was "erroneously seeking to go beyond what was authorised" and sought a right to enter Mr Lam's land without his consent. She noted that the two units were built in 1974 and were not covered by the 1994 Land Titles Act providing for implied easements.

Noting that English law provided for access orders in appropriate cases, the judge said it was for the legislature, not the courts, to address such an issue.

She said: "While Parliament might wish to consider if similar legislation should be enacted in Singapore, this will be of little comfort to the plaintiff."

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