A couple who built an £80,000 extension on their neighbours’ garden and told them to ‘go to court’ have been ordered to demolish it and pay £200,000 in legal fees.
Shabaz Ashraf, 45, and his wife Shakira, 40, were ordered to tear down the extension to their £700,000 London home by a judge after their next-door neighbours accused them of deliberately building on their land and causing ‘damp and mould’ in their home.
The Ashrafs estimate they spent £80,000 pulling down a 1970s extension at the back of their house only for next-door neighbours Avtar and Balvinder Dhinjan complain it was inches over their boundary.
Mr and Mrs Dhinjan said the new extension strayed 2.68in onto their land with a roof overhang 3.86in the wrong side of the line.
Mr Dhinjan claimed his neighbours ‘intended to annoy’ him and his family by building over the boundary between their homes in 2019.
Shabaz Ashraf, 45, and his wife Shakira, 40, were ordered to tear down the extension to their £700,000 London home
Avtar Dhinjan, right, (pictured with his son Gurpeet outside court) and his wife won the case against their neighbours over the extension
While admitting the ‘encroachment’ over their border is very small, the Dhinjans complained their neighbours’ extension is making their own house damp and ‘mouldy’ because it is so close to their wall that it leaves no room for air circulation outside.
They sued at Central London County Court, demanding an injunction forcing the Ashrafs to demolish the encroaching wall.
A judge criticised the ‘high-handed’ neighbours for ‘trespassing’ and ordered them to knock down the offending wall.
Mr and Mrs Ashraf had defended the case, saying they built the new extension on the footprint of the 1970s one and that any encroachment must have already been going on for over 40 years, giving them squatters’ rights.
But Rachel Coyle, for the Dhinjans, told the judge that the 2019 rebuild went beyond the footprint of the old extension and as a result ‘flush’ against the outer wall of their house.
‘There was an encroachment which, while de minims in valuation terms, causes significant injury to the land belonging to the claimants,’ argued their barrister.
‘The defendants’ continued course of conduct intended to annoy.
‘Only removal and building it where it should be will prevent mould and damp, failing which the claimants’ extension will become virtually uninhabitable.
‘The injury is not one that can be compensated in money,’ she said.
The judge said: ‘One of the sad features of the case is that before the parties began building new extensions to the rear of their property, they lived in harmony and were on good terms.
‘The defendants say they built the wall in exactly the same position as the previous wall, which was in position for 41 years. I find that that is, to the defendants’ knowledge, wholly untrue.
A judge said the Ashrafs had acted in a ‘high-handed’ manner over the dispute between the neighbouring homes
The Ashrafs were found to have built the extension at their home (left) two inches over the boundary of their neighbours’ property (right)
‘The joint expert surveyor concluded in his report there was an encroachment of 68mm.
‘I can see from the pictures that the breeze blocks have been built outside the existing boundary, so the notion that they built inside the existing boundary line is not sustainable because the pictures show where the existing boundary line is. Their new wall is clearly outside that wall.
‘The wall erected by the defendants is encroaching on the claimants’ land.
‘The claimants put their case for an injunction on this basis. They say this is a case where the defendants acted in a high-handed manner throughout and have deliberately overridden the claimants when they were saying there was an encroachment on their land.’
The judge found that, by April 2019, Mr and Mrs Ashraf ‘were on notice that they would be encroaching and that there would be a trespass,’ but carried on with their project regardless.
He found that Mrs Ashraf had said to her neighbours during a row over the issue: ‘If you think we have come over, then go to court.’
The judge also told the Ashrafs to make a declaration that the fence between the two houses belongs to the Dhinjans.
As well as having pay their own costs, he ordered Mr and Mrs Ashraf to pay their neighbours’ lawyers bills – estimated at almost £100,000, with £49,009 up front.
The total cost of the case was estimated by lawyers outside court at around £200,000, on top of which Mr and Mrs Ashraf will face the costs of tearing apart and rebuilding their extension.