An Introduction to Access Licences

Unfortunately, carrying out construction works on your property isn’t always as simple as it sounds. You may be aware that you could need planning permission to make changes to your property, but you might not realise that you sometimes need agreement with your neighbours too, particularly if you need to access your neighbour’s land to carry out your construction works. The agreement between you and your neighbour in relation to access, is called an access licence, and we’re here to give you a crash course to help you get your construction work underway.

What is An Access Licence?

An access licence is a formal legal agreement or owner to owner contract that provides temporary access to a neighbour’s land or air space in order to carry out construction works. These agreements are used when a building owner needs access for new construction work that isn’t repair or maintenance work that can’t be done solely from their own property. This licence provides consent from the adjoining owner to complete the works.

What’s Included in an Access Licence?

There is a huge variety of clauses included within an access licence, but some are more common than others. A quick rundown of those includes:

Duration of Access: The agreed access should always be for a fixed period, rather than openended. It’s important that your surveyor clearly defines the access period within the licence itself. Because construction projects can and do overrun, the licence will need to detail what happens in these scenarios to prevent inconveniences to the adjoining owner.

Time of Access: It’s not just how long you need access for, but when access will be allowed that needs to be recorded. These times would usually be in line with the Local Authority regulations, but the adjoining owner can request that the times be modified if they need to.

Consideration Sum: If there have been negotiations to agree a consideration sum, then these should be documented within the license. This includes the amount to be paid, whether it’s a lump sum or a weekly figure (which is more common), and any penalties for extending the licence past the agreed duration of access. Penalties can be useful for encouraging the building owner to complete the works promptly and diligently, as well as protecting the adjoining owners from inconvenience of having work ongoing on their land..

Scaffolding: If scaffolding is needed on the adjoining owners land, then scaffold designs will usually be included with the access licence, along with any other clauses relating to compliance, health and safety and security.

Indemnities: Generally, the building owner will indemnify the adjoining owner against any injury or loss of life to any person or damage to their property or land because of the building owner’s works.

Breaches: If there is any breach of the licence during works, the parties will need to refer back to the licence clauses that explain the procedure that will be followed.

Professional Fees: In most cases there will be professional and legal fees associated with agreeing the access licence. The person having the work done is responsible for these, usually by providing an undertaking that they will cover reasonable professional and legal fees for the adjoining owner, even if they don’t agree to the license.

Damage: We’d all like to think it all runs smoothly, but accidents do happen, and damage is a possibility. If this happens, there will be an obligation for the building owner to make good any damage caused as a result of their works, and to do it in a reasonable timescale.

Schedule of Condition: This is to protect the adjoining owner from damage, and to protect the building owner from any spurious claims of damage. The surveyor will put together a schedule of condition and append it to the licence. This will accurately show the relevant areas of the adjoining owners land and property before the building works begin, so there is a clear reference point if there’s a dispute.

Early Conversations Are Important

Sometimes, a neighbour won’t allow access to their land at any cost. This means wasted professional fees for the building owner, especially if they have to redesign their work. It’simportant for you to build a relationship with the owners of the neighbouring land so that you can have that conversation early on, before you plan your approach.

Most of the time though, neighbours are willing to allow access, but often at a high cost. As part of the access licence, the neighbour can request a consideration sum in exchange for access. This sum doesn’t have to be based on any logical reasoning and doesn’t need justification – it’s just a figure the neighbour feels is reasonable. It may not be reasonable for you and your budget. This means you could end up putting the brakes on a project because you can’t afford the sum. That’s why we highly recommend that discussions about access start early.

Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992

There is a piece of legislation called the Access to Neighbouring Lands Act 1992, which allows building owners to access an adjoining owner’s land in order to complete necessary repairs or maintenance to their own building. The aim is to make sure necessary construction work can be done that would be impossible without that access.

There’s a bit of controversy around this because many people don’t like allowing construction work on their property when it isn’t for their own home or building. But while property owners do have the right to enjoy their property without intrusion, the Act recognises that in some cases it’s in everyone’s best interests to allow temporary access for safe maintenance.

The Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 doesn’t mean that access is automatically granted. The person requesting access must be able to demonstrate that the work is necessary, and that there’s no other way to do with without access to their neighbours’ property. If a neighbour refuses an access request, then you may need to go through the court system to gain access for the works.

What Does A Surveyor Have To Do With It?

Access licences aren’t a onesizefitsall. They’re bespoke to every property, situation and every construction proposal. So, your surveyor will need to review the works you’reproposing, assess any risks and then take other property owner’s situation into account. Your surveyor will be able to advise you, either as the adjoining owner or the building owner, and handle any negotiations on your behalf. They will also be able to produce or review the access licence to make sure that all parties are protected, and that work can proceed.

Next Steps

Whether you’re an adjoining owner worried about your neighbour accessing your land, or you’re a building owner and not sure if you can complete your construction without access, we can help. At Harrison Clarke, we have a team of experienced surveyors who can provide expert assistance in dealing with any kind of access licence, from scaffolding to crane licenses. If you’d like to find out more, you can contact our team on 023 8155 0051 to book a free consultation.

We also have a range of videos talking through various aspects of the Party Wall process. You can access them via our website or our YouTube channel

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Faye Williams, party wall and building surveyor at Harrison Clarke chartered surveyors.

About the author

Faye Williams,
BSc (Hons) MFPWS Senior

Surveyor & Winner of Young Property Person of the Year 2023

Faye joined Harrison Clarke in 2018. Faye found an interest in Party Wall surveying, and became a Member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors in 2022.

Since then, Faye has set out a revolutionary approach to party wall instructions, by focusing on people and relationships, backed up by expert knowledge. Faye’s approach has saved building owners £1,000s in unnecessary party wall fees.