Searching for your next home, car parking may not be top of your list of priorities but a recent survey by Uswitch reveals nearly one in ten of us has knocked on a neighbour’s door to complain about parking.
It is not just neighbours who can cause problems. Commuters, school parents, and other visitors, can easily turn a quiet road into a traffic nightmare.
Here Nicola Bennell, a Solicitor in the residential property team with Richard Reed Solicitors offers some advice on how to avoid buying a home with a parking problem.
Decide how important parking is to you
Buying a house, inevitably, involves compromise. However, if parking is important you will need to factor this into your search and decision-making process. For example, do you need parking close by because of a disability, or do you run a business from home which means you may have a lot of visitors or deliveries?
Discuss your requirements and circumstances with your conveyancing solicitor early on so they can advise you about any legal issues. For example, some properties have title restrictions which may make it unlawful to park any vehicle other than a private motorcar on the drive. This could prevent you from parking a trade van outside your home or storing a boat or caravan. Not all restrictions are enforceable, and your solicitor can help you assess the likelihood of this being an issue or suggest ways of reducing the risk.
Garage, parking space or off-street parking
If you want to keep your car secure, close by, and dry, then buying a property with a garage could be the answer. Your solicitor will confirm there are no breaches of planning and building regulations. However, you should still check its measurements and physical layout are suitable. Occasionally a garage in a new-build home can be too small to easily accommodate some cars.
Your next best option could be a dedicated parking space. In theory, this should mean you will always be able to park close to your home. Take care to check the basis of this arrangement and tell your solicitor so they can confirm what the estate agent or seller has told you. Your solicitor will check the space is included in the title to the property or that you will have an exclusive right to its use.
Sometimes a property may appear to have the benefit of a particular parking space, but the legal documentation does not support this. Instead, the arrangement may be informal, temporary, or conditional upon payment of a fee. It is important to be clear about the legal basis for your use of the space, otherwise you could end up getting less than you expected and have problems in the future.
Estate agents often use the term ‘off street parking.’ This could mean the property has a legal right to park in a designated area on a first come, first served basis. Alternatively, it could just mean there are currently places to park off-road locally. However, these spaces could struggle to meet demand or even disappear if the area is redeveloped in the future.
There is no right to park on the public highway outside your property. Street parking is subject to availability and will usually be on a first come, first served basis. So, in busy areas you could end up having to park some distance from your home. You may therefore want to visit any prospective new home at different times and on different days. The presence of a nearby school, health centre or entertainment venue, can result in an otherwise quiet location becoming gridlocked in peak periods.
Legally, other motorists should not park in a way that stops you accessing the highway from your drive. However, enforcing this right where the interference is intermittent can be difficult. If trouble-free access is important to you, avoid buying in an area where there is a known problem.
Permit parking only
Some properties, especially those in urban areas, may be in residents’ parking zones. You may notice road signs when you view the property, but your solicitor’s local authority search will pick this up.
These zones restrict who can park there. Usually, the aim is to prioritise spaces for residents over commuters or visitors. This may sound good and it can help address access issues caused by inconsiderate parking. However, there is no guarantee you will be able to park outside your home, or that a space will be available at all. It is also important to know the terms of the scheme, any charges, and whether you would qualify for a permit. For example, some schemes exclude newly built or converted properties or those which the council consider already have adequate parking.
Even when buying a home with its own garage or parking space, issues can arise if it shares a driveway or private road with neighbouring properties. Although these arrangements often work well in practice, it is important to ensure the right legal framework is in place. Your solicitor will do this as part of the conveyancing process, checking there are sufficient access rights and a mechanism for dealing with any maintenance issues and sharing the costs fairly.
If the correct framework is in place, then your neighbours must allow you to move freely over the driveway or road to access your home. Conversely, you cannot park in a way that would interfere with their access. Sometimes, neighbours do not follow the rules, or they act inconsiderately. Usually, this is down to misunderstanding and a polite request will quickly resolve matters. Occasionally, the issue becomes entrenched and access is an ongoing problem.
Conveyancing pre-contract enquiries should reveal if this is the case, and if there are any ongoing disputes. However, if you know an accessway is shared, you should discuss your understanding of the arrangements with your solicitor. That way, they can tailor their follow-up questions to the seller and their solicitor, to clarify the situation and ensure there are no nasty surprises when you move in.
Other parking problems
Parking problems can arise at any time, even after you have been living in your home happily for many years. For example, new neighbours who start parking their second, or third, car across your drive. In most cases, a polite request should resolve matters, and any inconvenience will be short-lived.
If the problem persists, talk to your solicitor. Being clear on your legal position is a good first step. Your neighbour is unlikely to continue if they know they are in the wrong. And, if they do, a carefully worded solicitor’s letter is often all it takes to ensure your rights are respected in the future.