Man who agreed to pay neighbours £230k for building house too close to theirs left with £530k bill
| Last updated
A homeowner who agreed to pay his neighbours £230,000 for encroaching on their land is now left with a bill totalling more than £500,000 after losing a High Court battle.
Alex MacPhail, a 56-year-old motivational speaker, set about building his new six-bed home as part of a development in Wandsworth Common, south London between 2015 and 2018.
MacPhail invested £2.5 million for the plot of land, but web entrepreneur neighbour Tom Gueterbock and his wife Helen accused MacPhail of staging a 'land grab' when they noticed that the new home had a cellar room which crossed the boundary between their houses.
The Gueterbocks claimed the basement crossed the boundary by about 16 inches, and that a passageway between the properties had been narrowed to less than three feet.
The couple sued Mr MacPhail, demanding that he partially demolish some of his home to move it a few inches further away from theirs to abide by the boundary.
In the hope of keeping his home in one piece, MacPhail agreed to settle the case by paying the couple £100,000 and doing about £12,000 worth of work to the alleyway.
He also agreed to cover their £137,000 lawyers' bill, while simultaneously settling his own legal costs of £283,000.
The case meant he owed £530,000, so MacPhail - who, by the way, is a multimillionaire - then decided to try and have his costs covered for him.
He took the developers of the house, Henderson Court Ltd (HCL), and their insurer, Allianz Insurance Plc, to court over his losses.
The homeowner won his claim against HCL, meaning the developers were liable for MacPhail's losses, but Judge Nicholas Parfitt has now rejected MacPhail's claim that the insurer should pay his damages with a £530,000 payout.
MacPhail appealed the decision, but the High Court upheld the ruling.
Mr Justice Marcus Smith told the millionaire a claim against the insurers cannot be made because the choice to build so close to the Gueterbocks' house was 'not an accident'.
The judge said that while HCL was not found to have acted 'intentionally', but that the company did act with a 'high level of recklessness' which made the resulting problems 'non-accidental'.
He added that even if the developer had believed that it was building up to the correct boundary, it must have known that the matter was 'at least arguable' and that the Gueterbocks would 'almost certainly' complain.
"The judge was entitled to conclude that there was a high degree of recklessness and that the claim under the policy was not accidental," Smith concluded.