Fashionable East Dulwich in South East London has become the site of legal dispute after banker Debbie Ranford built a roof extension on her flat that has allegedly caused water leaks and a “big crack” in the wall of her neighbours’ £1.5million flat. Liz Peck, who runs organic kids’ clothing company Our Little Tribe is suing Ms Ranford with her husband, singer-songwriter Adam, for the extension that was built in 2014. Ms Ranford built the extension next to the Pecks’ own loft conversion, which was already in place – but the Pecks claim it encroaches on their home.
The hipster duo are demanding that Ms Ranford is forced to dismantle the loft extension or pay them compensation for the damage they claim it has caused.
The neighbours were friends before the Pecks realised the extent of the new building work, and the couple were even given a torchlit tour of the extension in April 2014.
But now they are at odds with each other in the courtroom.
The court heard that the banker built the loft room after getting consent from Mr and Mrs Peck to do so.
However, Ms Peck, 49, told the court she was horrified when she learned that – in order to get a bigger loft room – Mrs Ranford had instructed her builder to build on the boundary line and encroach onto their property and join them together.
Ms Ranford argued however that the Pecks had consented to building on the party wall separating the properties, adding that the work she carried out joining the rooms was “unavoidable”.
The judge was told that Ms Ranford had arranged for her neighbours to sign a Party Wall Notice to consent to the decision.
But Ms Peck claims the first she knew of the extension joining with her flat was when a roofer investigated the cause of a leak, and shouted that her neighbour had built over the boundary.
She told the judge: “We had no awareness that next door had built up and onto our property.
“To see that, you have to be right at the end of our garden.
“Given the party wall notice we had signed, we had no cause to check on the works.”
Mr Peck, part of rock and roll band Peck from Peckham and Norwich, and who writes his own music inspired by the Britpop scene of the late 90s and noughties, added: “’It was quite a shock to understand and discover that something very different had been built.”
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Barrister Richard Egleton, representing the Pecks, said Ms Ranford had opted to build over the gap between the houses in order to have a larger loft room, extending the party wall upwards to use as the outer wall of Mrs Ranford’s loft room, with the gap between the two dormers filled with material on the Pecks’ side to prevent weather damage.
He described the work as a “clear trespass”, adding: “The claimants also contend that the works have interfered with the structural integrity of their property and caused damage in that in 2015, and again in 2018, they experienced leaks and cracks in the party wall at first floor level.”
Giving evidence, Ms Ranford stated that building on the party wall and joining the dormers was “unavoidable” due to fire regulations and weather proofing.
She added that none of the actual extension is on the Pecks’ side of the boundary, with the only material crossing the line being the “infill” material used to join the two buildings.
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She is defending against the claim on the basis that it was filed too late after the work was carried out in 2014, and said that she would be willing to appoint a “joint surveyor” to “advise us on a next step”.
Ms Ranford has also insisted that there has been no damage to her neighbours’ property by raising the party wall.
But the Pecks are asking for a “mandatory injunction requiring the removal of that part of the defendant’s dormer extension which is built on the party wall”, or damages.
The trial continues.