Saturday, February 24, 2007

A technical hitch...

There is just one teensy-weensy problem outstanding on our house move.

Our house is illegal.

This whole street of houses was built in 1928 on a field that was owned by a gentleman called John Pickard, they were built to several designs and with large gardens, we know all of this because we've had the deeds in our possesion for a few years now and fascinating reading they make.

I must digress from the main point here and mention the people who originally bought this house from John Pickard, its a great story (not for him though).

The chap who originally bought this house for just £649 in 1928 was a gas meter reader and lived with his new wife in Harehills, an inner city working class area of small terraced houses with no gardens.

For a gas meter reader the investment must have been massive, and brave, for not many people purchased houses back then and the fact that he got himself a mortgage from a building society was remarkable, as must have been the change in lifestyle as Cookridge was very much well out in the countryside at that time and not just a suburb like it is now.

They moved in here and lived a perfectly normal life until 1948 when he was diagnosed as having a nervous breakdown - that bit fascinates me coming so soon after the end of WWII, was it something that he experienced in the war that caused his breakdown - the good thing for him and his wife is that they'd finished paying the mortgage off just one year before so at least the threat of repossesion didn't hang over his wife's head when she committed him to Menston Mental Hospital.

I'm guessing that the care and treatment of mental illness wasn't exactly a recognised science back in those days for he lived at "The Asylum" as it was known locally until his death in 1968 - twenty years of incarceration for what would probably be treated as depression now and eased (if not cured) by drugs so that the victim can live a life with his family instead of being locked into what by other names is a prison.

Things must have been pretty bad for him in 1968, depression and hopelessness leading to him "escaping" the "hospital" and hanging himself in a barn on the hospital estate.

His wife continued living in what is now (for another two weeks) our house until she too was taken into care in 1992 suffering from alzheimers at which point her neice took power of attourney and sold the house in a pretty unmaintained and shabby state to the people who we eventually bought the place from in 2001.

How do I know all this ?

Because the affadavit for the power of attourney contains a full and frank statement from the niece of the family history as her aunt had lost the original deeds and was not mentally able to provide sworn evidence that the house definitely belonged to her, the niece's evidence supported by another elderly aunt was accepted by a judge and the ownership transfered to her in trust.

Amazing story - I love family history.

So, back to the teensy-weensy problem.

The person who owned the house before us had a mammoth task to bring it up to standard as the poor old lady had obviously neglected the place badly, hardly suprising if she'd lived their on her own for 42 years - if I am ever in a similar situation then I will definitely not be hanging onto a house that is too big to maintain, houses do not make homes, people make homes, houses are just bricks and mortar that can also be money pits if you are not careful.

New windows and doors were fitted, new wall ties, the bay window was underpinned, a new damp proof course installed, the ground floor was ripped up and replaced along with all of the plastered walls on the ground floor, and the house was re-roofed.

Phase two of their work was to build a large two storey extension at the back of the house, with full and proper planning permission from our local council, which almost doubled the size of the house and made it the "very pleasant and well appointed dwelling" that the estate agents describe it as now.

The teensy-weensy problem is that they didn't apparently check the original deeds, John Pickards original deeds.

In 1928 John Pickard had inserted several covenants into the agreement to sell the land, one of which stated that no alterations to the floor plan of the dwellings would be allowed, a bit of a bastard that one, especially if you've just near on doubled the size of the house with an extension.

Fotunately John Pickard is the one who would enforce that covenant and as he is more than likely dead by now, or if alive will be well over 100 years old, then the chances of him walking down the street, walking up our drive, peering over the gate and spluttering "You bastards shouldn't have built that" are slim to say the least.

The other point in our favour is that every single other house in the street has also had extensions of some form built and their covenants will also have been slyly ignored, so the chance of a neighbour grassing us up is also nil.

But of course the anally-rententive solicitor of the people who are buying our house has spotted the clause and recommended to his clients that they get us to idemnify them against John Pickard returning from the grave to make us remove half of the house.

The cost of an indemnity policy is £170 and when my solicitor asked me for instructions to pass on to the other party I instructed him to tell them to piss off, I don't think that he used that term but they certainly got the message as he tells me that the other solicitor is now "rather put out" that I won't spend £170 on an insurance policy against dead people objecting to building works - call me stupid but on all of the "Crossing Over with John Edwards" tv programmes that I've ever seen not one single dead person has ever sent a message to this side to say "your neighbours house extension is illegal".

It good fun is this moving stuff.

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