Builder fined £20k after knocking down Grade II listed cottage without permission

A builder from Yorkshire has been fined over £20,000 after knocking down a Grade II listed building without permission, and leaving his neighbours with a missing wall and roof.

David Eckersall, who has been a joiner for 44 years, was initially granted planning permission to extend his home - the listed Nutter Cote Farm in North Yorkshire - and knock down a small existing extension.

However, the job didn’t go quite to plan, leaving his neighbours’ adjoining property in need of serious work.

Joiner claims he had no choice but to knock it down

After getting to work on the planned renovation of his property, Eckersall claims to have discovered that the structure of his property was unsafe - leaving him no option but to demolish the whole building with a digger.

But in doing so, Eckersall is said to have caused considerable damage to his neighbours’ property - an 18th century cottage - leaving it without a roof over the dining room or a proper gable wall and leaving a hole in the bathroom.

Court action

The case ended up in court, with Eckersall’s neighbours - Mr and Mrs Peel - seeking compensation for the damage caused to their property.

It came to light that the joiner took the decision to demolish the building without consulting planners, although the judge said it was impossible to prove or disprove whether Eckersall’s decision to demolish the entire building was only taken after the structure proved unsafe.

Eventually, Eckersall was ordered to pay a £17,500 fine along with £3,275 in prosecution fees, while the judge warned him that he faces six months in jail if he fails to pay within the next year.

Ironically, with both parties waiting for consent to complete remedial work, the judge advised that the best solution to the Peels’ problem would be to let Mr Eckersall rebuild his property.

Would the joiner’s insurance cover the disaster?

With Mr Eckersall working on his own property when he caused damage to his neighbour’s house, it’s likely that he wouldn’t have been covered by public liability insurance.

If, however, Mr Eckersall was a third party working on the building when the damage was caused, then it’s likely that his business insurance would have him covered. Public liability covers for damage to third party property (and third party injuries) but will rarely cover you for work on your own property.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what public liability insurance covers then check out our designated insurance FAQ page.

Was the joiner wrong to take the whole house down? Let us know your thoughts below.

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