Matthew J. Smith
Senior Associate, Smith, Buss & Jacobs
The basics. When a neighbor requests access to your building, you need an access agreement. You want to make sure it describes exactly what work the neighbor plans on doing and where. We recommend that you ask for drawings and specifications if they're available. You want to know how long the project is going to take and how long your neighbor will need access to your property.
Indemnification. You're going to want to require that the neighbor and its contractors indemnify you against any damages or costs that their access creates. This is to protect you in case anyone gets injured or there is damage to your building.
Money matters. The neighbor has to reimburse you for any costs that you might incur. This includes engineering costs, architect costs and legal costs for the access agreement. There's often a license fee for loss of use of a portion of your property. All of this is negotiated with your neighbor.
If things go wrong. Things can go wrong if the project takes too long, if scaffolding and other protections are left in place longer than they were expected to be, if you lose access to portions of your building’s balconies, courtyards and alleyways, things of that nature. That's why the access agreement is critical. It should address all of those probabilities and have some sort of mechanism for the two neighbors to sort it out.