Feature: Common Challenges and Disputes
Avoiding Party Wall Disputes
Written by Chris Cooper, Partner at Hamilton Darcey LLP
Certain types of work you may wish to undertake can cause damage to the neighbouring property as well as disturb its owner’s use and enjoyment of the party wall or structure.
In order to provide protection to the owner of a neighbouring property and at the same time to give you the rights to carry out the works you require, the government introduced the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
There are various scenarios when the Act will be triggered. One of the examples is when you are planning to repair a shared wall in a semi-detached house or a terraced row of houses or alternatively the wall which is adjacent to your neighbouring owner’s garage. The party wall or party structures will also apply to the floors between properties. The other most common example which may be of significance is the building of a new wall or repair or removal of a garden wall that you share with your neighbour. Wooden fences are not considered to be party wall fences. If you decide to extend into the roof space or remove a chimney breast, you should also consider whether these will trigger the Act. Generally, there are three main types of work involved which are covered under the Act.
• Building or demolishing a party wall or structure. • Carrying out works to party structures. • Excavating a site within three or six metres of the neighbouring buildings.
Once you have established that the work you intend to carry out is subject to the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, you need to serve a notice on all the registered owners of adjoining properties about the planned works.
The time frame for the notice and whether the consent of the neighbours is sufficient will depend on the type of works you are planning to undertake. You should also bear in mind that there is a statutory timeframe of one year to start the necessary works from the date of the notice (otherwise you will need to reserve the notice(s)).
Your neighbour may serve a counter notice incorporating any additional works into the works if necessary, such as adding deeper and stronger foundations or strengthening the foundations of your neighbour’s own building.
If no agreement is reached between you and the adjourning neighbour following the counter notice, there will be a deemed dispute which triggers Section 10 of the Act. This provides for an agreed expert surveyor or three surveyors to be appointed. They will make a binding party wall award. The conclusive award may determine “the right to execute any work, the timeframe and manner of executing any work and any other matter arising out of or incidental to the dispute including the costs of making the award”.
Who is liable for the cost of the works and costs of the party wall award?
Usually the costs of the building works are covered by you as they will be for your own benefit.
It is also likely that reasonable professional fees (surveyor’s, engineer’s and legal costs) will also be covered by you.
If your neighbour requested additional works to be carried out in its counter-notice, then your neighbour may be liable for the costs associated with those works.
Consequences of the failure to comply with the Act
If you fail to comply with the Act, you will be deprived of the Act's protection. If your neighbour sustained any loss or damage as a result of your breach, your neighbour may bring an action in private nuisance and trespass against you and obtain an injunction or compensation. You may also be found in breach of your statutory duty if you failed to serve the necessary notices or you carried out works which are outside the authority given by the Act.
Hamilton Darcey LLP is an RICS regulated Chartered Surveying practice with offices in London and Birmingham. We undertake instructions relating to all aspects of Building Surveying and Design services with particular specialist knowledge in the commercial and high end residential sectors. With a wealth of experience spanning a range of disciplines, including major works project management, party wall and neighbourly matters, Licence for Alterations, Dilapidations and technical due diligence, we act as a trusted advisor to both individuals and corporate entities.