When two properties share a wall, disagreements can often occur if one owner wants to carry out work that will affect the wall. The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (the Act) sets out the procedure that should be followed before work is carried out, as well as a dispute resolution procedure in the event of disagreements occurring. It is crucial that the Act is complied with before any work is started on a party wall as legal proceedings for failing to follow the statutory requirements can ensue if not.
Carrying out work which may affect a party wall
Building owners have the right to carry out certain alterations affecting a party wall, provided the correct procedures are followed. These include repairing, underpinning, adding a damp proof course, inserting a load-bearing beam and if necessary completely rebuilding a wall.
If you intend to carry out work on a party wall, you must always serve notice on the other owner, even if the work will not encroach beyond the centre line of the wall. This should be done at least two months before the work commences.
Carrying out excavations within a certain distance of a neighbouring building or structure is also covered by the Act and again advance notice needs to be served of any such ‘notifiable’ works.
If you fail to serve notice correctly, you are at risk of your neighbour applying for an injunction to temporarily halt any building work covered by the Act. A specialist party wall surveyor should be appointed to assist you and ensure that all of the documentation is prepared and served in accordance with the Act, leaving your neighbour with minimal scope for complaint.
If the other party does not consent to the work or fails to respond to your notice then a dispute is deemed to have arisen and will need to dealt with in accordance with the Act. The appointed surveyor(s) will draw up a party wall ‘award’ containing full details of the work to be carried out.
It is possible for either party to appeal an award if they do not agree with the contents. If you do become involved in a disagreement with your neighbour, you should seek specialist legal advice to ensure that your rights are protected.
Objecting to work carried out on a party wall
If party wall or excavation work is being carried out by your neighbour and they have failed to serve proper notice, you have the option to seek an injunction to temporarily stop the work until the proper procedures have been followed.
If your injunction is granted by the court, then you might be able to ask the court to order your neighbour to pay the cost of this.
In carrying out any party wall work, your neighbour must not cause any unnecessary convenience and will be required to make good any damage caused. Any additional losses caused by the works might also be recoverable, such as loss of rent or trade as a result of disruption caused by the building operations.
If you object to the work that is planned, or have not received notice of it, you should seek legal advice on how best to proceed to protect your property. It is important to do this without delay, as there are strict time limits in place that must be complied with.
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