Why Party Wall Disputes With Neighbours Are An Expensive Headache
Before you undertake any works on your property that will affect a wall or other structure that you share with adjoining properties, you must inform the adjoining property owners. These obligations are set out in the Party Wall Act, and you should familiarise yourself with them if you want to avoid problems down the line.
The Party Wall Act
The Party Wall Act is designed to prevent disputes arising from party wall work - work that affects a wall, fence, or other structure that is shared with a neighbour (known as the ‘adjoining owner’ under the act). Anyone who is planning to undertake works that qualify as party wall works under the Act is required to give adjoining owners prior notice of their intention to start the works. The exact way in which homeowners are required to give notice is set out within the Act. Failing to adhere to these stipulations can be an expensive oversight.
If you are planning any works that you think might constitute party wall works, you should have a surveyor ascertain whether the works qualify under the Party Wall Act 1996. If the works are indeed party wall works, then appropriate notices need to be served on the adjoining owner. Taking the time to find out if this is the case beforehand and make appropriate arrangements if you need to can potentially save you a lot of money and headaches down the line.
When You Need to Inform Neighbours of Works
Works that are covered under the Party Wall Act include any new building or structure that is erected on the land of two or more properties, any work on an existing wall or structure that is shared by multiple properties, or any excavation work that occurs near or to and below the foundation level of a neighbouring building(s).
If you are in any doubt at all as to whether the works you want to undertake are party wall works or not, you should consult with the surveyor or property expert who can verify this for you. Not only will they give you a definite answer, but they can also help you to ensure that you properly inform adjoining property owners of your intentions.
If you do not give a joining property owners' notice when you are required to under the Act, they can file an injunction and take you to the County Court. Even if all the works you are conducting are above board, if you have not informed the relevant people as the Act requires you to, you can be held liable for their legal costs.
The Act itself sets out in detail what the resolution process is, and while it has been designed to be as cost-effective as possible, it is still going to give you a serious headache if you find yourself on the wrong side of it.
The simplest way of avoiding party wall disputes from arising in the first place is to work with a property expert or surveyor throughout the process of planning and carrying out your works to ascertain whether they are covered under the Act and, if they are, that your neighbours are informed correctly. For example, Gerald Eve is London property experts who have experience in dealing with party wall disputes and other neighbourly matters. They can help you to navigate what can often be quite an impenetrable area of UK law.
Party wall disputes are easily avoided. As long as you ensure that you always consult with an expert before carrying out any works on your home and that you inform adjoining property owners of your intentions, you can avoid an expensive headache.