If your neighbour is planning to undertake construction works to their property, and these works are notifiable under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, they are legally required to serve you with a Party Wall Notice.
Unfortunately, sometimes building owners fail to do this for several reasons. It might be that they are unaware of the Act or they may not believe that their works are notifiable.
Occasionally, building owners will knowingly take the risk of not serving Party Wall Notices, hoping that their neighbours are unaware of the Act, with the aim of saving the costs that this process incurs.
But where does that leave you as their neighbour? In this article, our specialist team of party wall surveyors at Harrison Clarke explains the Party Wall Notice process from the neighbour’s perspective, and outlines how you can protect yourself if you find yourself in this situation.
A reminder of what notifiable works are
In summary, notifiable works fall under three categories in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. These categories are: a Line of Junction Notice; a Party Structure Notice; and an Adjacent Excavation and Construction Notice.
You can find out more about each of these categories on our website here, or check out our YouTube videos here. You can also call us to discuss whether your neighbour’s works are likely to be notifiable.
You think your neighbour is planning to carry out construction works on their property
If you believe that your neighbour is about to start construction work, or they have recently submitted a planning application, we strongly recommend that you speak to your neighbour as soon as possible.
In our experience at Harrison Clarke, we find that a friendly conversation can help to not only build your relationship, but also improve the outcome of your party wall process.
You may find that your neighbour does intend to serve notice on you but hasn’t yet done so because they haven’t reached that stage of the process, or they may simply be unaware of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and your conversation may point them in the right direction.
If your conversation with your neighbour goes well, the building owner will hopefully follow the correct process and serve you with a Party Wall Notice when the time is right.
Is it a problem if your neighbour does not serve notice?
It can be really problematic if your neighbour fails to serve valid notices. Although damage arising from notifiable works is not common, it becomes more likely if party wall procedures are not followed.
The party wall process is designed in such a way that the owner completing the works is required to consider any implications to the adjoining property. A Party Wall Award will provide a framework and other tools to enable you to quickly and logically settle any disputes that may arise as a result of notifiable works. This framework will not exist if the building owner does not notify adjoining owners.
If a dispute ultimately ends in court, courts are unlikely to look favourably on a building owner who has completed notifiable works without following the party wall procedure and the building owner is likely to be penalised for their failure to do so.
Your options if the building owner refuses to serve notice
Sadly, a friendly conversation may not be enough to ensure your neighbour follows their obligations under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
If this happens, your main and possibly only option is to apply for a Party Wall Injunction through the courts. A Party Wall Injunction is a court order that results in the building owner having to stop works until the procedures stipulated within the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 have been complied with.
This effectively makes it a criminal offence for the building owner to ignore the injunction and continue with their works as they would be in contempt of court, which could result in a fine or up to two years’ imprisonment.
If you decide to seek a Party Wall Injunction, your first step is to seek advice from a party wall surveyor to confirm whether or not your neighbour’s works are notifiable under the Act.
You should also take legal advice before taking any action, as there are significant cost risks to you as the adjoining owner should you choose to proceed. If necessary, we can work with you to find a suitable legal adviser.
How much will a Party Wall Injunction cost?
An injunction is not a quick fix or a cost-effective solution to this kind of dispute.
Firstly, you will need to ensure that you have enough funds to cover the professional fees of a solicitor and the court. Also, if the injunction is appealed or is unsuccessful, you could be liable for the building owner’s costs that are incurred due to the result of delays. Your bill could soon escalate to tens of thousands of pounds.
Your other options if you do not want to seek a Party Wall Injunction
If your neighbour has already started their works or they are preparing to start, you should consider instructing a party wall surveyor to prepare a Photographic Schedule of Condition of your property.
This is a report that documents the condition of your property. It is made up of two parts – a description of the building’s elements and their condition, and supporting photographs which back up the text description.
Clearly documenting the condition of your property, ideally before the building works start, will help to make any dispute over damages much more straightforward for the surveyor to assess and resolve. They will be able to easily determine if the alleged damage already existed or is new and was caused by the works. If damage to your property has occurred as a result of your neighbour’s works, you will be able to claim compensation from the building owner who is responsible for completing the works.
We have a range of videos talking through various surveying services, including party wall procedures. You can access them via our website or our YouTube channel. If your query isn’t covered in our videos and blogs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We would be more than happy to help you.
How you can contact Harrison Clarke
If you are concerned that your neighbour may be planning, or carrying out, notifiable works, and they have not served notice on you, please reach out to one of our experienced party wall surveyors on 023 8155 0051, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be able to advise you on your options and support you through the process.
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