Duties of a Building Owner

In the first instance, it is the building owner’s responsibility to notify the adjoining owners if they intend to carry out work, We advise building owners to first discuss their proposed plans with their neighbours prior to serving a formal notice.
 
The building owner is required to serve notice on the adjoining owner and any additional occupier with a term of tenancy in excess of 12 months. For example a property subdivided into two self contained apartments would normally have a freeholder and two sets of leaseholders thus three sets of parties to serve notice on.
 

The notice[s] should contain sufficient information so that the adjoining owner[s] can fully and clearly digest the proposed works, and decide whether they wish to consent. The remit of responsibility for serving notice falls upon the building owner, likely a lay person with limited building or construction knowledge, often a surveyor serves the notice on behalf of a building owner (as agent). To serve notice is to deliver a legal instrument which then binds the term of making a legal process, thus invoking the 1996 Act. Insufficient information may invalidate a claim and subsequently delay the proposed project.

The Government has published a explanatory booklet for building owners which you can download

Work on the line of junction; where the building owner proposes to build a party wall or party fence wall astride the boundary or a wholly on their land up to the boundary line, such as a side extension or garden studio or a garden/driveway wall.

Notifiable Work?

All types of buildings, commercial, industrial and residential are covered under Act, thus if neighbours share a party wall, party structure or a party fence wall then the provisions of the Act are applicable. The Act provides statutory regulation under three distinct scenarios, which we have briefly summarised for you:

 

Works to party wall; s.2 permits a building owner to undertake work on a shared wall between neighbours, in some circumstances rights are permitted in respect of a structure abutting a boundary situated entirely on an adjoining owners land. Typical examples include:

 

  1. Inserting steel beam/s for a loft conversion

  2. Removal of a chimney stack to add floor space

  3. Lowering the party wall as part of a basement conversion 

  4. Raising the party wall to form an additional level

  5. Inserting a damp proof course, etc.

Adjacent excavation work; s.6(1)(2) where the building owners proposes to excavate within 3 or 6 metres of neighbouring land, or excavate for and construct foundations for a new building  or structure. The notice must include the building owner’s intention’s, particularly proposals to safeguard adjoining owner’s foundations (s.6(5)), and provide plans and sections illustrating depth of excavations and subsequent erection of building or structure.

An owner planning to undertake works that fall within the scope of the Act should start planning early; notice periods are either 1 and 2 months depending upon the type of work but where complex works are to be undertaken it can take longer than that for an award to be agreed.

The importance of having the correct surveyor acting on an owner’s behalf is highlighted in the case of Manu v Euroview Estates Limited [2008]. The judge notes a disapproval of the adjoining owners appointed surveyor in her judgement:

“Mr Lai is a barrister and a solicitor and he has also told me that he has a master degree in nuclear physics. His practical experience of building was derived from five years’ manual work at Higgs & Hill…he has no qualifications as either a surveyor or an engineer.”
 
The point is that that Mr Lai bought a lawyer’s approach to the process which ended up in court when the matter should have dealt with pragmatically prior to proceedings, eliminating the additional financial burden,  stress and time spent going through the Courts.
Accordingly, the duty of an owner must be appointing a survey that is suitably competent and indeed well versed on party wall matters.

For further information or to request a quote

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