Damage caused as a result of party wall works!
What happens if damage occurs to an adjoining owners’ property as a result of neighbouring building work?
The first point of call is to determine whether the adjoining owner has the benefit of legal protection offered by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
- A valid party wall Notice was received
- Party Wall Surveyor/s were duly appointment
- An Award was served
it is likely that the adjoining owner will benefit from the legal protection offered under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
The Award is crucial to the dispute resolution process whereas under section 10 of the Act the appointed surveyor/s Serve on the owners the Award binding both to its terms and conditions including the necessity to ‘make good’ or ‘compensate’ an adjoining owner.
Appointed Surveyors have a wide birth of authority to deal with the original dispute as well as subsequent disputes such as the occurrence of damage.
Section 10 (10) (a) of the 1996 Act, empowers the appointed party wall surveyor/s to settle by Award any matter which is connected with work to which the Act relates. Section 10 (12) (c) extending this power to determine any matter arising out of or incidental to the dispute.
As damage may occur many months or even years following building work the Award and its content are key to a sufficient and amicable resolve.
Both owners will be anxious and with reasonable cause, but this should be alleviated by the reassurance of knowing that appointed party wall surveyor function under a Statutory role, duty bound to act impartially and with no vested interested other than doing what is right by both parties.
The Award should contain enough information to allow the surveyor/s to determine whether the adjoining owners damage is new, and if there in connection with notifiable work undertaken by the building owner.
Interestingly, although a schedule of condition is often stated by many practitioner as being pre-requisite to an Award, actually, there is nothing in the 1996 Legislation that requires this.
We believe its likely that Parliament in their wisdom envisaged difficulty for surveyors in gaining access under certain circumstances (safety reasons due to derelict site's, AWOL owners (we once had a adjoining owner who was sailing the merry Sea).
That said, we always advocate a Schedule of Condition is prepared and included as part of the Award. The advancement of high resolution digital photographs coupled with having surveyors attending site to inspect and provide written record are significant to the dispute resolution process, especially if damage does subsequently occur.
The Award should detail the type of work undertaken and include a record of the pre-work condition of the adjoining owners property. The Award may also detail the compensatory obligations of the building owner in the event that damage does occur.
Under the Party Wall Act, what recourse does the adjoining owner have if damage occurs?
In order to mitigate unnecessary inconvenience, the Act empowers surveyors to Award on the time and manner in which work is executed. Unfortunately, by nature construction work will inevitably cause a level of disruption, nuisance and damage regardless of the safeguarding measures implemented.
Section 7 and 10 of the Act facilitates such occurrences by empowering surveyors to (serve) further Award/s and compensate an aggrieved party.
Adjoining Owner Options
In the first instance, adjoining owner can agree with the building owner on a suitable resolution be this repair or financial compensation. This agreement does not involve the party wall surveyors and is advocated for minor repair work where professional fee’s will likely exceed the cost of repair or compensation.
Secondly, the party wall surveyor/s will identify the repair work required and if necessary draft and agree on the appropriate schedule of works. The building owners contractor then undertakes the repair work.
Thirdly, the required work is determined as above, however, rather than the building owners contractor undertaking repair, the adjoining owner can elect to receive financial compensation equal in value to the work required. This allows the adjoining owner to appoint a contractor of their choosing and convenience.
How to work out repair costs?
This is an important question, the topic often a cause of friction and conflict between appointing owner’s therefore the determination of such costings are generally common practise amongst practitioners and generally advocated for most types of building work. This includes:
Obtaining comparative quotes from reputable contractors
Utilise industry standard cost guides
Broker the services of a reputable quantity surveyor.
Once a costing has been determined the Party Wall Surveyor will Award on damages obligating the building owner to transfer funds, allowing the adjoining owner to programme in required repair work.
We hope you found this article useful, please note party wall matters are a complex mix of Property & Land Law and specialist construction knowledge, as such, this article is intended for general guidance only and does not confer legal advice.
If you do have any party wall issues or concerns, or are indeed planning your next project and need further advice or guidance get in touch with one of our friendly consultants today.
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