For the purposes of this article I will refer to the domestic client, someone who in most cases (but not all), will have very little construction knowledge and will rely on others to point them in the right direction. For many in this situation the first port of call may be to contact a Contractor to come a long to give them some initial advice as well as an indication of likely costs, a ball park figure if you like. I can remember a number of situations where I had been appointed by a Building Owner as Party Wall Surveyor after works had commenced, where for whatever reason they had been made aware that they should have notified their Adjoining Owners (a term used under the Act to describe the party who is affected the work), but had not been advised of this by their Contractor.
In the situation where works are well advanced and sometimes nearing completion, it is worth thinking about the benefits of issuing party wall notification as well as the production of a Party Wall Award (sets out the terms and conditions for the proposed works, including costs/fees). One of the key reasons for the introduction of the Party Wall Act was to enable Building Owners to undertake work and give Adjoining Owners confidence that the works would be carried out in an appropriate manner and any damages caused on the Adjoining Owners land, in respect of the notifiable work would be rectified. Unless there is damage caused on an Adjoining Owners land, when works are nearing completion, there is little benefit in appointing and paying for surveyors and issuing party wall notification at this point. This is because the works ‘have already taken place’, (or mostly), so the remaining provisions that can be included in a Party Wall Award, at this late stage, will be extremely limited. An Adjoining Owner should not be given the impression that they can solely use the provisions of the Act as a way of disrupting the Building Owner and making them incur excessive expense (the Act also provides for the Building Owner to meet the reasonable fees of an Adjoining Owners Surveyor, if appointed), unless of course damage has occurred as a result of any works that may be notifiable.
If it is realised that a Building Owner has failed to serve Party Wall notification and works have been completed and an Adjoining Owner is not satisfied with the standard or quality of the works then they can scrutinise Building Regulations and Planning Permission requirements (if applicable) to confirm that these have been complied with and also consider areas of common law such as negligence, nuisance and trespass etc, if they have suffered damage or disruption. I have previously been approached by a number of people in this very situation where they have been told to insist that their neighbour issues Party Wall notification, after work had already commenced. For the reasons explained above, this is a pointless exercise and very poor advice. Once works are complete an Adjoining Owner should seek a common law remedy if they feel they have a justified grievance with their neighbour. They cannot rely on the provisions of an Act that has not been initiated in the first place!
It is worth noting that for the purposes of this article I have used the terms Building Owner and Adjoining Owner throughout. Whereas these roles only exist once the Party Wall Act is initiated through the service of notices, these terms have been used to explain the relationship between those who may have work undertaken and those who may be affected by these works.
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