Is my Neighbour Just Chancer Who is Trying To Extort Money From Us?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

We have recently had a new kitchen extension built, however we were not told about the “party wall act”. We had all the necessary building permission from the council, and their own guys came round to inspect the work during the required intervals and allowed the work to carry on. At no time was the “party wall act” mentioned to us by anyone!!

Our footings drop just over a metre deep, which is just above the wall of a neighbours garage, (at the same depth as the footings). These footings are less than 3 metres away from his wall, however are only approx 3 feet along it. He has now said and has dubious photos that our footings are causing his wall to show damp seeping through, (since Sept when the footings were laid), and has been sending my wife and I almost threatening letters saying he WILL come in and excavate to protect his garage wall. WE had structual engineers report done which says there should be no prob but he says he has a report which says there will be a prob. His letters are all self written, (very badly!), and he is pushing us to pay for legal fees etc etc.

One other thing, he did a few years ago, want to buy some of our land to allow him to us the top of the said garage as a patio area, which would have been overlooking our garden and situated approx 10 foot from our little boys bedroom. We appealed against this and have heard that he was “very angry” and almost wants revenge!!

So, does he have a case, or is he just a chancer who is trying to extort money from us??

Answer

It was your responsibility to find out about the Party Wall Act and serve any necessary notices although I agree that planning offices and designers should play a greater part in making homeowners aware of the Act.

The courts tend to take a dim view of owners that proceed with work without serving notice – you may wish to read up on a pertinent case where damage was caused by a Building Owner who had not served notice and the judge took the view that it was up to the Building Owner to prove that the damage had not been caused by his works, which is the reverse of what normally happens.

I would suggest that you cooperate with the adjoining owner to establish whether your recent works did contribute towards his damp problem. Perhaps the two of you could agree upon a single expert to provide an opinion. My personal view is that the expert’s fee should be borne by you as if you had followed the proper procedures you would have incurred considerably higher expenses.