Must Adjoining Owner Only Decorate the Damaged Spot or all 4 Walls?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

My neighbour has recently completed major renovations to his terraced house.  The works carried out have caused significant damage to my property, mainly in the form of large cracks that have appeared in the joining wall between our houses.  It has been agreed by my neighbour and the party wall surveyor that my neighbour is liable and will ‘fix’ the cracks by raking them out, filling them and painting.  However, one of the cracks is through a wall which has decorative, matching wallpaper on all four walls of the room.  The party wall surveyor is saying that the neighbour only needs to paint the area around the crack.  I am arguing that in order for the room to be restored to its original condition, the crack needs to be repaired and all four walls decorated in new matching wallpaper (there is no wallpaper to match existing).

Answer

You are correct. You should not be left in a worse position than you were in before the work commenced – if you have an obviously patched up wall then that will not be the case.

You only mention 1 surveyor in your email – is he the Agreed Surveyor?

Follow-up

He is the agreed surveyor although a ‘Third surveyor’ was apppointed under the award.   The agreed surveyor’s argument is that if we re-paper all four walls then we would be better off than we were before (as the old wallpaper will be replaced by new) but I agree with yourself,  if one wall is obviously patched then we will be in a worse position.  If the agreed surveyor will not argue our case, what is the best course of action?

Answer

If there is an Agreed Surveyor there cannot be a Third Surveyor (how can you have a third without a second?). This is a fairly basic error and probably demonstrates that the appointed surveyor is not that experienced in party wall matters.

If some betterment occurs as a result of your property being put back to at least its original condition then that has to be accepted by the Building Owner – it’s not your fault that they damaged your property.

Unfortunately, when an agreed surveyor is appointed the only way that you can challenge his decision is by appealing the award (or the addendum award in this case).

Why don’t you suggest that he has an informal chat with the surveyor that he named as the Third Surveyor in the hope that he will make him see sense – Third Surveyors are generally very experienced in these matters.

Follow-up

Just one more quick question.  The cracks that have appeared in the property are substantial as are the works that have been completed next door.  The builder himself has even suggested that the buildings may take up 6 months to ‘settle’.  If the cracks reopen again, or other cracks appear, some time after redecoration, is it just a case of calling the party wall surveyor back in?…ie when does the neighbours liability end?

Answer

There is no end date to the Building Owners liability although the more time that goes by the less likely it is that defects will be related to their works. It would be for the surveyor to decide whether there is a link. It is generally accepted that new buildings take at least 6 months to find their equilibrium with the soil – I would say it’s more like 12 i.e. a complete cycle of the seasons.