Our Freeholder Removed a Supporting Party Wall Downstairs and Caused Damage to our Kitchen. What Recourse do I have?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

Our property is a purpose built 1st floor maisonette with a remaining lease of about 70 years.

About three years ago, our freeholder, who also owned the downstairs maisonette, had the downstairs renovated in order to sell.  As part of the renovations he had the supporting party wall in the kitchen removed.  We were given no notice of the work being undertaken. It was only because I happened to be in our kitchen at the time they were propping up the ceiling  that I realized that something serious was going on downstairs.  I felt the floor move and then couldn’t open a cupboard door.

The initial problem for us at the time was that our kitchen floor, which is concrete, cracked and crumbled.  The freeholder (a quantity surveyor) and the builder agreed to remedy the the floor and replace the cracked floor covering. The freeholder did say it would take a couple of years for everything to settle and that there might be a little movement.

Three years later, not only has the concrete kitchen floor started to crack again, both the floor and the work surface appear to be bowing.

I noticed the floor tiles cracking about a year ago, but because the freeholder had said there would be some settling, I thought I would leave it until the problem had peaked and then contact him to get the floor relayed again.  It wasn’t until yesterday that I noticed the wooden kitchen work surface was bowing and realized that the concrete floor wasn’t just breaking up, but was actually raised in line the with rise of the bowing work surface.

Answer

It is likely that the work would have been notifiable under The Party Wall Act as the floor between the 2 maisonettes would be a party structure.

The fact that no notice was served and the work was completed means that this is now a civil matter between the two of you. It would be impossible for me to know the cause of the damage but if you think that it was down to the work on the flat below and the owner does not accept liability you will have to make a claim in the county Court.

Although it is not my area of expertise I understand that claims of this nature must be filed within 6 years