I went through the correct channels and served a Party Wall Award. We started work on a small extension, which was externally finished within a few weeks. Nine months later the surveyor that was acting on behalf of the neighbour wrote to see if they were satisfied and low and behold the neighbour decided that we had damaged their garage wall as we had to remove an encroached fence that had been erected tight up against the corner of their wall and adjacent to our shed. Not much room to get this fence in and we noted that 3 bricks were chipped on removal of the fence.
This we believe was caused by the neighbour’s contractor when putting up the fence. Our builder said the post came out easily and it was not caused by them, so we left it as it was after I had taken photos. They claimed damage to seven bricks and guttering. I managed to prove that the guttering was, as it was, prior to building, but as the damage to bricks was underneath the fence post I cannot prove our innocence.
Our surveyor visited a few weeks later to check and after seeing the photos agreed with us. However their surveyor, now another 4 months further on is trying to obtain money on their behalf for the damage that is unproven.
I have refused to pay the £150 – £200 they are demanding, but we are being pressurised into paying otherwise they will get an independent Third Party Surveyor to come out, which I have been informed I will have to pay for and that will be a lot more than the amount they are asking for. As these neighbours have continued to harass us for the last 20 years we are reluctant even to offer a good will payment as we do not want to accept liability for what we believe we did not do.
Can they do this? Do I have to pay for the Third Party Surveyor under the Party Wall Act? Is there a time limit on their demands?
There is no time limit for dealing with damaged caused by party wall works. If the 2 appointed surveyors cannot agree on whether the damaged can be attributed to your works they should refer the matter to the Third Surveyor who was selected at the outset – you will find his name in the party wall award. The Third Surveyor will award who should pay his fees but in most cases that will be the owner who is on the wrong end of his decision.
You are correct to say that the Third Surveyor’s fee will be more than the amount in dispute so it would be worth trying to reach a negotiated settlement.
Bear in mind that the Third Surveyor will only have jurisdiction to award on this matter if the alleged damage was caused during the course of undertaking the notifiable works i.e. the works detailed on the party wall notice.