An Award was Agreed Three Years ago in Reference to Repairing a Party Wall. I have now been Served Notice informing me my Neighbour now intends to demolish it instead.

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

Three years ago the owner of the house next door drilled through the party wall without giving me notice under the Party Wall etc Act 1996.  He agreed to pay for the damage, but would not agree to stop further drilling into the wall. He stated he was inserting metal rods into the party wall to ‘tie’ my house to his in case my house fell down!

I took advice and subsequently advised the owner of next door  that no work was to be carried out on the party wall without him serving notice as per the Party Wall etc Act of 1996, which he subsequently did and I then disputed the necessity of this work.  He responded by saying that the underpinning of my house which took place in 1997,and some 3 years before I bought the house, had caused damage to the party wall on his side and he expected me to pay for the repair to his wall. Under the process of the Act 3 surveyors were appointed by him and all advised that some metal strapping to the wall would resolve the problem. Each surveyor in turn  had to fight him for their fees as he claimed they had not done their job as he wanted them to say that the party wall should be totally demolished and rebuilt.

An Award under the Act was made, and it was recommended that he use the metal straps recommended by the professional surveyors and that he pay my appointed surveyors fees. He tried to appeal the Award but  long after the statutory appeal period had expired, and did in fact manage to get a hearing on the grounds that my appointed surveyor was trying to obtain money from him by fraudulent means.  His appeal was dismissed by the judge on the grounds that he did not appeal the Award in the given time.

Now 3 years later he has once again served notice on me under the Act for the same thing, stating he intends to demolish the party wall starting in February. How many times can this man continue to serve notice?

Answer

Even though there was an Award agreed 3 years ago the Building Owner was not obliged to carry out the notified works. The purpose of an Award is to facilitate work rather than compel an owner to undertake that work.

There is no restriction on the number of notices that a Building Owner can serve although the dispute triggered by the previous notice should have been resolved before a new one is issued for the same works – if the work does not go ahead that should be done by either withdrawing the notice or the surveyors agreeing a simple award confirming that the works have been abandoned and dealing with the surveyor’s fees (opinions differ amongst surveyors on which is the correct method).

It will be important to establish under which section of the Act the proposals are being notified – although this may not be stated on the notice it will need to be established before an Award can be agreed. The 2 sections that come to mind are 2(2)(b) & 2(2)(e). If it is the former than the surveyors will have to decide which owners are to pay for the work and to do that they will have to establish the nature of the defect that has necessitated the re-building and responsibility for that defect or want of repair. If the notice is served under 2(2)(e) then the Building Owner will pay for the works and you may be entitled to some compensation under Section 11(6) but there is nothing that you can do to stop it happening.

The costs of this work and the associated fees and expenses would be significant so I would be surprised if the Building Owner would enter in to this lightly.