Dealing With a ‘Distruptive’ Neighbour

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

I live in a mid terrace and have planning permission to build a single storey extension to increase the size of the kitchen.  The building would be entirely on my property and the foundations would not exceed those of the house.  From a review of the act it would appear that I would have to notify the owner of the adjoining property as the work will be within 3 metres and will be joined at some point to the party wall between the two properties.

There has been a boundary dispute (last year) which was not settled amicably and as a result the relationship between us has suffered irreconcilably.  I am now concerned that my neighbour will do all he can to be as disruptive as possible to the process.  I am prepared to be reasonable, and follow the act with respect to timescales, indemnities and so on, but fear that he will make the process as difficult as possible, and try to escalate all costs that I will be responsible for.

What, in the act, safeguards me from reckless behaviour and ensures that both parties are treated fairly? What would the outcomes be, if after serving notice, I continued with the work? Should he choose to get an injunction who would have to pay the costs associated with it?

Answer

You only need to serve a Notice of Adjacent Excavation under section 6 of the Party Wall Act if you will be excavating to a greater depth than your neighbour’s existing foundation. Modern foundations tend to be deeper than original ones – particularly if the properties are pre-war. If you are building right up to the boundary you will also need to serve a ‘Line of Junction Notice’ under section 1 of the Act.

You are only responsible for the adjoining owner’s surveyor’s ‘reasonable’ fees. What is reasonable is determined by the two surveyors or, if they cannot agree, by a Third Surveyor that is selected at the outset to resolve disputes.

You shouldn’t start the work until your neighbour consents or an award has been agreed. There are no penalties under the Act but your neighbour could apply for an injunction to stop the work until surveyors have been appointed and an award has been agreed. Your neighbour would  pay the costs of obtaining the injunction initially but if it is proved that the injunction was justified – which it would be if your work is notifiable under the Act – they would undoubtedly apply for an order on costs and you would have to pay them. It would probably cost several thousand pounds and take a few months.

Follow up

Is the notice period for both line of junction and adjacent excavation one month?

As the extension will have to be attached to the external rear face of the building on my side of the boundary line, would that constitute a requirement for notification under the Party Structure notice?  I know ignorance is no defence, but if I served a month notice when it should be two, how much of an issue would this cause?

Answer

The notice period for both Line of Junction and Adjacent Excavation Notices is one month.

If you are using the adjoining owner’s building to gain support or cutting flashings in to his wall then a Party Structure Notice will have to be served.

One of the essential pieces of information on a party structure notice is the start date of the works – and it should not be within 2 months of the notice date. If it is, it will default to the earliest lawful date i.e 2 months after the date of the notice. The notice period is not normally crucial as the award can often be prepared more quickly and the remaining notice period waived by the adjoining owner (although they are not obliged to do this). Also, even if the notice period expires you cannot start work unless an award has been agreed and served to settle any disputes.