Neighbour Building Without My Consent or an Agreed Award

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

My neighbour has started a full renovation of his house including a loft conversation and rear extension. Initially he served me with a notice but did not fully explain the extent of proposed work. The notice mentioned the loft conversion, the extension and apologised for inconvenience.

The building owner asked me to sign the notice and return it to him. I verbally asked the building owner if it was a legal requirement for me to sign this notice. The building owner replied that it is for his own protection. I replied to him that if it’s not a legal requirement then it is not important for me to sign it and I left it at that.

One week later the building work started. When they began to remove chimney breast I became really worried.  I brought the matter to building owner’s attention and asked for an explanation.  I  also asked him to appoint a surveyor to look into the matter and he agreed, however, he continued with the building work, ignoring my requests which was not to do anything on the party wall until a surveyor has looked at it.

The party wall act clearly states that the building owner should notify the adjoining owners two months in advance, also if any dispute arises they should appoint a surveyor to resolve the matter prior to starting any building work. He did neither with me. I further wrote to the building owner expressing my disappointment, however did not get any reply.  I have asked them to stop until the matter is resolved but work continues.

As I have moved into the house not long and I want to maintain a good relationship with my neighbours but I feel that the building owner is treating me unfairly.

At this point I am not sure what I should do to resolve this dispute. According to the act I could obtain an injunction to stop building owner working on the party wall but I am not sure how long it will take to get an injunction and what will be the fees. I would like to know is there anything else I can do rather then getting an injunction to safeguard my property and resolve this dispute.

Answer

If you did not consent in writing then you are automatically deemed to have dissented under the act. The building owner should have issued a follow-up letter under section 10 of the Act and then if you still didn’t appoint someone then he should have made an appointment for you.

The removal of chimney breasts from a party wall is covered under Section 2 (2) of the Act and would require a party structure notice. An injunction is the only remedy available if a building owner proceeds with work which comes within the scope of the Act – in the absence of the adjoining owner’s consent or an agreed award. Because an injunction has to be obtained quickly it is expensive. You would hopefully get an award on costs later but you would have to foot the initial bill. Often the threat of an injunction is enough to bring a building owner in to line.

Follow-up

If I need to go for an urgent injunction I would like to know how long the process would take.  Would it be possible to draw up an award even if the building owner doesn’t cooperate and whether or not an award can be drawn up without an injunction.

Answer

The nature of an injunction means that if it is granted it is granted with immediate effect. That is why it is expensive to obtain; the solicitor has to go to court and wait for a judge to become available.

You can have an award without the cooperation of the building owner if they have served notice but it is not ideal if work is continuing. If the building owner refuses to stop work and you do not want to apply for an injunction I would recommend that you prepare a schedule of condition of your property so that it can be shown that any damage caused by the works was not pre-existing.