Our Work is Finished and Our Neighbour Wants an Award

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

I wonder if you could help me.  Three weeks ago we began work on our garage roof which has been leaking for years.  Our garage is separated from our neighbour’s garage by a party wall.  Unfortunately, I was unaware of the Party Wall Act 1996 and so gave no written notice of our intended works.  Our neighbour however was aware of our plans to replace our roof.  After a difficult first day (with the neighbour expressing his concerns regarding some RSJ beams the builders were inserting to support the roof and asking questions) he quietened down and watched the progress of the works expressing no further concerns, talking to the builders, even giving them presents.  Although the beams do cut into the wall, they only do this on our half of the wall (they DO NOT touch his half whatsoever), ‘columns’ were also inserted and attached to our side of the wall to help support the beams. The roof is now finished as is the interior of the garage (and the ceiling too, so the beams have actually been covered up).

Two days ago we received a letter from our neighbour who is now demanding that the beams be removed, accusing us of covering everything up in an attempt to conceal the horror of our sins! We were entirely unaware of the Party Wall Act and our duty to inform our neighbours in writing.  We always acted in good faith, never with bad intentions.  

What do you suggest we do from here?  What are our and his rights?

Answer

You should have served notice two months before commencing work to the party wall. However, the Act does not allow for retrospective notices or awards so this is no longer a party wall matter. Your neighbour had the option of seeking an injunction while the works covered by the Act were in progress but that time has now passed. 

There is a right under section 2(2)(f) of the Act to insert beams in to the party wall so your neighbour cannot now make you remove them. You will still be responsible for any damage that your works have caused, and there is no end point to that responsibility, but if there has not been any damage the matter is closed. There are no penalties for not complying with the Act.