Will I Be Blamed for Damage to my Neighbour’s Shoddy Conservatory?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

I am planning a kitchen extension in my terraced cottage and both of my neighbours have requested a surveyor to draw up a party wall award. I understand that i will have to pay for this.

The party wall on one side is my existing kitchen wall and my neighbours have butted up a conservatory against it. This wall will be unchanged but i will be replacing the existing flat kitchen roof with a sloping tiled roof double the width, so i anticipate a certain amount of banging and stress on the wall.

I am slightly worried about their conservatory as it is not terribly well built and i know they have had problems with leaks in the past. Will the party wall award protect me if they should have future problems and attribute it to my building works? Also if the surveyor deems it necessary will i be responsible for payment to make their conservatory safe before my work begins or will they?  And how long after work is done can problems with their conservatory be blamed on my work?

Answer

The surveyors will prepare a schedule of condition covering the parts of the adjoining properties that are considered to be at risk – that would normally cover any areas within 3-4 metres of any excavation works or work directly affecting the party wall. Those schedules will be used as evidence if there is any damage. The surveyors will use their expertise to decide if any damage that occurs is attributable to your works.

Party wall surveyors are supposed to be independent and not favour the owner that appoints them so in theory they should form similar conclusions. If they cannot agree the dispute will be referred to a Third Surveyor (who is selected at the start of the process by the 2 appointed surveyors) for a judgement.

Although a party wall file is never technically closed the more time that passes by the harder it will be to prove that any damage was related to your works.

The surveyors will consider how they can protect adjoining structures from damage. A typical safeguard would be to specify that any work on the wall immediately adjacent to the conservatory is carried out with hand tools only or for example any drilling in to the wall is done with a high speed rather than a pneumatic drill. If the conservatory is unstable they may decide that some temporary propping is required.