Neighbour Would Prefer a ‘do-it yourself’ Package

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

I live in a Victorian terraced house in London.  My neighbours are proposing to extend their kitchen into their back garden using a party wall recently built by us for a similar extension.  He has not issued me with a notice that this is his intention, but I have been advised by their builder that they intend to start work soon.  Obviously I would like there to be a party wall award and I believe that he should pay a contribution to the cost of the wall that he is using.    The neighbour would prefer a ‘do-it yourself’ package and is resistant to paying for the wall – implying that he cannot afford the project if this is the case.

Is my expectation reasonable/normal?

Answer

Your expectations appear perfectly reasonable.

Are you sure that the wall which you recently built is ‘party’? To build a party wall where there wasn’t a wall before would have required your neighbour’s consent. If the wall was built up to the boundary but not astride it then it is your wall and your neighbour cannot use it without your consent. If the wall is indeed ‘party’ then your neighbour has a right to use it but must first serve notice of his intentions and agree to pay an appropriate sum in compensation. Compensation is calculated on the basis of the current cost of building the wall divided by 2.

It may also be the case that the excavation work involved in your neighbour’s proposed extension requires an additional notice under section 6 of the Party Wall Act.

If your neighbour intends to start work soon he should be serving the notice now as the notice period for using the party wall is 2 months although that can be shortened with your agreement.

Follow-up

You will see from previous correspondence that our neighbours are building an extension which uses a wall that we built in 2000 and which has been agreed is a party wall.  Our neighbours eventually agreed to the appointment of a party wall surveyor of their choice who would act for both of us.  They had tried to persuade us that we could ‘do it ourselves’ and offered us £500 for a 7 metre cavity wall, approx. 5 metres high which is built on piles and with various other strengthenings, anti heave etc.  We said that we needed to have an impartial and fair estimate of the cost.

After speaking with you our neighbours were still denying that they were about to start the works and a party wall agreement, together with our official notification came soon after.  At that time the party wall surveyor said that he did not want to hold up the works and proposed to calculate the cost of the wall at a later date, following his return from holiday.  We told him that we were not happy with this bearing in mind the fact that our neighbours had told us that if the amount was significant they would not be able to afford the project and that they were clearly reluctant to pay.  He did not regard this as sufficient justification to ‘hold things up’ and we had no say in the matter apparently.

Building did start on 1st August and is now nearing completion.  Some three and a half months later from the notification we still do not know the cost of the party wall.  The excuses have not been many – the surveyor was on holiday, the structural engineer could not locate his drawings.  When I told the surveyor that our architect had all the drawings we were told that he was not prepared to pay the £100 that architect was asking to search his archives and print drawings.  Eventually the structural engineer found his drawings but the surveyor was not prepared to seek evidence of the increased depth of the piles (from architect) but would guess at a 25% increase.  This was over a month ago during which time the QS was on holiday – the last excuse.  We do want to be unreasonable but feel that we are now being taken for a ride and wonder whether the cost of the wall will now be fair.  It does not seem that the party wall surveyor is impartial.

Our question is: is this reasonable and if not do we have any recourse in this matter?  Can we still appoint our own party wall surveyor?  Help!

Answer

The expenses should have been calculated and entered in to the award before it was served on the owners.

As you are using an ‘Agreed’ surveyor there is not anyone that you can refer matters to and you cannot now appoint a separate surveyor. You do however have a right to appeal the award in the County Court; this should be done with 14 days of the award being served. As the expenses were not in the original award then technically they should be in an addendum award which could then be appealed. If the surveyor does not prepare an addendum award then make sure that he confirms his figure in writing as that should serve the same purpose and allow you to appeal the figure if you do not think it is fair.

Follow-up.

1 Month Later

We do have an Addendum Award now   but our neighbours are refusing to pay which is not entirely unexpected.  We have now written to them telling them that if they have not paid by DATE we shall look to the County Court for settlement.  In this event could we place everything in the hands of solicitors and also reclaim the solicitors costs.  All of this is proving quite distressing.

Answer

If the expense has been entered in to the award and has not been challenged by the adjoining owner during the 14 day appeal period then you can enforce their payment through the courts if necessary.

I don’t claim to be very familiar with County Court rules but as far as I know only very limited legal fees are reclaimable. You can lodge the claim yourself online for a relatively small fee so that may be the best option if they do not pay – see Money Claim Online.