by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

My neighbor is in the process of rebuilding/extending his house. 

Although we requested it, he has chosen to undertake works without a party wall award. The works do include party wall works e.g. removing chimney breasts, building in beams etc. 

No surprises then, we have suffered damages – cracked/loose plaster on the party wall, cracked floor tiles adjacent to the party wall etc. 

We always thought that one of the advantages of the Award was that the Building Owner was protected against spurious claims for damages from the Adjoining neighbor so ultimately we would still be protected through a civil process. 

However, we have now been told that we would have to prove that the damages were caused by the works and that they were not there before work started. Is this correct and if so, is it not in the Building Owners best interest not to get a party wall award in cases where access is not required?

Answer

There are lots of advantages to the Building Owner having a party wall agreement in place and avoiding spurious claims for damages is one of them. If there had been an agreement it would have included a schedule of condition of your property prior to the work commencing.  

As you rightly say you will now have to make a civil claim against your neighbour if you cannot agree on the cause of the damage. In situations such as this the court tends to take a dim view of an owner that did not comply with party wall procedures.

It may help your case to obtain a report from a surveyor stating that in his professional opinion the damage was caused by your neighbour’s recent works. You should claim the cost of the report back from your neighbour.