Can I give My Neighbour a Backdated Notice and Get Their Consent?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

We recently had our loft extended and during the works our neighbours complained  that apparently due to the works the soot in their chimney fell down into their living room and caused damage to their furniture. I would like to know would we be liable for the damages – they’re claiming £7000 from their home insurance!

Does having a party wall agreement with them make any difference? The neighbour has approached me and asked me to sign a backdated party wall agreement saying that she doesn’t want to blame me for anything.

Answer

Only Party Wall Surveyors can produce a party wall agreement (known as an award) so I’m guessing that what your neighbour is suggesting that you sign is a Party Wall Notice. A notice served after the work has been completed would be invalid so I don’t see what that would achieve.

Had you served notice before your work commenced there would have been an award produced (assuming that your neighbours dissented to that notice) and the surveyors may well have suggested shielding off the flues to next door while the work was going on to prevent the problems that your neighbour has had.

You will now have to deal with the matter outside of the Party Wall Act. You are responsible for any damage that your works caused so if your neighbours can claim from their insurers you are very fortunate.

Follow-up

Thank you for your informative response. Just two questions:

1. They want me to back date it, she’s saying that by backdating the notice she is proving to her insurers that she did consent to the works.
2. The insurers are writing to me and claiming the £xxxx worth of damage from me – is that correct?

Answer

I can understand why your neighbour would want you to do that but technically it would be fraudulent so I could not possibly recommend it. It would obviously be easier for your neighbour to claim their costs from the insurers than directly from you.

I can see why the insurers would claim the costs of putting the damage right from you – it was after all caused by your works. I can’t see the benefit to you of arranging a back dated consent if you end up paying the full amount anyway – unless you can claim against your own insurance or your builder’s public liability insurance.

Follow-up

So the reason behind the back dated consent is so my neighbour can claim from her insurers. I only got building insurance on my property three days before I received the first letter from my neighbour’s insurers, would my insurers cover me as my builders do not in fact have any insurance.

What would be the down side for me if I were to sign this notice.

Answer

As long as your insurance was in place at the time the damage occurred there should not be a problem. The downside would be that if it ever came to light that the notice and consent were back dated I’m guessing it would invalidate any claims.