Shared Ownership of a Party Wall and Associated Costs
by: The Party Wall Surveyor
My question relates to a party wall that was made of concrete blocks and has fallen down after 40 years. There were no footings for the wall and therefore insurance would not pay out. Our neighbours who share the party wall live behind and slightly above us. Their garden is about 5 feet higher than ours so now we have a vertical drop with nothing to support it, other than a line of trees close to the edge of their garden.
We have had some quotes and agreed on one which would costs us both £1,000. Our neighbours are panicking that the trees and soil may collapse into our garden and insist we build the new wall as soon as possible. At this time we do not have this money spare and said we would try and come up with it in a few months time.
My questions are as follows:
- After one week our neighbour appears to have lost patience and has bought in a surveyor and tells us via telephone message that he is going to serve a party wall notice. We have yet to receive this but when we do can they force us to pay for our share of the wall?
- The only way they can build the wall is through access to our land as they have a line of trees running the width of their garden. Can they gain access to our land without our permission?
- The wall has stood for 40 odd years and only came down after they had their trees chopped off in the winter. We were told by the insurance surveyor and the builder that this, along with the weather during winter, probably contributed to the wall coming down. We have wondered whether we should be asked to pay for what is essentially a supporting wall for their garden?
To answer your specific questions:
- If the wall is in shared ownership and has fallen in to disrepair your neighbour can force you to pay your share of the repair/rebuilding costs. They would need to serve notice under section 2(2)(b) of the Act.
- The Act does provide a right of access to an Adjoining Owner’s land where it is necessary to undertake the work. This would be subject to 14 days written notice.
- The costs of work which is the subject of notice under section 2(2)(b) is defrayed according to section 11(5) of the Act. That section says that if one of the owners is responsible for the defect then they should pay for the repair. If the owners cannot agree responsibility then it will be up to the appointed surveyor to decide.
In order to get the money for the repairs would they have to take us to court?
They could take you to court to enforce the surveyor’s award. Bear in mind that you would also be responsible for half the surveyor’s fees which could add a few more hundred pounds.
The replacement wall must be no worse than what was there before, be fit for purpose and comply with any relevant regulations. If these things can be achieved by building a like for like wall then that’s all you should be expected to contribute towards.