My Neighbour Above me has Started Works and has Damaged my Ceiling – How Should I Proceed?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

My neighbour verbally informed me he was having some building work done, and said it was a case of a week of floorboards being taken up, followed by some disturbance as the bathroom was renovated and tiles laid. No party wall notice was served.

A week into building work my bathroom ceiling leaked through from the overflow pipe from the flat above causing damage to my flooring which I had a carpenter repair. Three days ago the builders knocked through my bedroom ceiling – causing a 30cm square hole and further cracks in the ceiling plaster to appear.

Today, more damage has appeared in the plaster work in my living room. My neighbour has now told me that he is having the entire flat gutted due to dry rot having been found, and the floor has been entirely torn out of the flat above, the kitchen is to be ripped out, and the work is expected to continue for a further 3 weeks. He has offered to make good any damage, and has started repairs on my bedroom ceiling but is this enough to cover me?

The building is Georgian and cracks are also appearing in the upstairs flat. No surveyor had viewed his flat or mine. Should we have had an assessment to check what structural damage could occur?

Answer

Treating the dry rot is likely to involve at least partial replacement of the timbers that make up the floor to the flat above and the ceiling to your flat. That floor would be classed as a Party Structure under the Party Wall Act and so a notice should have been served at least 2 months before the work we due to commence. It may be that your neighbour did not realise the extent of the work required until the floor was uncovered – lifting floorboards, changing the bathroom, tiling the floor etc. would not have been notifiable although those works may have required the Freeholder’s consent. The Freeholder may have insisted on schedules being prepared to cover the adjoining flats before granting a license to alter.

The cracking to your flat is a concern so ideally you should bring this work within the scope of the Act – that will mean that it is temporarily stopped while notice is served and an award prepared. The alternative would be to prepare a schedule of condition covering your flat before any more work is carried out although that will only help with attributing blame for any damage – it will not reassure you that any changes to the floor structure have been carried out to a good standard. 

Your neighbour’s offer to repair and damage caused by his works does not provide any additional assurance as he would have to do that anyway under common law.