I have Noticed that My Party Wall Award only names Me as Building Owner; I own My House with two others. Is it still legally binding?

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

I recently bought a terraced house in London which was in serious need of renovating.  While renovating we also decided to put in a loft conversion.  The house also needed underpinning due to subsidence.

I have a couple of questions regarding the Party Wall Award. Firstly and only by chance did i notice this but only my name and the next door owners names appear on the document.  I own my house with 2 others – is it still a legally binding document without my 2 co-owner’s names on it? 

Secondly my neighbour is a nuisance, constantly complaining that the work is causing damage to her side of the wall such as cracking to plaster.  Her house is in a state of disrepair anyway (all documented in the Party Wall Award) and all other walls are equally as cracked in the plaster.  She has been told by both her surveyor and my surveyor that the cracks are nothing to do with the building work and that it is because her plaster is old and in need of repair.  Do I have any protection against her frivolous claims – she is causing delays and irritations to my builders who are summoned almost daily to inspect the wall and thus not working on my site!!!

The reason i have not gone to my party wall surveyor in this instance for advice is because I am in the middle of a separate dispute with him over some drawings he did for my builder which have proven to be worse than useless and against building regs and at great cost to me!!.  I feel i need an independent view.

Answer

There is some relevant case law relating to your first query – Lehmann v Herman (1993). In that case Mr Herman served notice in just his name even though he owned the property jointly with Mrs Herman. The matter eventually went to court and the judge decided that Mr Herman was not the ‘Building Owner’ and therefore not entitled to serve notice – the notice was declared to be invalid. If the notice is invalid then everything that follows it, including the award, will also be invalid.

You only mention the award but presumably the notice only had your name on it as well?

The point of the surveyors recording a Schedule of Condition covering the Adjoining Owner’s property is to protect you from false claims of damage. The Adjoining Owner should report any such claims to her appointed surveyor rather than your builders. If it is shown that the reported damage is referred to on the Schedule the Adjoining Owner should be given the bill for the surveyor’s wasted visit.  

Question

So my Party Wall Notice and Award are invalid then as it is only my name that appears on the documents along with the adjoining owner!!!  Where does this leave me as I am 75% the way through the build?  Do i need to stop everything and serve a new notice get a new award.  Surely I must have a claim against my surveyor?

Follow-up

As everybody seems to have accepted the notice/award as valid then it is probably best that you complete your work on that basis. You could then speak to your surveyor (if that is possible) about reissuing the notice and award retrospectively with the correct Building Owners’ names on.

As all the necessary checks will have been made by the surveyors in advance of the works starting there should be no problem with sorting out the paperwork retrospectively. You, or your surveyor, may want to check this with the selected Third Surveyor (you’ll find his details in the award) as it is not a point that is covered in the Act but rather the relevant case law and there are different views within the profession.

I’m not really in the business of helping owners sue their surveyor – that’s not the point of this website. He should however have asked you the names of the Building Owners before preparing the notice on your behalf but hopefully that can be resolved without things becoming litigious.