Party Wall Disputes in Commercial Property
A dispute involving a party wall can arise when construction or renovation of a property is proposed, and like any other boundary dispute it has the potential to become complicated and stressful to resolve.
Party walls disputes can be more complex to manage however, as they are subject to greater regulation. The Party Wall Act1996 was introduced to regulate changes to property, fences and walls, and it is crucial that any work likely to affect them is compliant with the law.
Whether you or your business plan to undertake any type of work which might affect a party wall or boundary, or whether you are concerned about renovation works potentially impacting on your rights, Lupton Fawcett can help. Our Party Wall Dispute Solicitors have extensive experience of helping clients to protect their interests and their property, offering practical, effective advice for a swift resolution.
For expert legal advice on all manner of Commercial Property Disputes contact Lupton Fawcett today.
Why choose Lupton Fawcett?
Whether you are planning to undertake work and want to make sure that you are fully aware of your legal obligations, or whether you have concerns about the impact that a neighbouring property owner’s work may have on your property, Lupton Fawcett are specialists in resolving party wall disputes.
We can advise you on the best way to protect your interests, helping you to avoid the pitfalls of any legal breaches, or potential damage to property as a result of renovations to party walls and structures. As experts in contractual disputes we understand the most effective and ethical approach to take in order to enforce and safeguard your rights and business objectives. We will always seek amicable solutions where possible but will not hesitate to move swiftly on your behalf if there are no viable alternatives.
Our team are friendly and approachable and will get to know you and your business so that we fully understand your requirements and how best to achieve your goals. We are an award-winning legal firm, recognised throughout the industry for our commercial and legal expertise, so that you can be sure that whatever you need, your business is in safe hands.
What is the Party Wall Act 1996?
Under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, there are regulations that affect the type of work that can be done on the range of structures that qualify as “party walls.” A party wall is generally something that runs along the boundary between two properties, such as a freestanding boundary wall, or a dividing wall shared with your property and another. It can also include structures such as the floor or ceiling between offices in a building. Any work carried out that will affect a party wall must adhere to the Party Wall Act in order to avoid causing any damage to neighbouring properties.
The type of work that might be regulated under the Party Wall Act includes:
- Repairs, alterations to, or demolition of part or all of an existing party wall
- Construction of a new party wall where a boundary exists
- Excavations within 3m to 6m of a party wall
- Hanging a suspended ceiling below the floor of another property
- Making changes to a support beam
- Damp proof installation.
What is a Party Wall Dispute?
A property owner who wishes to undertake work on a party wall must, by law, serve written notice of their intentions. It is crucial to ensure that this is done correctly, as any errors can result in breaches or costly disputes.
Disputes can arise when a property owner either fails to serve notice, or serves a notice detailing their intention to undertake work and the other affected party either objects or fails to respond. Where two parties disagree over the proposed work, they can appoint a surveyor, either separately or jointly to act impartially and to draw up A Party Wall Agreement, or an “Award” document.
Party Wall Agreements
A Party Wall Award is a legally binding document designed to settle any dispute between property owners, in the same way that would happen in court. The Award is designed to regulate the work that is to be carried out and is designed to limit liability and offer recourse if any damage occurs during the course of the work. This will regulate many aspects of the work to be carried out, including:
- the nature and extent of the proposed work
- the rights and responsibilities of the property owners involved
- any protective measures that may need to be put into place for adjacent properties
- agreed timescales for the works
- the working hours and schedule of work
- the schedule for building inspections
- what will happen if any complications arise
- levels of compensation payable in the result of any damage or loss.
- the condition of the affected properties prior to works commencing.
Once the Award is drawn up, if either party disagrees with the terms, they have the option to appeal in the county court. This must be done within 14 days, but unless the court feels that the surveyors have failed to abide by procedure set out in the Party Wall Act, it is unlikely that the Award will be overturned.
Do I need a Party Wall Award?
If you are planning to carry out any work that will affect a party wall, whatever the size of the proposed project, the Party Wall Act process is mandatory. Any work that falls under the Act must comply with the relevant regulations, and this includes serving the correct notice within the correct time frame, which will vary depending on the circumstances. It is strongly recommended to seek expert advice from a party wall solicitor if you are considering carrying out any work that might affect a party wall or boundary. Likewise, if there is any doubt about what the correct process or the type of notice required, legal advice is essential to avoid any costly errors.
If the correct notice has been served but no response has been received, this does not mean that approval is automatically given, and that work can begin without appointing a surveyor. Affected parties have the legal right to ensure that the Party Wall Act Award is drawn up, usually all at the cost of the property owner who wishes to carry out the work.
Appealing against a Party Wall Act Award
Once a party wall Award is prepared, the terms stated within it are legally binding to both parties. The role of the surveyor is statutory – but there are times that they make errors that impact the validity of an Award. Once a Party Wall Act Award has been prepared there is a very limited period of time in which to appeal, for either party.
If you have concerns over building works being planned or undertaken that will impact on your property, get in touch with us as soon as possible. Action is required within days for any appeal to be valid so if you plan to appeal to the County Court to modify or rescind the Award the matter is urgent. At Lupton Fawcett we are specialists in this area of law, and we assist clients nationwide in their appeals.
Challenging works under the Party Wall Act
If you find that your property is at risk from building works being undertaken without a Party Wall Act Award, it is important to act swiftly. An Award will include a schedule of condition, detailing the state of the property before the work commenced. This offers protection to the party who is not instigating the work, making it easy to identify the scope of any potential damage caused. Without the Award, it is much more difficult to prove with any certainty that any damage does not predate the work.
However, if an adjacent property owner commences work without complying with their obligations under the Act, whether they are aware of them or not, it is possible to apply for an injunction. An injunction will temporarily prevent any further work from being undertaken, and it is usual that the party illegally carrying out the work will be liable for the cost of the injunction where it is granted. There are strict time limits on making an objection under the Party Wall Act, so it is vital that you seek legal advice immediately in a party wall dispute. Any delay can prejudice the possibility of obtaining an injunction, leaving a property owner without the protection of the Party Wall Act, and the opportunity to prevent the unlawful works from continuing.
At Lupton Fawcett we strongly recommend seeking legal advice as soon as you become aware of any planned work or renovations that involve a party wall on your property. The law relating to party walls can be complex, so it’s imperative that you seek assistance from a specialist party wall solicitor to help you to navigate your legal rights and responsibilities. We understand the challenges in this area and will always act with your interests at the heart of everything that we do.
We provide a personalised service, with sector specialists and extensive resources to ensure we are giving you the best solutions to your problems.
Our Commercial Property Disputes Solicitors act regularly for clients across the United Kingdom including Bradford, Birmingham, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield, York and Nottingham. We can support your needs wherever you live in England, Wales & Northern Ireland.
For a no obligation initial consultation please either call the office or leave your details using the contact form at the top of this page. We’ll be happy to help.