Under the Party Wall Act, any person proposing to do work which falls under the Act must first serve notice/s, this is because carrying out the said works to either a wall which is on, or near a boundary or which may be a shared party wall carries the potential for damage and affects the neighbouring properties.
The Neighbour may then serve a counter-notice depending on the proposed works. Unless they can agree the works to be done (or consent), the Act provides a procedure for the appointment of a Party Wall Surveyor (or more than one Surveyor if the parties so choose). The Surveyor will then make an award which determines what work can be done and how. The Surveyor can also make awards of compensation where loss or damage results.
What will happen if a Party Wall Notice is not served?
By failing to serve a Party Wall Notice you will be breaching a ‘Statutory Duty’. When a neighbour claims that they have suffered damage due to your works they will provide evidence of this damage in its current state. Without a Schedule of Condition to compare conditions before and after it will be difficult (if not impossible) to identify what damage has been caused by the works. Your neighbour may, therefore, decide to make spurious claims for pre-existing defects.
As there has been a breach of statutory duty the court is likely to a dim view and apply the ‘Reverse Burdon of proof’. In practice, this means that the neighbour’s claim is assumed to be correct unless you can prove otherwise. You may, therefore, be ordered to pay for any number of repairs, which in reality may not your responsibility (plus solicitor’s and court costs). Subsequently, had notices been served it would be down to your neighbour to prove that said damages were as a result of the works, that said, it is always best to appoint a Surveyor to draw up an Award as they can then be called upon to resolve at a later date any disputes over damage that may occur.
What will happen if your neighbour ignores the Party Wall Notice?
Once a Party Wall Notice is served the Adjoining Owner has 14 days to respond to that Notice. If 14 days passes and there still isn’t a response from the Adjoining Owner, at that point a further Notice can be served which gives them a further and final 10 days to respond.
If the Adjoining Owner still hasn’t responded after the service of the Party Wall Notice and the service of notice under Section 10(4), at that point the Building Owner can then appoint a Surveyor on behalf of the non-responsive Adjoining Owner to allow the Party Wall matter to progress. Although, it is important to ensure all notices are correct and valid before the appointment of a Surveyor can be made under Section 10 (4).
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 by its very nature is a facilitating Act; therefore by allowing an appointment to be made on behalf of the Adjoining Owner it ensures that the process moves forward in a sensible manner, while also ensuring the non-responsive Adjoining Owner’s legal rights are fully protected.
Even if you have appointed a Party Wall Surveyor for your neighbour that does not mean that access to take a schedule of condition is possible. In that case, you may find the Party Wall Surveyor has to make a “blind” party wall award because there is no easy access into your neighbour’s property to take the schedule or an external survey is taken.
What you must not do, is assume that because you haven’t heard from your neighbours you can ignore them and just crack on with your works.
Has your neighbour ignored the Party Wall Act? Or maybe you are facing a Party Wall Agreement dispute? Need help with a Party Wall Act dispute? Find out more about the Party Wall Act compensation at SevenOne Associates.