I am often advised by property owners that they aren't going to bother with the Act for various reasons. Here are a few examples:
I get on with my neighbours therefore I don't believe it will be a problem.
I don't mind paying for any damage caused. I see no reason for a formal agreement.
My neighbours will cause additional problems as they have already objected to my planning application and we just don't get on.
I simply can’t afford any extra costs. Party Wall Surveyors fees are too high.
It really doesn’t matter if I don’t! What can they do to me?
Once I start I'm sure my neighbours can’t stop me.
Here are 9 reasons why you should not ignore The Party Wall etc. Act 1996
- Benefit of a Party Wall Notice is normally only realised when your neighbour claims you have damaged their property. Up to that point matters often progress without any issue.
- By failing to have a Schedule of Condition produced by an independent person, prior to the commencement of the building work, it makes it extremely difficult to determine which damage was caused by the works and what was already there. Are you confident your neighbours will give you the benefit of the doubt? When it comes to money, few property owners would be happy to lose out to their neighbours.
- If you have a disagreement about the damage caused, matters can quickly escalate and potentially end up in court. This is where things get expensive as if you lose in court you will often be liable for the repairs, your legal team’s cost and your neighbour’s legal team’s cost plus court costs.
- By following the Act a Party Wall Notice followed by a Party Wall Award (formal agreement) can be used as an effective means of arbitration between two parties which should avoid heated confrontation about the notifiable works. It's a fact that a matter of a few hundred can escalate into many thousands in court because an agreement couldn’t be reached between two ‘friends’.
- My neighbour has already consented to the works so I can proceed. No notice No act, therefore, No notice, no consent. Once served they will then have 14 days in which to confirm their consent in writing. This will ensure that the adjoining owners rights are unaffected if damage occurs and they wish to appoint a surveyor later in the process. Remember, there is no escape from rectifying damage caused by your works. The courts do frown upon those who ignore The Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
- The cost of ignoring the requirement to serve a Notice can possibly escalate into many thousands. Can you really afford not to?? For example, If you fail to serve a Notice your neighbour can seek legal advice and potentially employ a solicitor and barrister to take out an injunction to stop your work until you have served an appropriate and valid Notice. The bill could potentially be yours because you didn’t serve a Notice for the notifiable works.
- You need to consider prior to commencing a project the potential for damaging your neighbours property and allow for potential costs to repair it should damage occur.
- Yes, there are costs involved in preparing and serving Notices and Awards, however it's evident that they are cheap compared to the fees of those from the legal profession. If you don’t appoint a Party Wall Surveyor you should be aware that if there are any disputes you may have to appoint a solicitor and perhaps a barrister to represent you in court. You would also need to allow for the fees of the legal teams of your neighbour’s. The failure to operate within the law is frowned on by the court. Party Wall Surveyors are there to save you the need to go to court and incur potentially huge fees.
- Once you have undertaken relevant building works without serving a Notice your neighbour cannot insist you serve a Notice nor can they get an injunction to stop you. However, this in turn means any dispute arising from this works will most likely have to be resolved by a mediator or in court by lawyers and not by Party Wall Surveyors.
I believe the above fortifies the importance of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996... can you afford not to follow it?