Published On: Mon, Feb 11th, 2019

What Commences When There Is a Party Wall Dispute?

Properties with boundary walls can sometimes lead to disputes between neighbours after completing work on the boundary or party wall. By definition, a party wall refers to a structure that demarcates, or in some cases straddles the adjoining border of two properties. A party wall can be the vertical partition between semi-detached properties, the flat’s floor, or a wall constructed on the property of one person but separates it from the property next to it.

photo/ Hans Linde

The Party Wall Act of 1996

The purpose of the Party Wall Act of 1996 is to allow the person who shares party wall ownership to get work done on the thickness of the partition without resulting in trespassing. Any construction work done on the wall may lead to a dispute between the party obtaining the work done and the neighbouring property owner. Resolving party wall disputes require the mediation and assistance of a Party wall surveyor.

What constitutes a party wall dispute?

Before commencing on any work, the owner needs to comply with what is constituted in the Act as well as provide a notice to the neighbouring party. If the adjoining property owner does not agree to the proposed construction or does not respond to the notice, it will eventually lead into a dispute.

When a dispute officially begins, each of the parties involved may select an individual surveyor, or appoint a single surveyor for both. The surveyor or surveyors appointed needs to be impartial in implementing what is enclosed in the Act to come up with an official document which will settle the dispute. This process is similar to what happens when two erring parties bring a case to court, and a judge decides on a resolution. This legally binding document prepared by the surveyor is more popularly known as an Award.

What is enclosed in an Award?

An Award may pertain to specific details about the work, such as the extent, restrictions, timing, and all other pertinent information about the construction. In some instances when there is damage sustained by the adjoining neighbour, the Award also contains the compensation due to the party payable for damages.

If any of the parties object to the Award, there is an opportunity to appeal the decision and bring it to the county court. Each of the objecting party has a maximum of 14 days to appeal the decision. However, the only instance when a determination may be overturned is if the court confirms that the surveyor failed to abide by the procedures to resolve a party wall dispute as outlined in the Act.

In conclusion, the Act provides a specific procedure to simplify and understand how to settle party wall disputes. As this is relatively common within the country, the Act is necessary to prevent complications and avoid the possibility of conflicts dragging on and causing further distress for both parties. Surveyors play a vital role in implementing the act and mediate between parties for speedy disposition of the Act and prevent further inconveniences for both parties.

Author: Joana Green

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