What is a party wall Award?
Are you planning an extension or loft conversion for your property? If yes, you will need a Party Wall Award before commencing construction works. The Party Wall Act 1996 was introduced to allow building owners to alter their properties without causing adjoining owners disturbance. These legally binding documents safeguard all parties involved, ensuring that the construction process runs smoothly minimising litigation. In this blog, we will be discussing how long a Party wall lasts, the validity of the award, and periods of protection.
Party wall disputes?
The party wall process typically starts when the building owner serves a formal notice to their neighbours. This notice outlines the proposed construction and its potential impact on the party wall and the adjoining property. The adjoining owner has 14 days to respond within the statutory frame, failure to respond would cause a dispute.
The second way a dispute may arise is if an adjoining owner does not consent to all or any of the works described in the party wall notice.
The Party Wall Award is designed to minimise disputes, by protecting and safeguarding the adjoining owner's property, the building owner can execute their right to alter their property under the Act.
How long does a Party Wall Award last?
Statutory requirements within the Party Wall Award serve as a means of dispute resolution and were established to safeguard the interests of all involved parties who are obligated by the Act to undertake certain actions. Particularly, these provisions aim to protect adjoining owners from any inconvenience that may arise due to a building owner exercising their rights under the Act. Furthermore, the Act grants the surveyor the authority to issue an Award covering their reasonable costs.
Once the Party Wall Awards have been served an adjoining owner has 14 days to appeal to a county court. During those 14 days, a surveyor is prohibited from making an award that allows work to commence.
The act States, that the Building owner must commence works within one year of the Award being served. If an award is served and there are no disputes the date of the Award will have a grace period of 14 days after the date of service after this the countdown of its validity begins. The Act makes the service of the Award compulsory, and it allows any recipient of the Award a 14-day period to raise an appeal concerning any of its terms and conditions at the County Court. If the Award was appealed by either party the clock would not stop counting down until the final decision is made by the court.
How long is an adjoining owner protected under the Party Wall Award?
Unfortunately, the Act does not provide clear provisions for when an adjoining owner's protection expires. We must refer to the Limitations Act of 1980.
According to Section 2 of the Limitation Act 1980, the adjoining owner holds the right to directly file a claim for owed funds under the Award with the Court. If the Award states that payments must be made within a specific timeframe, the claim for owed monies must be submitted within a maximum of 6 years from the expiration of the specified date in the Party Wall Award.
Under Section 9 of the Limitation Act 1980, the adjoining owner has the right to directly file a claim with the Court to recover owed funds under a statute. It is important to keep in mind that any claim made under this section must be initiated within six years from the date the claim arose.
Let's consider a scenario where the building owner completes their construction works, and 18 months later, the adjoining owner's building starts experiencing subsidence directly attributed to the works conducted under a valid Party Wall Award, which was served to all parties involved. Although the adjoining owner only becomes aware of the damage caused by the works 18 months after their completion, the limitation period for filing a claim will commence from the specific date when it can be established that the damage was caused, rather than the date when the awareness of the damage occurred.
In conclusion, party wall awards are essential legal agreements that protect the rights of property owners when construction work affects shared walls. The process involves serving a notice, responding to objections, appointing surveyors, and creating the award. The validity period of the award provides cover and protection for both parties during and after construction, ensuring a smooth and harmonious building process. Remember to always follow the necessary timelines and adhere to the award's terms to avoid any potential disputes or legal consequences.