Party Wall procedures are governed by the Party Wall etc act 1996, When the owners or the Surveyors can’t agree matters, they end up fighting their case in court.
I am going to be discussing a case below, Amir-Siddique vs Kowaliw 2018.
In 2008, Kowaliw whom hereafter will be referred to as the building owner, proposed to undertake chimney breast removal and loft conversion. The property was a semi-detached house.
The building owner wanted to avoid both the cost and delay associated with Party Wall procedures, ideally, they didn’t want a party wall award, also known as a Party Wall Agreement in place between themselves and their neighbours and hereafter known as the adjoining owner.
This is not the way to undertake your works, Party Wall Notices must be served, to enable the correct procedures and legal requirements to be followed. Party Wall Notices give the adjoining owners the right to consent or dissent to the Party Wall Notice, enabling the Act to adhere to.
Not following the legal procedures, Kowaliw prepared a written document, requesting Amir-Siddique to sign it giving their consent to the construction works. The document confirmed photographs would be taken by the building owner of adjoining owners property prior to the works commencing.
The adjoining owner was willing to proceed and agreed to the informal procedures allowing the building owner’s works to proceed.
We are now in 2016, (8 years from the completion of the work) the adjoining owner decided to undertake their own loft conversion, in a similar fashion.
Amir-Siddique (was the adjoining owner) served a Party Wall Notice upon Kowaliw (was the building owner).
Kowaliw delayed the Party Wall Notice response for various reasons then went on holiday for 6 weeks. This is exceeded the time period granted by the Party Wall Act which is 14 days. There were other neighbourly discussions, regarding the dormers location, and the RSJs (steels) that were being inserted into the Party Wall.
After twelve weeks, Amir-Siddique contacted a Party Wall Surveyor, asking him to re-serve the Party Wall Notice upon Kowaliw. Upon receipt of that new Party Wall Notice, Kowaliw responded by appointing their own Party Wall Surveyor, to act soley on their behalf.
Amir-Siddique was concerned what the cost of the Party Wall process could be, he got in touch with Kowaliw’s Party Wall Surveyor and queried his fees. Amir-Siddique did not get reassured, the Party Wall Surveyor confirmed his costs could be considerable and the process will likley take several months.
With this in-mind, Amir-Siddique requested Kowaliw’s Party Wall Surveyor acted as the Agreed Surveyor, in order to reduce the costs and allow one Surveyor to act impartially on behalf of both owners.
Kowaliw’s Party Wall Surveyor confirmed he could only act as an Agreed Surveyor, if Kowaliw was in agreement.
Kowaliw then confirmed they were unwilling to allow their Surveyor to take on the Agreed Surveyor role.
After several further issues, a Party Wall Award was agreed and served, this awarded all of the Surveyor costs against Amir-Siddique.
Upon service of the Party Wall Award, Amir-Siddique appealed, on the grounds of Kowaliw’s refusal to agree to appoint an Agreed Surveyor, which in turn resulted in higher fees. The judge ruled due to Kowaliw’s refusal to an Agreed Surveyor appointment, they were liable for a portion of the total Surveyors’ fees.
A Lesson we can learn from this Case
If both owner’s followed Party Wall procedures, for both respective works, this would likely have been, resolved without the courts. `in our opinion when Amir-Siddique agreed to Kowaliw’s 2008 works, then later found himself in a position whereby the gesture wasn’t reciprocated in 2016. Caused this to be escalated to the courts.
Party Wall procedure should always be followed, Party Wall Notices are designed to be owner served and simple. Here at Icon Surveyors, we encourage service even when both owners are in agreement with the works. This ensures the correct documents are always in place and the legal requirement is met.
If you would like to learn more about Party Wall Notices, feel free to give our qualified and experienced Party Wall team a call now, we will be happy to assist.