Building work on the house next door is seemingly endless noise, dust and tradespersons coming and going. Usually, such disruption ends without any lasting harm, but sometimes the work can adversely affect your property.
Michelle Dixon at Humphries Kirk Solicitors outlines your options if a neighbour’s building work causes damage to your property, and Michelle explains how a specialist construction law solicitor can help you get redress.
There are a number of ways your property can be damaged by building works next door which could harm the structural stability of your home or encroach onto your land. The most common of these include:
- damage to your foundations, a supporting wall, or your roof, caused by the builders failing to ensure that areas are properly shored up while work is going ahead;
- damage from falling debris or handling scaffolding poles and machinery;
- structures being built encroaching on your land, either deliberately or because the boundary between your homes was incorrectly assessed; or
- damage from a later event connected to faulty works, for example, fire as a result of faulty wiring, or flood damage caused by faulty drains.
Where there is a Party Wall Notice
A party wall is one that stands on the land of two or more owners; the party wall can either form part of a building or be part of another form of walled division along the boundary of two properties, such as a garden wall (a wooden fence, however, does not constitute a party wall). Walls on one owner’s land but utilised by others to separate their buildings are also party walls/structures.
Under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, if your neighbour wants to conduct building work on a party wall or excavating near your property, they must give you written notice of the work they want to carry out.
Your neighbour does not have to inform you of any minor work they are carrying out, such as plastering, erecting shelves, or replacing wiring, but they will need to get your consent and serve a ‘Party Wall Notice’ for things like building a new wall, cutting into, altering, rebuilding, or knocking down a party wall, including removing chimneys from a party wall.
The Party Wall Notice will give you the opportunity to consent or object; if you do not consent then a process ensues where you and your neighbour appoint a surveyor (either together or each) who will then prepare a ‘Party Wall Award’ which states what work should occur, how and when, including other relevant conditions.
Once building work begins, your neighbour has a duty under the Party Wall Act to avoid causing you unnecessary inconvenience, to protect your property from harm caused by the works, and to fix or pay for any damage.
If your property is damaged, you should notify your neighbour as soon as possible and ask them to either have their builder fix the problem or pay you compensation which would allow you to appoint your own builder to make good the damage.
If a Party Wall Award was agreed before building work began and damage occurs, the party wall surveyor(s) should be notified. The party wall surveyor(s) will agree an appropriate level of rectification or compensation based on industry standards and experience.
If your neighbour refuses to accept responsibility for the damage, there are various alternative dispute resolution methods available. If those fail, you may have no choice but to take the matter to Court, though this can be a costly and time-consuming process and should only be considered as a last resort.
Where there was no Party Wall Notice
If your neighbour carried out work, that would be considered party wall works, without serving you with a Party Wall Notice or without your consent, they will still have a duty of care under common law to make good or compensate you for any damage.
Indeed, the courts have taken a dim view of such a failure, with the Judge in Roadrunner Properties Limited v John Dean, putting the burden on the building owner to disprove a link between the damage and the work instead of the reverse which is the usual position at common law.
How a solicitor can help
If you believe your property has been damaged as a result of your neighbour’s building work, it is a good idea to seek legal advice as soon as you become aware of the damage. Likewise, if you are a building owner considering starting party wall works then get in touch.
Our specialist construction law team can explain your rights and various options. We can help you prepare notices, liaise with surveyors, negotiate the dispute with your neighbour or their building contractor, or help you gather the necessary evidence to build a robust case if the matter has to go to Court.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.