In carrying out their role in disputes surrounding the Party Wall Act 1996 (“the Act”) surveyors will be asked to make a primary award. They will set out the working conditions for the works to which the Party Wall Act notice relates. But what happens if someone is unhappy with the award, or if other issues arise? We look at how and when the Court might become involved.

What is in an award?

The aim of an award is to inform the parties the terms under which the works will be carried out. It can also include onerous provisions impacting on both the proposed building owner and the adjoining neighbour.
It will allow the building owner and his agents to enter the adjoining owner’s land to carry out works under the Act.
Building owners must exercise their rights without causing unnecessary inconvenience to the adjoining owners. They must also compensate adjoining owners and occupiers for any damage or loss experienced during or as result of the works. As such, awards will contain provisions for making good any damage caused by the works to existing walls. In the case of new walls, the award will deal with payments of compensation for damage caused by the works.
The jurisdiction for making the award lies exclusively with the party wall surveyor(s).  In some cases, the parties will each instruct a surveyor (rather than one between the two parties).  In the event that the two surveyors cannot agree, a third party wall surveyor can be appointed in order to settle the dispute.  These disputes can also include disputes regarding building costs and expenses, or even deciding who is going to pay the costs of making the award in the first place (i.e. pay the surveyors’ fees).

Disagreements

Where a party does not agree with the award, they may appeal to the County Court within 14 days.  This appeal doesn’t automatically stay the award, so the building owner can continue with the works.
Alternatively separate proceedings can be issued by a party who is not happy with the award that has been made, or where a dispute arises.  This can include where the 14 day time limit is missed; where clarity is sought over a term in an award; or where a building owner has gone over and above what it was allowed to do under the award.

Recent developments – What will the court decide?

A recent case of Lea Valley Developments Ltd v Derbyshire [2017] EWHC B22 (TCC) has recently clarified the court’s position in respect of these claims.
In this case, the claimant owned a house (“the Property”) next to a property that was owned by the defendant. The defendants served Party Wall Act notices and an award was made.
During the build, severe damage was caused to the Property, causing the claimant’s tenants to vacate.  All the parties accepted that the Property needed to be demolished as a result of the damage. It was also accepted that the defendant should pay the claimant compensation. A dispute then arose as the parties were unable to agree how the compensation should be calculated.  The claimant asked the court to decide whether the compensation should be calculated on the basis of the diminution in value of the property itself (i.e. the amount by which the value of the property had been reduced as a result of the claimant to the defendant’s actions) or by calculation of the cost of reinstatement of the property (i.e. cost to rebuild).
The court held that, it did have jurisdiction to identify the methodology to be adopted by surveyors in assessing compensation. However, it was not for the courts to determine the amount of compensation payable.  The court will identify the appropriate test to be adopted by the surveyors, in order that surveys could move forward and make a decision themselves.
If you have any issues concerning the Party Wall Act, our property disputes team can help. Call today on 0800 988 7756.
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