Thank you, for clicking on today’s blogpost topic, today we are going to be looking at party wall surveying procedures, and in particular the procedures that surround a Party Wall Injunction.
A Party Wall Injunction is required if the building owner, who is the person undertaking the construction works, for any reason decides to commence the party wall works without following the necessary legal procedures and serving a Party Wall Notice upon the adjoining owner. The adjoining owner is the neighbouring property who adjoins those works.
Under the requirement of Section 1, Section 2, or Section 6 of the Party Wall etc Act 1996, if a building owner is planning on undertaking works to their property that falls within the realm of the Party Wall etc Act 1996, they have a legal requirement and obligation to serve a Party Wall Notice upon the adjoining owner, a minimum of one month in advance of the proposed works commencing.
So, what happens if the building owner chooses to ignore the party wall procedures, and overlook the legal rights of Party Wall Notice service upon the adjoining owner?
This is actually a relatively common scenario that we find ourselves faced with here at Stokemont. First and foremost, it is important to note that there is a vessel in place to best assist and advise adjoining owners.
This vessel comes in the form of a Party Wall Injunction.
A Party Wall Injunction is a Court Order that anyone can obtain, and effectively results in the building owner having to formally and legally cease their works on site, until the necessary Party Wall procedures have been adhered to.
The Party Wall Injunction is very much the “atomic bomb” type scenario and outcome, and will make it a legal offence if indeed the building owner opted to ignore the injunction, overlook it, or simply crack on with the works without adhering to the terms of it.
One of the most common questions we find ourselves asked here at Stokemont, is what is the typical cost of the injunction?
Party Wall Injunctions are not a cheap or cost-effective solution, as not only are you going to need to have the funds ready to pay for a good solicitor or barrister to obtain the injunction, but in obtaining the injunction you are also going to need to underwrite the building owner’s costs in the event that the injunction is for any reason overturned.
In layman’s terms, what this means is that if indeed the building owner appeals the injunction, and does so successfully, from a legal perspective the injunction would then be deemed to have been improperly obtained, or obtained in fault or error.
This would then mean that you, as the party who obtained the injunction, are then going to find yourself liable for any costs surrounding the delays on site, contractors having to down their tools, scaffolding hire, skip hire, or liquidated damages.
This can quickly become a costly endeavour, especially with larger construction sites where injunctions tend to be applicable.
With this in mind, it is not designed or intended to scare off an adjoining owner from an injunction. However, it is simply there to ensure that if an adjoining owner does obtain an injunction, they do so with the full facts to hand, while also ensuring that they fully understand what exactly an injunction is.
In terms of the cost of the injunction itself, a good solicitor or barrister is likely to charge in the region of £3,000 to £10,000 to obtain the injunction.
This money will be spent on the legal practitioner, ensuring that they have all of the necessary information to avoid the scenario of the injunction being overturned ever becoming applicable.
This would include photographs of the notifiable construction works taking place, citing various sections of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 setting out how the works fall within the realm of the Act, including project drawings, perhaps having been obtained from the architect, engineer, planning portals or through simple neighbourly discussion. Various legal statements, whether this be from the client (the adjoining owner), or neighbouring owners.
The final result is going to be a comprehensive and robust injunction application, that the barrister will then present to the Court in due course.
It should also be worth nothing, that an adjoining owner can also obtain their own Party Wall Injunction. In order to do this, all they need to do is prepare a similar pack of information for the Court. The key being for them to set out exactly how the building owner’s works are notifiable, while importantly also setting out any proof in that regard.
Party Wall Injunctions are designed to be obtained by lay people, however, here at Stokemont, given that there are cost considerations to make, we would always advise considering the input of a professional. Especially given that you are likely to be able to obtain and recover the cost of the injunction, if indeed the fees are reasonable, while also demonstrating to the Courts that you had no alternative but to seek professional input to obtain this remedy.
The Courts are going to look at this pragmatically, and are going to take the view that if indeed you have attempted to avoid a Party Wall Injunction. However, the building owner still cracked on and did not give you legal rights the Act affords you, then it is a reasonable step for you to then have to employ a professional to obtain that injunction, and provide you with the party wall advice needed.
Party wall procedures are often a complicated and complex part of the construction process. This is never more common than when a building owner chooses to overlook their legal obligations as set out by the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
If you are unlucky enough to find yourself in this situation, we would advise giving us a call today, and we will be more than happy to assist and advise you.
We also very proudly offer 30 minutes free, no strings advice on a daily basis to building owners and adjoining owners alike. Party Wall Injunctions and the discussions surround them are one of the most common topics that we find ourselves speaking about through this medium.
If you would like to discuss Party Wall Injunctions or any other party wall surveying matter with our RICS party wall surveyors, please feel free to give us a call today, and we will be more than happy to assist and advise you.