The key sections of the Act in terms of damage caused by party wall works are 7(2) and 11(8); section 7(2) confirms that an owner is responsible for any loss or damage resulting from the works (which should not be a surprise) and section 11(8) goes on to state that the adjoining owner may elect to receive a payment in lieu of repairs (which they invariably do).
The party wall award that authorises the works will typically a record of the condition of the adjoining owner’s property (referred to as a “schedule of condition”) and makes provision for the surveyor acting for adjoining owner to return for a further inspection upon completion of the works.
At the time of that further inspection the surveyor will make a note of any damage that appears to have been caused by the works. On large projects there can be many months or even years between the schedule of condition being recorded and re-checked – it should not therefore be assumed that all changes are related to the works; it may just be a continuation of some movement that was already evident when the schedule was recorded.
Following the inspection, the schedule of damage should be passed to the building owner so that they can confirm whether or not they accept responsibility (if there are 2 surveyors involved the building owner’s surveyor will usually spend some time comparing photos so that they can pass the schedule on with an opinion). If responsibility is accepted, the discussion moves on to cost but, if not, the matter becomes a dispute which must be determined by the surveyor(s).
Whether the dispute is determined by the two surveyors, the agreed surveyor or the Third Surveyor it will give rise to further fees and those fees will follow the decision. It may be that the building owner accepts responsibility for the damage but cannot agree what the payment in lieu should be – disputes overs costs must also be referred to the surveyor(s).
The basic criteria when determining costs is that the adjoining owner’s property should be put back in to the condition it was in prior to the works being undertaken but that is not always the case – if a wall already has 10 cracks and 1 further crack is caused by the works the need to redecorate does not become any more urgent as a result. In such circumstances the loss to the adjoining owner is more difficult to quantify but will likely end up being a modest contribution towards the next routine redecoration.
The scope of redecoration following any making good can also be a point of contention. Obviously a wall cannot be left with patches of paint showing following a repair but is it necessary to paint all the walls in the room if only one has been affected? That will depend on how easily the paint or wallpaper can be matched. Most paint companies offer a matching service and slight variations in shade will not show up on perpendicular or opposing walls.
This article was provided by the party walls team at Peter Barry Chartered Surveyors. If you are in the London area and have a question relating to damage caused by party wall works or any related matter you can contact them on 020 7183 2578 or by email and receive up to 20 mins free advice.