The Party Wall etc. Act – All building owners must be named

The Party Wall etc. Act is commonly known and widely regarded as highly effective in helping avoid potential disputes over work taking place which may impact upon an adjoining property. The Act requires the building owner, who will be the instigator of the works, to serve a ‘notice’ to the adjoining owner(s) informing them of the intended works. As with any document of this significance, attention to detail and ensuring that the wording is correct and compliant is essential in order to avoid complications further down the line.

It is vitally important that the building owner serving a Party Wall notice fully understands the naming requirements to ensure its validity in a Court of Law. The case which set an important precedent with regards to the naming of owners on a notice was Lehman v Hermann [1993]. The case dictates that notices served under the act must include the names of all building owners as well as all names of the adjoining owners. Failure to do so will mean that the notice can be declared invalid.

  • The case of Lehmann v Hermann [1993] can be summarised as follows:
  • Mr and Mrs Hermann (the defendants) owned a long lease of a flat in property separated from the plaintiffs’ premises by a party wall.
  • They proposed to carry out certain works and a party structure notice was served by Mr Hermann only.
  • The notice was declared by the judge invalid, as it had been served by only one of two joint tenants.
  • In the case of joint tenants, he concluded it could not be said that only one of them occupied or was in possession of the flat.
  • He accepted the argument that a building owner must mean the owner of any layer of ownership (such as the freehold layer or the leasehold layer), but decided that the building owner included everyone within that layer.

The judgment went on to state that a person is not entitled to serve a notice as building owner before he or she has exchanged contracts for a lease of property, as at this point he or she does not fall within the definition of ‘owner’. Clarity with regards to situations such as this was provided by the revised 1996 Act which included the statement a ‘purchaser of an interest in land under a contract for purchase or under an agreement for lease’.

The implications

Although there is no corresponding case law relating to adjoining owners it is safe to assume that the same principle will apply. It is the responsibility of the building owner who initiates the notice to ensure that all the contents of it are correct, if necessary using tools such as a Land Registry check to obtain the up-to-date details.

If work is to be undertaken on party walls, boundary walls or will require excavations near neighbouring buildings, it is advisable to obtain expert advice. A Chartered Building Surveyor will be able to offer guidance on not only how the works should be addressed within a Party Wall Notice but also the content and wording to ensure it is fully compliant and will protect you from any costly disputes further down the line. In summary, disputes over Party Wall matters can become an extremely expensive and drawn our affair, but a comprehensive and compliant approach to work which is covered by the Act will significantly reduce the chances of this occurring.

Finnegan Property Services are independent property consultants who provide advice to public and private sector clients. We regularly provide our clients Party Wall advice and understand the implications on your individual projects. To discuss this further please contact info@finneganpropertyservices.com or call 020 3137 8078.

Posted on 2 October, 2015

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