Here at Berry Lodge Surveyors we have had a number of questions from adjoining owners over the past couple of months concerning Party Wall injunctions.
In this blog post we will aim to clarify the issue and explain how an injunction can be a useful tool for any adjoining owner.
What is a Party Wall Injunction?
In short, a Party Wall injunction is obtained by the adjoining owner when a building owner commences the notifiable work to their property without having served a Party Wall notice upon the adjoining owner.
What does Injunction mean?
To understand what an injunction is and how it is applicable to the Party Wall Act, we must first look at its definition.
The Oxford dictionary defines an injunction as:
“a judicial order restraining a person from beginning or continuing an action threatening or invading the legal right of another”
To help put that into party wall context here is our interpretation:
“a court order stopping a building owner from continuing their notifiable party wall work that threatens or invades the legal right of the adjoining owner”
So how does this apply to Party Wall work?
Certain types of construction work will be governed by the Party Wall etc Act 1996,
Commonly these works are:
1) Front, side and rear extensions
2) Internal structural works
3) Loft extensions
4) Basement excavations
To find out if your neighbour’s work falls within the scope of the Act we would suggest speaking to one of our Party Wall Surveyors at the first instance.
However, assuming the building owner’s work is notifiable, the building owner will have a legal responsibility to serve a Party Wall Notice upon the adjoining owner.
Once the Party Wall Notice has been served, not only has the Party Wall etc Act 1996 and its associated protections been invoked, the adjoining owner will also find themselves with 3 response options open to them.
Option 1) Consent
Option 2) Dissent and appoint a single Agreed Surveyor
Option 3) Dissent and appoint a surveyor of their choice, the building owner would then do the same
The benefit of option 2 and 3 as explained in some of our other blogs is that the adjoining owner can appoint a Party Wall Surveyor to safeguard their interests and ensure that their property is fully and legally protected.
At what point can I obtain an Injunction?
An injunction comes into play when a building owner doesn’t serve a Party Wall Notice on the adjoining owner and commences the notifiable work; believe it or not this happens a lot and is often down to two reasons:
Reason 1) The building owner wasn’t aware of the Party Wall Act and its requirements
Reason 2) The building owner does not intend to serve a Party Wall Notice
When this happens the first thing an adjoining owner should do is speak to the building owner, or instruct a surveyor to speak to the building owner.
This way you can quickly determine if the non service of Party Wall Notice was because the building owner wasn’t aware of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 or its requirements.
If this was the case, the Party Wall process can then be promptly followed by the building owner ensuring Party Wall Notice is served on the adjoining owner.
However, if the outcome of that conversation is that the building owner does not intend to serve a Party Wall notice, then you are left with little other option than proceeding down the route of obtaining an injunction.
How much does a Party Wall Injunction cost?
Party Wall injunctions are by no means straightforward and although anyone can go to the court to obtain one, we would recommend seeking legal advice on the subject before proceeding down that route.
Injunctions carry a number of risks such as:
You may never be able to recover your costs for obtaining the injunction.
With solicitors charging in the region of £1,000-£5,000 it is a lot of money to put at risk.
You may find yourself liable for the building owner’s delayed construction costs if the injunction is incorrectly obtained, with daily costs such as contractor day rates, skip hire, scaffolding hire etc this can quickly reach thousands of pounds.
If it turns out the injunction wasn’t required you will also be faced with the building owner’s legal fees.
Again with solicitors charging by the hour this will quickly reach thousands of pounds.
Bearing these points in mind an injunction is not to be taken lightly and should only ever be obtained after a qualified and experienced Party Wall Surveyor has fully investigated the matter and given you unequivocal confirmation that the building owner’s work is notifiable.
Injunctions are a handy tool in an adjoining owner’s arsenal, not only do they empower the adjoining owner, but they carry the threat of stopping all of the building owner’s work on site.
I want to get an Injunction what should I do next?
If you want to discuss the potential of obtaining an injunction call our Party Wall team now on 020 7935 2502 and they will be happy to advise you if an injunction is right for you.