The Party Wall Act 1996 was put in place to make sure that disputes regarding shared walls between neighbouring owners can be resolved in a straightforward and simple way.
Legally, any business or individual that is wanting to make alterations to a party wall will need to follow the act in order to get the resolution that they are looking for. However, if your neighbour ignores the Party Wall Act, you may find that things become slightly more complicated.
Understanding what to do in these situations is quite tricky, so let’s take a look at what you need to think about when it comes to a neighbour who is ignoring the act completely.
One of the first things that you should probably think about is that if you fail to provide party wall notice to somebody, you are the one at fault. Party wall notice is a vital part of the process, and if you fail to deliver it to the neighbouring owner, you are in breach of what is known as your statutory duty.
Consequently, this means that you have very little in the way of legal defence should your neighbouring owner decide to bring legal challenge to you for anything. Unfortunately, most courts will take the view that unless you can prove otherwise, the claim of your neighbour is correct. This means that you may find yourself paying for damages or maintenance that is not your responsibility, so it is vital that you submit the correct notice in the correct time frame.
According to the Party Wall Act, your neighbour has 14 days to respond to the notice that you provide to them. During this period, they must reach a decision on whether they will allow the alterations to be carried out, or whether they wish to dispute the work.
However, if you do not hear back from them within 14 days, and cannot get them to respond to the act, then you have certain rights yourself to ensure the process continues.
If you do not hear back from the neighbouring owner within 14 days, you can then serve a final notice which has a 10 day waiting period on it. Basically, this will be a notice reminding your neighbour that they are now in violation of the Party Wall Act, and they must give you a response within 10 days regarding the alterations you wish to complete.
If they do not do this, you are legally allowed to hire a surveyor on their behalf to continue the process. This is it according to Section 10(4) of the party wall act. Ultimately, these rules and regulations are in place to not only protect the legal rights of the non-responsive party, but also to ensure that your rights are seen as the individual business attempting to make alterations.
Obviously, it is much harder to get a party wall award sorted when the neighbouring owner is not cooperating with you, so there are steps you can take to prevent this problem from carrying at all.
It is important to be approachable and communicative with your neighbouring owner during the notice period. Perhaps giving them forewarning that you intend to serve notice will go over well, and taking the time to sit down with them and explain what you want to do to the property over a cup of tea would also be a recommended course of action.
Generally speaking, simply serving notice and walking away does not end well, as many neighbouring owners see this as some kind of personal slight.
It is therefore recommended that you take the time to work with them during this period, in order to help ease their concerns about the planned work.
Ultimately, you may feel perplexed by an individual who is not prepared to communicate with you and is ignoring the Party Wall Act.
However, it is important to know that you have to follow the act to the letter in order to move forward.
If you have not served notice correctly, or provided adequate time, then there is nothing that can be done to help you.
Ultimately, it is important to be open, to communicate properly, and fill out all paperwork correctly.
Make sure that there is a place for your neighbour to respond and either confirm or deny their approval of the alterations in your notice.
Make sure that you attempt to communicate with them during the notice period to facilitate any questions or queries they may have, and also to give them final notice and wait for the correct amount of time.
If you have done all of this, you are within your right to seek further help.
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