If you are intending to carry out works to a boundary feature, you may need to consider whether it is a party wall within the provisions of the Party Wall, etc, Act 1996 (‘the Act’) or risk ending up in a costly court battle!
In a recent case, Mr A removed a wall situated on the boundary between his and Mr B’s adjoining property and replaced it with the rear wall of a new shed. The former wall was deemed to be a ‘party fence wall’ within the provisions of the Act – i.e. ‘…a wall (not being part of a building) which stands on lands of different owners and is used or constructed to be used for separating such adjoining lands…’.
Mr B objected throughout the course of the former wall being dismantled and erection of the new shed. Despite this, Mr A continued with the works. However, Mr A should have served appropriate notices on Mr B and secured permission under statutory procedures in accordance with the Act before carrying out the works. Mr B took Mr A to court.
At the Court of Appeal, the judge held Mr A’s actions to constitute a trespass onto Mr B’s property. However, given the relatively minor natures of the trespass (a 9 inch encroachment) the judge was unwilling to grant a injunction (i.e. to order Mr A to remove the trespassing wall of the shed), instead awarding Mr B modest damages. Each party was ordered to pay their own costs for the litigation – overall, an expensive boundary feature!
This is a cautionary tale for anyone intending to carry out building works to a party wall –check whether there are any statutory procedures to follow and, if possible, communicate with your neighbour.