27 June, 2014
A recent case has offered a timely reminder of the need to comply with the provisions of the Party Walls Act when carrying out building work on or near an adjacent boundary.
In the case of Rashid and Akhtar v Sharif it was alleged that the Defendant had demolished a party fence wall without complying with the procedural requirements of the Act. There was a dispute about whether the wall in question was a party wall, but the Court held that it was. Therefore the Act was engaged, and the Defendant had failed to serve the appropriate notices under the Act. The new wall
constituted a trespass.
However, the Court of Appeal judged it was not an extensive trespass, being something less than 225mm, and that had the notices been served the wall might well have been constructed exactly where it stood. The Court was not willing to grant an injunction to compel the defendant to remove the wall, but awarded damages for the trespass assessed at £300. Each party had to pay their own costs.
There are two important messages to come out of this case. First, the requirements of the Party Walls Act are often overlooked when works are being carried out, and although the Court elected not to do so in this case the Court does have power to grant an injunction to compel removal of any structure. Secondly the costs in this case would be far out of proportion to the extent of the land in issue, and so although an issue of principle might be at stake the options for resolving any dispute short of legal action should always be thoroughly explored.