Party wall injunctions
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (“the Party Wall Act”) regulates certain types of building works; specifically, works to an existing party wall, the building of a wall or other structure on or near the boundary line, or excavations within 3 or 6 metres, depending on the depth.
What are my options?
If your neighbour has or intends to start building works that are covered by the Party Wall Act without first serving the required notice and (if the works are not agreed) obtaining a Party Wall Award then you have two options.
First, you can apply to the Court for an injunction. This is a type of court order preventing them from starting or continuing the works covered by the Party Wall Act until a notice has been served and, if necessary, an award has been made. Injunctions can be obtained in as soon as a few hours, and have the great advantage of preventing potential damage to your property. But there are disadvantages. They can be costly to obtain (although you can usually recover some or all of the cost from your neighbour), and although most injunction cases are resolved quite quickly, some cases can be hotly contested and become protracted and very expensive at between £1,500 for a simple case to £5,000 for a more complicated case.
Second, you can force the appointment of a tribunal of party wall surveyors. You can serve a notice on your neighbour requiring them to appoint a surveyor within 10 days, and if they do not, you can appoint one on their behalf. The tribunal of surveyors can then issue awards regulating how your neighbour does their building works.
Should I apply for an injunction?
Whether you should apply for an injunction or force the appointment of surveyors will depend on a number of factors:-
- You will have to pay for the cost of obtaining an injunction, although if you are successful you can recover most of the cost from your neighbour. Conversely, the appointment of a tribunal of surveyors can be relatively inexpensive, and your neighbour will usually pay.
Injunctions can be obtained very quickly, whereas appointing a tribunal of surveyors to deal with the issues takes around two weeks plus however long it takes for the tribunal to make an award.
Injunctions stopping the works can prevent damage to your property, whereas the tribunal of surveyors will usually only deal with remedying the damage once it has been caused.
You should also remember that injunctions are an “equitable remedy”; this means that the Court has a discretion on whether or not to grant you an injunction.