Party Wall expert Stephen Cornish considers what happens when a home that is party of a Party Wall Award changes hands during the work.
A problem that sometimes arises in the context of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 (‘the Act’) is what happens when the ownership of the neighbouring property changes before, during or after building works have taken place, which would invoke the Act. Does the person undertaking the works have to start the process over again with the new neighbour?
A person carrying out work which is notifiable under the Act is described as the ‘building owner’ and the neighbour affected by such works is referred to as the ‘adjoining owner.
In the words of the recently retired Party Wall Judge, His Honour Edward Bailey, “the aim of the Act is to provide a framework under which a building owner can get on with and complete his/her proposed works, while safeguarding the legitimate interests of any adjoining owner or occupier. With such an aim it is perhaps not surprising that the Act contains no provisions expressly covering successors in title and does not engage with the potential difficulties which may arise when one or other owner sells their land during the notice, party wall award or construction process.”
In considering the effect of there being successors in title we are left with a lack of comprehensive guidance. Because the rights and obligations under the Act are personal and do not attach to the land either of the building owner or the adjoining owner, there is no general rule governing succession. Each potential situation has to be looked at on its own merits.
Therefore, for advice you should speak to a specialist regarding your individual case, like the Party Wall Department at Woodward Chartered Surveyors.
Stephen Cornish PhD MA BSc FRICS FFPWS is a Third Surveyor for Party Wall Matters, a Director of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors and lectures extensively on Party Wall matters.