Change of Adjoining Owner
September 2, 2021
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 occurs after a party wall award has been served but the building works are not yet completed. Does the person undertaking the works have to start the process over again with the new neighbour?
Under the Act, the person carrying out the work is described as the ‘building owner’ and the neighbour affected by the works is referred to as the ‘adjoining owner.’ The Act makes no express provisions for changes in ownership, and there is no clear authority setting out the consequences of a change in ownership. The 7th edition of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors guidance notes on the Act offers one opinion: “If the adjoining owner changes, the appointment of the adjoining owner’s surveyor continues and the rights and duties of the adjoining owner pass to the successor in title. This avoids unnecessary delay, cost and inconvenience to the building owner by virtue of a change of adjoining owner. It also prevents an adjoining owner from thwarting a building owner’s intention to proceed with work, for example, by transferring ownership of the adjoining property to a subsidiary company.”
The Faculty suggests:
- If the work has started by the Building Owner, then the new Adjoining Owner would know about it at the conveyance stage and thus could not dissent. However, the award that has been served should be assigned to the new owner, because in the event that damage occurs the new Adjoining Owner would not be written down as a party to the matter in the award, and possible difficulties may arise.
- If the work has NOT started but an award is in place it could be assigned as above, however the new Adjoining Owner need not accept this and demand a new notice in his name, after all he could choose to consent, and or appoint his own surveyor to make an award and maybe serve a counter notice.
A party wall award will set-out rights (benefits) and liabilities (burdens) which should be made known to the new adjoining owner. For further information on Party Wall procedures visit the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyor’s Website fpws.org.uk and/or Helpline.