The Party Wall etc Act 1996 – notice – dispute – jurisdiction
The Respondent (“R”) was the owner of a property, sharing a party wall with a property owned by Mr and Mrs P. R carried our works on his property without serving any notice under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (“PWA 1996”). R contended that the works did not fall within the scope of PWA 1996.
Mr and Mrs P claimed that the works had caused damage to their property. In particular Mr and Mrs P claimed that R had removed part of the chimney breast. R denied this.
On 3 July 2018, the appellants (“As”), acting as appointed surveyors under PWA 1996, made an award (“the Award”) sum of £4,630 purportedly under that Act against R and in favour of Mr and Mrs P for damage caused by the works.
R appealed. In March 2020, HHJ Parfit sitting at Central London County Court declared the Award to be null and void on the basis that As had had no jurisdiction to make it. As appealed.
Mr Justice Eyre dismissed the appeal. He held that PWA 1996 could not be invoked unilaterally, so as to apply retrospectively to works already undertaken and in respect of which no notice under PWA 1996 had been served.
In this case no notice had been served by the building owner and he had not sought to invoke the Act. There was accordingly no dispute arising under the provisions of PWA 1996. It followed that HHJ Parfitt had been correct in his conclusion that As had had no jurisdiction to make the Award.
The decision confirms the ‘no notice, no act’ mantra. The PWA 1996 does not come into play unless a notice had been served. It does not operate retrospectively.
It follows that a property owner who performs works affecting a neighbour’s property without having given notice under PWA 1996, does not gain the benefits provided by the Act and puts him or herself at risk of court proceedings. However, the adjoining owner does in such circumstances not have the benefit of the mechanism provided by PWA 1996, but will have to resort to the court.
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