What is a party structure?
A party structure is the term used to describe the wall, hedge, fencing, or building which is on, or close to, the boundary between two properties. It is essentially the structure which creates the physical division between two properties.
A party wall/structure may be either on your neighbour’s property or on the boundary which divides the two properties.
It is generally the case that the adjoining property owners jointly own the party structure and neither of them can make a unilateral decision to significantly alter or remove the party structure.
Party structures have been problematic in the past, particularly so when it came to the maintenance and the carrying out of repairs to them so the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 addressed and sought to clarify the law in relation to party structures.
The law entitles a person to carry out work to the party structures including for example alterations, repairs and maintenance, decoration, replacement and strengthening.
Podcast: Party Walls
If I am the person who wants the works to be carried out are there any conditions?
If you cause damage to your neighbour’s property whilecarrying out work to the party structure, you must repair the damage or pay for the cost of the repair work carried out by your neighbour. If a property owner carries out work to the party wall and fails to repair any damage to his neighbour’s property the law allows the neighbour to apply to the court for an order to compel the damage to be fixed.
You must cover the costs of professional advice sought by your neighbour regarding the likely consequences of the works you intend to carry out and reasonable compensation for the inconvenience caused to your neighbour. Compensation might be relevant if the works to the party wall or structure cause disruption to the neighbour’s business.
Do I still have to pay compensation if the works I am carrying out will benefit my adjoining neighbour/owner?
If the works you are going to carry out will be of benefit to your neighbour you may be able to claim a contribution from them or reduce the amount of compensation payable to them to reflect the benefit s/he will gain in the enjoyment of his property because of the carrying out of the works.
What happens if my neighbor refuses to allow the work to be carried out?
A neighbour might refuse to allow works to be carried out or obstruct the carrying out of works to the party structure. Prior to the 2009 Act a situation like this might well have escalated into a long and protracted row between two neighbours but the Act has introduced a procedure that can be activated through the District Court which lets the judge decide upon the situation.
What is a “Works Order”?
“The Works Order”
If a dispute arises now between neighbours, in relation to a party structure by virtue of the 2009 Act, the person who wants to carry out the work can apply to the District Court for what is known as a “Works Order”, or in other words, permission to go ahead with the work.
In these circumstances the court can impose any terms and conditions that it sees fit when making an order authorising the work – the Court will take into account the individual circumstances of each case.
To protect the neighbour whose property will be affected by the carrying out of the work the property owner may be required by the Court to give security for any loss or damage that might arise as a result of the work. This could take the form of a lodgment of money which will pay for any damage caused to the neighbour’s property.
The Court can make an order entitling the property owner who intends to carry out the work access to his neighbour’s property for the purposes of carrying out the work.
The provisions in the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 pave the way for a more straightforward and streamlined mechanism for dealing with party structures, it is still important to bear in mind that the best way to approach any changes to party walls/structures with your neighbours is to discuss the changes first and to aim to carry out any works with their understanding and consent.