Are you looking to enlarge your home? This recent dispute between neighbours which spiralled out of control is a reminder that following the right procedures could save you thousands in legal fees.

What happened?

A homeowner undertook a loft conversion. They wrongly confirmed to the builder that they had complied with the relevant procedures.

However, the building work caused damage to the neighbour's chimney, and the neighbour applied for an injunction and damages. The resulting court cases occupied four days of court time and cost thousands in legal fees. The neighbour, unsurprisingly, won.

The judge was highly critical of the homeowner who carried out the works without following the correct Party Wall Act procedures. If the correct procedures had been followed, then the dispute with the neighbour would not have arisen and the homeowner would have saved much more money than was spent on legal fees.

What is the Party Wall Act?

The Party Wall Act 1996 was introduced because building work can cause damage to adjoining buildings and interrupt the owner's own use and enjoyment of the party wall or structure.

It provides a dispute resolution procedure to protect the interests of the adjoining owner, while giving the building owner the rights they need to carry out its works. This is usually achieved by an expert surveyor making a binding party wall award, which will:

• govern the extent of the building owner's works

• set out the manner in which the works are carried out

• document the original condition of the adjoining owner's land in case the works cause damage

Anyone planning on working on, or close to, their boundary should seek the advice of a specialist Party Wall Surveyor before commencing work.

  • David Marsden is a partner at award-winning law firm VWV, which has offices in Clarendon Road, Watford