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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
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Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I own a semi detached property. My new neighbour has

Customer Question

Hello. I own a semi detached property. My new neighbour has undertaken extensive refurbishment over the past 3 months including replacement of a drainage channel in the valley between our roofs which was necessary due to dry rot in his roof. Last November he agreed to pay for these roof repairs but is now asking us to pay 50% of the costs and invoking the Party Wall Act. Does his previous commitment to pay the costs make the terms of the Party Wall Act irrelevant or do we need to abide by its terms so far as cost sharing is concerned?
Thank you
Richard
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 8 months ago.
The neighbour can always say that he made the offer to pay all the work for himself by mistake, believing that there was no obligation on you to pay anything. There is a legal doctrine of “mistake”.Whether you are liable to pay anything would depend on whether you both have the benefit of this drainage channel and whether the drainage channel actually needed replacing if that were not for the refurbishment.If you both have the benefit of drainage from the channel than you both have the burden of repairing it. Liability arises 2 ways, under the Party Wall Act which you have already mentioned and also under another legal doctrine of Mutual Benefit and Burden which says that if you have the benefit of something, you have the burden of repairing it. It commonly applies to roads and pathways but equally to drains and in your case the roof gulleyCan I clarify anything for you?Please don’t forget to rate the service positive. It’s an important part of the process so that I get my time recognised.Best wishesFES
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for this. The neighbour originally asked us for a contribution and when we declined (all via e-mails) he then confirmed in writing that he would pay the costs. Therefore a "mistake" is not really possible. Would this change anything? Thanks Richard
Expert:  F E Smith replied 8 months ago.
I’m afraid it doesn’t change my answer. Just because he’s put it in writing doesn’t mean that he cannot claim that he made a mistake thinking that he was liable for the whole cost as opposed to part of the cost. You have a potential argument that you don’t have the money and that you only agreed for the work to go ahead because he agreed to pay all the costs. It is a legal doctrine called Promissory Estoppel. He promised something and you relied on that promise to your detriment and he is then stopped from going back on the promise. It depends whether you want the potential legal argument if he decides to pursue you through court for half of the cost.

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