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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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If a party wall is co owned but one party starts to repair

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If a party wall is co owned but one party starts to repair the wall to make it safe without discussing costs to the other party does that mean that the repairing party is now deemed responsible for the wall. ( there is a law that states to the effect that by repairing a wall you are taking responsibility for it - do you know the official title of this law?)

We are in a position where we have moved into a private property where the party wall is co owned with the local council. However the wall is such a state of neglect from previous years that it needs to be completely rebuilt - we want to know if we are still eligible for 50% of the costs as the lack of maintenance from the council has put the wall is such a state. Or as we have been in the property only a short time we can argue that negligence on their part over the past 30 years has caused undue costs now. so 50% is unfair?

Also the council has already secured the wall and commissioned three surveys and drawings with out consulting us on costs or quotes. They are now stating that we are responsible for 50% of these preparatory costs too - is this so?
I am open minded but would just like to know if party wall law overrules in this case or if we have a point that we can argue as the costs of the rebuilding of this wall is fairly substantial.
Many Thanks

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

Has the council served a dangerous structure notice on it, or is it dangerous in any event?

Did this crop up as part of any structural survey you had done?

Is the co-owner a private individual or the council?

What is the 50% cost of repairing the wall?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hello Jo, in answer to your questions:

No dangerous structure notice has been served, although there is an old lady living there and it potentially could be dangerous to her. as it is about 7 feet tall.


No it did not crop us as a structural survey we had done - the wall was noted on the buyers survey but it was deemed as repairable and not something that had to be instantly seen to. Basically it was seen as " not going anywhere but has a large crack in it that needs some attention at some point in the future). It was obvious that it was a very old crack that we were told had been there for 20 odd years.


The tennant at the property is in her 90's and she complained as soon as the old owner left and we moved in. (May 2013).


The co-owner is the council.


As yet, we have not been consulted on any of the prep cost. The wall has been strapped with scaffolding and boards, nor were we consulted on the two/ three surveys that took place prior to this strapping.


I spoke to one work man who said that the council had commissioned him without even asking how much his services would cost?

He spoke to me privately saying that the surveyor who made the drawings was saying that it was an expensive job.


I have no idea of the costs so far (say £1500-£3000) and as the surveyors are saying that the wall needs to be rebuilt from scratch that it will be £10-12K and I presume pre VAT. Of which through party wall we are deemed to pay 50%.


If this is a jointly owned party wall then the fact that one person may have started some work on it does not mean that they have assumed responsibility of the wall in total and I would be interested to know where that had come from. What they cannot do is try to recover 50% of those costs from you without your agreement and the cost of litigating that may actually be more than they are asking for.

It appears that your attention was drawn to the wall in the survey, and that may prevent you bringing a claim against the surveyor, although that would depend on the condition of the wall and also what was said in the report and if it was a full structural survey, or simply a homebuyer's report.

Unless you covenanted in your deeds to repair the wall and keep it in repair you cannot be made to rebuild it either. Provided it does not become dangerous, you are entitled to let it fall down or demolish it even and of the neighbour does not want it demolished, they are faced with the repair costs, but nonetheless, it remains a party wall. If the council served a dangerous structure notice on it all you can be made to do is make it safe and in that respect, you can tell them that you will demolish it and remove it.

One of the difficulties you face is that your co-owner is the local authority and they have unlimited funds to a great extent, to litigate this matter even though ultimately they may lose.

Check your house insurance to see if you have legal expenses cover that would pay for the cost of litigation.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hello and Thanks for your answer - I understand completely the unlimited funds of the council - hence their lasse faire attitude to commissioning workmen!


To come back to a point you mentioned things that were covenanted in our deeds.

We have this written word for word in the deeds:

" To maintain the boundary fences marked with a 'T' ( that covers the fence that its built on top of the wall in question) on the said plan in good condition and to contribute a fair proportion of the expense from time to time of maintaining repairing and renewing any party wall fence hedge gutter downspout gulley private sewer manhole drain water pipe or other service in common with the council or any adjoining or adjacent owner or occupier"


This seems that we are responsible although it does not say 50% just a fair proportion.

In context the wall on our side is 1 foot high - with a fence on top - the wall at the other side the council side is 7 foot high - I am guessing that this makes no difference what so ever in the "Fair Proportionate" as really we can not see the damaged side of the wall as it is beneath our property on the other side.


We are more concerned as now they have issued us with a party wall agreement notice to start rebuilding the wall - of course we agree to them repairing the wall but don't want to sign it as potentially by doing so we would be agreeing to their 50% terms too. To date we have never been involved with costings regarding this wall at all. Only letters from the councils party wall surveyor deeming that we are to pay 50%.

Should we sign the agreement to allow them to start building - or would we be better send a letter with our views first?


It is likely that you covenanted in your deeds to repair the wall.

I cannot tell without seeing the deeds but your solicitor will have advised you if that was the case when you bought the property.

It might be worth a telephone call.

It is a retaining wall so the height each side is immaterial. Without it your land falls into next door. A reasonable proportion is whatever is reasonable and on these facts that would indeed be 50%.

It seems that removing the wall isn’t an option because it is retaining.

I would certainly want estimates first of what they are proposing

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

It does look like we have covenanted to repair the wall - does it make any difference that the wall was neglected so long ?

in your opinion would you agree to sign the party wall notice?

Thanks - this will be my last question - you have been very helpful and prompt and I am very happy so far

Thank you.

Your predecessor was just as responsible for repairing the wall as the neighbour, and you are and you buy the property "caveat emptor"

The previous neglect therefore is immaterial.

I would not sign the party wall notice until I was completely sure of exactly what they are asking for. You certainly need to know what commitment you are making to pay costs of the repair
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