There have been growing concerns that the Party Wall Act is being used to delay building projects.
The Party Wall Act, which seeks to regulate work that affects a shared wall between neighbours and sets outs the procedure that parties have to go through to resolve any issues, has recently deliberately been used as a delaying tactic to curb the rate at which one party may continue with a building project.
This is particularly so due to the rise of basement dig downs in affluent neighbourhoods, such as Belgravia and Westminster where there has been a desire to extend homes and convert basements into modern-day gyms or carparks, otherwise what is known as an ‘iceberg’ basement. The issue with this is the disturbance caused to the surrounding neighbourhood whilst construction work is being undertaken. As a result, neighbours have taken advantage of a rule in the Party Wall act which allows the non-building party entitlement to a security deposit from the main building party in case of construction work going astray.
Often there are fears of such basement work affect the transit of groundwater and causing damage to the neighbouring house however the president of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors, Alex Frame, says that ‘more people are asking their neighbours for deposits for silly things where there is little chance of damage, such as building an extension’.
Nevertheless, due to the extent and cost of these basement dig downs, there is now a demand by surrounding neighbours for an equally high security deposit. A recent example of this involves a case in Kensington where a surrounding neighbour rejected a £350,000 deposit, instead asking for a deposit of £3 million. There have also been cases where demands have been so high that the main party seeking to carry out work has had to take the issue to court.
The implications of this is that the main party has to either provide large deposits to their neighbours or dispute the amount, which thus leads to further delays and uncertainty in the process.
In light of this, it appears that surrounding neighbours, either unhappy or anxious of the work being carried out, are deliberately using the Party Wall act to delay the work. Surveyors have called for the courts to provide more clarity on this issue once a potential future case involving a large deposit is brought to the courts attention.