Dreaded party wall (garden wall) issues

(10 Posts)
Beboombop Tue 23-Jun-20 10:29:54

We are planning minor renovations (kitchen, bathrooms, some plumbing repair, two new windows) on our London terraced house.

We also need to repair a section of what I believe is a jointly owned party wall in the garden. The section is leaning badly into ours and the builder says it's unsafe. It's rendered both sides and painted. In North London and subsidence is not unknown in the area. About 1.5 m long max, and about 2m tall.

Neighbour A is the one with whom we share the wall. The family did a huge renovation job on the house when they downsized into it four years ago (sold their original house for an insane amount so could really afford to go all out). Their other neighbours complained about how intrusive it was, we didn't at all. I don't know why they didn't address the leaning wall when they did all this work, but they are rarely in the garden from what I've seen.

We emailed them in Feb suggesting that as part of our works we rebuild the wall - we would pay for it. Using very reputable builder etc.

Got a very shirty reply saying that it was really inappropriate that we think about doing any building work at all while they were working from home (?) and that they didn't want anyone going through their house with Covid19. We said, absolutely understood, we are postponing the building work obviously, we just want to get your agreement or thoughts at the planning stage.

The problem is, the impression I get is that they don't want anything done, even if the wall is dangerous and even if we offer to pay for it. They don't want to be disturbed and were very arsy in the emails they sent us about us doing any work at all (all the kitchens and plumbing are on the OPPOSITE wall to their house, also not that invasive? In comparison they drilled through walls continuously while I was heavily pregnant and really sick).

We are now getting closer to the stage of doing work and I need to engage with them again (dreading it).

1. What are our legal obligations re the wall? Ie informing them of wanting to do work?
2. What are their legal obligations to let us fix wall?
3. Do we need to get a building inspector to look at the wall to declare it dangerous?
4. If 3. happened and building inspector said it must be repaired, are they obligated to share the cost? (I would rather use this as a bargaining chip, i.e. 'if you are going to be very difficult about this, you may find yourself obliged to meet half the cost, when we are currently offering to meet all of it).

I just could see from the emails we got in Feb/March, where we were nothing but considered and placatory, that neighbour was the type to want to be difficult - firing off replies to me minutes after receiving mine (when I had left 48 hours to compose very considered email etc). I really want no trouble! Just a wall that is exactly the same as previous but not dangerous!

Advice please on how best to manage this!

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SoupDragon Tue 23-Jun-20 10:39:30

Firstly, have you checked the deeds to see what they say about the wall/boundary?

Secondly, assuming ownership isn't solely theirs, I think I would tell them the wall will be repaired as it is dangerous or it would accidentally fall down during renovations.

SoupDragon Tue 23-Jun-20 10:40:39

I'm not sure there is a "best way to manage this" as they seem to want to be difficult for the sake of it.

JacobReesMogadishu Tue 23-Jun-20 10:44:36

The council once served me with a fix notice for a dangerous garden wall in the back garden which wasn't visible from the public highway.....I assume a neighbour got them involved (I didn't live there). So maybe contact them. I had 31 days to sort it or be taken to court.

Beboombop Tue 23-Jun-20 10:50:02

Ooh, that's exactly what I need to hear.

I have bought the title deed and the title plans online but they aren't marked, I suspect it's joint and on the boundary. can't get to the information we were given by solicitor when we bought until this weekend. Just fretting about it in the meantime.

Yes, I feel like I need to give them a pass in March as they were worried about a grown up child living with them who was possibly more at risk from C19 (we were nothing but like, 'Of course, you must be so worried, please be assured we will be doing nothing for now') but it was the style in which he answered my emails that gave me absolute dread. They both have very important, authoritative jobs and not to massively assume but they spoke to me like I was a naughty student who they would like very much to put in detention and so just firing up with a council notice saying 'you need to do this' i.e. non-negotiable would be the dream.

I mean if you can't respond civilly to a polite email from peaceful neighbours saying 'we note this is dangerous, would you like us to replace as-is and pay for it too?' then what hope is there!

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JacobReesMogadishu Tue 23-Jun-20 10:51:48

Exactly, get the notice served - either on them or on yourself! Ideally on both. Either way they can't argue with that! And if the council serve it on them as well then maybe they'll just have to help with the costs. smile

Beboombop Tue 23-Jun-20 11:14:31

Bit worried if I serve it on myself right this second as not sure it will be done in next 31 days (90 maybe).

One of the things I was worried about when trying to look up the legalities was the party wall act, which says you must inform other party 2 months in advance - but does that not apply if it's just a garden wall?

Which makes me realise, thank goodness it's not an extension using party wall we're planning. Omfg it would be hell.

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Beboombop Tue 23-Jun-20 11:15:32

But thank you so much for your cheering message!

Any other party wall advice from anyone gratefully received!

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ElephantLover Tue 23-Jun-20 12:15:47

You are being too soft here. We've had our neighbour (semi) do a full house renovation plus loft conversion all the way through covid (March to August) while we were house bound with 2 kids!

Get council involved & try not to be 'too polite'. Some folks only understand when spoken to the same way that they speak.

In my earlier house my neighbour put in a new window facing my kitchen window (5ft distance) and told me he'll be using frosted glass so that we don't lose privacy. Well he put in plain glass (for whatever reason but didn't bother explaining). I called the council & they inspected (impressively, same day!) and served notice to replace & also to remove the handle to make the window non-openable. He got it done in a week!

Beboombop Tue 23-Jun-20 12:57:24

@elephantlover yes, you're probably right. I was really sick with anaemia and placenta praevia when they were doing their all-singing-and-dancing renovations, and I didn't say a word, so much so that they bought me flowers, which they now seem to have forgotten.

I agree re the tone of voice, but I really don't want a neighbour stand off.

I just am aware that they are now likely to be there for the next 20-30 years, we may want to have them onside if we can ever afford to do a side return extension (which would def involve party wall. They have not done extension and are unlikely to so they don't need a bargaining chip).

I think now with this good advice I will:

1. Wait until I can see all docs given by solicitors 7 years ago when we purchased. See if there's more information on wall ownership/responsibility (although how hilarious if it's actually theirs! I'll be on to the council Monday morning!)

2. Email them again politely and say 'what a good point it was to raise wall ownership, it turns out it's both of our responsibility. I suggest we do things by the book and get the council out to examine'. Then hopefully we'll get a notice to rectify and have to split costs.

3. Get the council/building inspector out.

4. Get wall fixed! I actually wouldn't pursue them for money if it meant it held the whole procedure up for months - we have A LOT going on in our lives right now and it is worth it to us just to get it done and dusted as part of our works.

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