I’ve just moved into a new house and discovered that the previous owners did some work that involved removing half the foundations of a party wall between my house and my new neighbour’s house.
My neighbours have informed me that they asked the previous owners to fix the damage before selling the house, but they did nothing.
I have three basic questions.
- Who’s responsible for repairing the wall? Me? Or the previous owners? Or 50:50 me and the neighbours?
- Assuming that the previous owners are responsible, who’s responsible for the cost and aggravation of making them pay-up (i.e. chasing them through the courts). Me, or my neighbours?
- Weren’t the owners or the estate agent under any obligation to tell me about this issue? The house cost a lot of money, I’m mortgaged to the maximum, and I’ve now just discovered it needs repairs that could cost thousands.
A bit more background. The party wall is a brick-built outside earth-retaining wall between myself and my neighbours. The previous owners indicated on the sale documentation that the boundary fence on that side of the house is the responsibility of what is now my property. The neighbour made a written request for the wall to be repaired and she copied it to the estate agent. Neither the seller, nor the estate agent mentioned anything about it to me before the purchase. I did get a survey done of the property, but the small-print excludes anything not part of the house itself – the boundary wall is a separate structure. I have not had an engineer look at it (yet), but even a layperson can reach under the wall and actually touch the bottom of the foundations! I've spoken to the previous owners, they admit doing the work, admit receiving the letter from the neighbours but say that because the wall is still (currently) standing it's not their problem - they even admitted that if the wall does fall over then the repairs will be my responsibility!
What do I do and who should pay?
Updates following comments.
The sellers filled in a TA6 form, the section titled 'Has any notice been received under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 in respect of any shared/party boundaries?' has been answered 'no'. The section titled 'Have there been any disputes or complaints regarding this property or a property nearby?' has also been ticked 'no' and finally the section titled 'Have any notices or correspondence been received or sent ...... which affect the property or a property nearby?' has also been ticked 'no'.
This document is signed and dated one day before they signed for receipt of the letter from the neighbours asking for the repairs to be done. This was 4 weeks before completion. I'm suspicious of the timing of the TA6 form, and can't help feeling that 4 weeks is plenty of time to correct it!