The Party Wall Act governs works which by their nature may extend over a significant period of time, and are inherently not absolutely certain and deterministic at commencement. (For example, during the stated works a problem could arise, or unavoidable outside circumstances could force a change of plan).
It also contains a regime of notices and consents that a party wishing to build,must serve on adjoining owners and occupiers (all of them, if more than one exists), and they must serve back. Parties may also need to incur and defray expenses, and reimburse each other.
I'm curious what the effect is, if the adjoining property changes hands midway through works. Usually, consent is given and notices served by one legal person to another.
Do the consents and notices stay with the original neighbouring owner, or stay with the property (hence move to the new one)? How would courts handle the fallout from a midway change of neighbours in practice, given the Act doesn't say a thing on the topic? How far if at all, is a new owner bound by the consent of a prior owner
To make the question more concrete, and indicate what kind of area Im curious about, perhaps its easier to give a few example situations.
Suppose A wishes to build on the boundary between her house, and that of adjoining neighbour B. At some point C will replace B as the owner of (or person legally responsible for) the adjoining property.
4 examples capture the situations I can think of:
- B consents, but sells the property or dies, and C takes over. I assume C either should have taken due diligence and inquired during purchase, or B has a duty to disclose, or C "took a chance" on any legal matters if B died leaving no documents behind and C bought it anyway. But in any case, C finds out and objects. Can C withdraw any of the consents B gave, or is he bound by B's acts so far? Must A re-request any consents?
- B sells to C, and subsequently, A raises an unforeseen/unexpected expense allocation dispute. B may have incurred or defrayed the expense, or perhaps some of the inconvenience was suffered by B and some by C. In either case, the Act only seems to contemplate the current owner/occupier C, being able to engage in the surveyor dispute resolution process. What happens?
- The works are complex and undertaken in stages. Once commenced, they must be completed, but a description of the work for which consent will be requested at stage 2 or 3 cannot be known until stage 1 is complete, which will potentially take more than 12 months. Immediately after being told about the works and serving a consent notice, B (without telling A of this) sells to C, disclosing the stage 1 works and consent notices. A has in writing that B understood there would be further works beyond the original consented party wall notice for stage 1, but these were likely to take place outside the time limit for current consent. Meanwhile C wishes to argue that this constitutes a mere acknowledgement by B of A's future intent, and B clearly did not give PW Act consent to stage 2 or 3, and nor will C. Further the property is safe structurally so "necessity" doesn't apply. Who wins? If C, then how can any owner safeguard himself from that situation? What should A have done if the works might have been of uncertain nature or duration, in his original notice to B?
- A and B, as friends, decide that, as not sending irksome legalistic notices back and forth isn't a breach of the Act or an Offence, they will amicably agree A will do the works on a verbal agreement, and keep B apprised. In return for B's agreement and support, permission to enter B's garden through the side gate as needed, and generally making it easier to do the works, A will in turn undertake the works in a way that costs a bit more but is beneficial to B. In law, this would seem to be valid and also a contract, This works well until B dies and C becomes the owner. C is able to verify from numerous local families, and from emails A produces, that such an agreement did exist in the terms stated. Is C bound by B's agreement, and can A enforce all, some or none of it, or indeed continue the works, from that point onward?