Boundary Beware – can I erect a building on my boundary line?

If you are intending to carry out works to a boundary feature, you may need to consider whether it is a party wall within the provisions of the Party Wall, etc, Act 1996 (‘the Act’)or risk ending up in a costly court battle!

In a recent case, Rashid v Sharif (2014), Mr A removed a wall situated on the boundary between his and Mr B’s adjoining property and replaced it with the rear wall of a new shed.  The former wall was deemed to be a ‘party fence wall’ within the provisions of the Act – i.e. ‘…a wall (not being part of a building) which stands on lands of different owners and is used or constructed to be used for separating such adjoining lands…’

It was held that Mr B did not consent to Mr A building the shed where he did and protested strongly when the works were far advanced.  Despite this, Mr A continued with the works.  However, Mr A should have served appropriate notices on Mr B in accordance with the Act and secured permission under the statutory procedures before carrying out the works.  Mr B took Mr A to court.

At the Court of Appeal, the judge held Mr A’s actions to constitute a trespass onto Mr B’s property.  However, given the relatively minor nature of the trespass (a 9 inch encroachment) the judge was unwilling to grant an injunction (i.e. to order Mr A to remove the trespassing wall of the shed and reinstate the former wall), instead awarding Mr B modest damages.  Each party was ordered to pay their own costs for the litigation – overall, an expensive boundary feature!

This is a cautionary tale for anyone intending to carry out building works to a party wall –check whether there are any statutory procedures to follow and, if possible, communicate with your neighbour.

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