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Kitchen extension and neighbour dispute!

Discussion in 'Building Regulations and Planning Permission' started by Adam W, 9 Nov 2015.

  1. Adam W

    Adam W

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    Hi all,

    First time poster here and in some desperate need of advice so a massive help and then hopefully thank you in advance!!

    I informed our neighbour at the side which our kitchen is adjoining of the plans to rearrange the internal structure. I explained we would be extending slightly into what was our downstairs bathroom and he was fine with it at the time.

    (I should explain that the layout of the house was a garage at the rear then a door into small corridor from there with bathroom next to that. The back door also opens into this small corridor with the bathroom then in front. Kitchen adjoining this and then through to the rest of the house. The plan is to remove the door to garage and rotate bathroom 90 degrees so now entering the back door you are in the kitchen with a door to the bathroom on the right and no corridor so as to utilise a larger kitchen. It's much harder to describe that layout than I realised!!)

    The works involved removing a wall about 8 ft long with a doorway at one end (to the aforementioned small corridor which feeds the bathroom and garage). When the plasterboard came down this wall was in fact a hidden doorway and a window. We planned to insert a steel beam to carry the weight as this was a load bearing wall.

    Anyway halfway through the works the neighbour came round and said we caused cracks to his ceiling. He stated he wasn't too bothered as he was planning on redecorating the kitchen shortly anyway. He also talked about not receiving a Party Wall Agreement and that he had checked online for building regulation plans and could not see any.

    As this is a first home and first project I was panicked right away. I informed him that I would speak to the builder and get him to contact him. I did as I said.

    A week or so later I had a knock at the door again saying as he had not heard from any of us he had gone over our heads (although he stated he didn't want to as he didn't want to fall out with us) and spoken to building control for advice however did not want it to go any further. He mentioned that he wants us to get steel calculations and he would like a copy. He also wanted to be present when the inspector was on site.

    This felt like a thinly veiled threat and served to panic both my partner and myself more.

    I spoke to the builder again and he told me he would go round to see him. I asked regarding the building regs and informed me it was going through an approved inspector. I contacted them to ensure this and provided a few other details etc but was all legit.

    After the builder had been round he told me he would happily put anything right that he had caused damage to however was sceptical of the minor cracks in his ceiling as they appeared to have been painted over (no cracks appeared on my ceiling!).

    Heard nothing else for a number of weeks. Works have been completed. New kitchen halfway through fitting. All signed off by building control and just awaiting the final certificate.

    Had another visit this weekend and he stated he still had not received any steel calculations.
    I informed him that everything had gone through building control, had been signed off and that we were awaiting our final certificate. We had done everything we needed to after becoming aware.

    He said that we hadn't done the party wall agreement. Also that as we had already finished the works some other sort of application to building control should have been made (we had not finished when applied for). All the time saying obviously I don't want to fall out with you over this. He said who was going to pay for the damage and that the builder had intimated it wouldn't be him but myself (which is grudgingly fine). He kept saying what if there is structural damage and large cracks down the party wall. (This is only single brick and there is no damage to our side of it).
    He also mentioned that people at his work (I believe near or in building control vicinity in local government) had advised him to go straight to his solicitors ... but he didn't want to fall out with us over this! This again sounded to us like a threat and like scaremongering tactics.

    I told him I would have to do some research as I wasn't sure he is entitled to our calculations as surely we have to pay for them and if he gets them surely he can do the same works without having to pay for calculations if he wanted them then. To which he said it's not for that. He can get them off Building Control if he wanted.

    Anyway I have waffled on for long enough now so appreciate if you got to the end here!

    In summary, I know I was in the wrong for not doing the Party Wall Agreement thing. I was maybe naive in the fact that I had not checked on building regulations application etc as it seems the builder may not have put it in first thing before the works!
    Do i have to allow him a copy of the calculations?
    What do i do from here regarding his 'threats' of solicitors?
    If i offer to pay for the damage is that enough? Does he have to prove that we damaged it too?
    If i don't do this can he make things worse for us?
    We are both very nervous and panicking that we could end up having to pay great fees for surveyors and solicitors and things now.

    Again thank you for any help! Its greatly appreciated!

    Ad.
     

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  2. Nakajo

    Nakajo

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    Believe it or not, the Party Wall Act seeks to protect both you and your neighbour. Ignore it at your peril. Although unlikely in practice, in theory your neighbour can bring about an injunction against your building works. You really don't want this. Despite what others may say here, case law has established a precedent in which the burden of proof is significantly relaxed, shall we say, on the grounds that the defendant should not benefit from their failure to attend to the provisions of the act.
     
  3. Adam W

    Adam W

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    Hi Nakajo,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply (and read the epic story!).

    Just thought I should say that I did not ignore the Party Wall Act.
    In my naivity I had no knowledge of this act as this is a first house and first project.
    If I had known I would have complied with it!
    I had no idea I had to 'ask permission' to carry out works like we were inside my own walls. I obviously do now after doing a bit more research

    An injunction to stop my building works? The ones that are already fully completed?

    And there is no benefit to me not attending to the provisions act that I can see as our builder has stated he will fix any damage that he has caused and this will obviously be at a cost to me.
     
  4. tony1851

    tony1851

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    Nakajo is right. However, the Act is not retrospective and it is inconceivable that a court would award the neighbour an injunction to stop
    work which has already been completed.
    Would the neighbour be able to prove the cracks were caused by your work.......? Who knows, but if he is really determined to push this through the courts,
    it would not help - shall we say - that you did not apply the Act before work started.
    But it comes down to a matter of degree; if there were gaping cracks in his wall which were clearly new, then you probably would be found liable.
    But some cracks in a plaster ceiling...?
    FWIW my guess is that he wont push it - why not just offer him a small sum to repair the cracks and re-paint and save his face?

    He has no rights to demand the calculations from you - Building Control is solely between the client and the BC body.

    BTW, you don't have to 'ask permission' to carry out work on a party wall, you just either get next-door's agreement, or appoint a surveyor (at your expense) if they won't initially agree. The surveyo would then make an award, saying how the work should be done.
     
  5. Adam W

    Adam W

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    Thanks for taking the time tony.

    It is only his word that the crack in the ceiling is caused by us. Our builder thinks they are not fresh and have been painted over at some point. There was no visible damage to our side of the wall which was stripped back to brick at the time.

    The builder has said he would fix any damage and I have made this clear myself too. It looks like we will do this anyway.
    The annoying thing is he keeps saying we our redecorating the full kitchen soon anyway so not bothered about the cracks.
    He seems intent on getting hold of our calculations which I now know he has no rights to thank you.

    Would you recommend giving him a small sum or arranging someone to do the work for him myself?

    Cheers
     
  6. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    Ignore him.

    The PW Act is of no use to him now as the work is completed and a court will not grant any injunction, and a Solicitor would not advise that action. It would be his expensive mistake.

    As always, he his within his rights to alleged that your work has caused damage, but the onus will be for him to prove damage and causation. If he chooses to do this, your insurance will cover and defend it.

    Do not supply him with any calculations, detail or information. He has no right to anything. He should not be able to get these from building control as they are copyright. He is fishing.

    Tbh, he sounds clueless and is getting bits of information from here and there without any idea of what his rights are.

    In summary, he needs to prove that any damage was caused by you (your builder) and that you were negligent. That's difficult and costly. Your insurance will deal with any claim in any case. And they will normally deal with it robustly.
     
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  7. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    Also, don't admit anything. Any offer you may choose to make (written or verbal) should be prefaced with "without prejudice".
     
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    DIYnot Local

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