A building owner had the misfortune of a property fire which not only gutted the building but also caused the existing Party fence wall to burn down.
Luckily the Building owner was insured for such occurrences and is able to rebuild his property. Being a responsible Building owner, they want to follow the correct procedures and have contacted Party Wall Services and asked for our help to ensure the correct notices are served on their adjoining owners.
The issue has arisen because the new design for the property means that the Building owner would prefer not to have a party fence wall and instead build completely on their own land. Now most neighbours would say what’s wrong with that? You are giving me extra land.
Firstly under the Party Wall Act, can the Building owner rebuild the wall solely on his own land? Secondly, is the neighbouring property really gaining from such a decision?
Under section 2(2)(b) of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, a building owner shall have the right “to make good, repair or demolish and rebuild a party fence wall in a case where such work is necessary on account of defect or want of repair”. Obviously the party fence wall is in need of repair and as it is an existing Party Fence wall the Building owner is not building a new party fence wall under section 1. But no provision is given if the building owner wants to rebuild on his own land. The adjoining owner is well within his right to insist that the party fence wall is rebuilt as it used to be his party fence wall as well.
Arguably, if the Party fence wall is rebuilt as a boundary wall, the Adjoining owner would not have the right to use it to enclose upon without express consent and may then have to build another wall against it. So although he might be benefiting initially from additional space, he would later be loosing out by having to build another wall up against it if he were to ever want to use that elevation in an extension. The gained space without the extension would be lost with an extension and the addition of another wall.
In this circumstance, although the Building owner wants to build a boundary wall, the Adjoining owner can insist that the wall is rebuilt as a Party Fence wall but in doing so he would incur costs equal to his benefit of the wall for rebuilding it. The decision on the part of the building owner not to rebuild the party fence wall has actually been welcomed by the adjoining owner as they believe they will be better protected from the additional ‘fire break’ that the gap give them in having separate walls should they have the misfortune of suffering another fire.