I had a recent call from a building owner who owns a property close to the new Olympic Games site who is looking to sell his property prior to the Olympics games and benefit from the increases in house prices in that area. His issue is that he is currently progressing through Party Wall negotiations and wanted to know where he stands if he sells the property.
Would any damages be his responsibility once he sold the property? If the Building Owner sells his property during the works can the Award be passed on to benefit the new owner?
At present there is no legal guidance on this matter. So any recommendations I gave him are from common sense in applying the Party Wall etc, Act 1996.
When applying the Act, it is very personal. An award does not bind land or sites, it binds owners and a firm is not appointed whereas a surveyor is. There is no mention in the Act for transferring the rights of a Building Owner to the new owner. Therefore if the Building owner sold his property during the course of works either before or after the Award was drawn up he would not be able to pass the benefit of an award to an incoming owner and the whole proceedings would have to start a fresh for the new owner.
However, if the works are complete, a Building Owner cannot be rid of the consequences of serving the original notice by disposing of the property. Any fees incurred or damage done will be his liability, although the new owner can if they so choose draw up an agreement and relieve the original building owner of his liabilities.
On the other hand, what if the Adjoining Owner decides to move half way through the proceedings? Should the Building owner have to start a fresh and serve notice on the new owners?
Considering the Act is an ‘enabling’ Act, to force the Building Owner to start afresh would not enable the works to continue but in fact delay them.
In the first instance, the new purchasing Adjoining Owner should be made aware of any party wall negotiations from the out set so no new notices would be required and the appointed Adjoining Owner surveyor can continue acting on behalf of the new owner. If an Award has been made then the new owner would be bound by that award. The property should be conveyed to the new owner with the full benefit and burden of the party wall proceedings.
So transferring the benefits and burdens is not possible for Building Owners but it is for Adjoining Owners.