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Excavations near Party Walls

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The case of Crowley Civil Engineers v Rushmoor Borough Council provides a number of useful reminders on the need to exercise caution when working near Party Walls.

Where excavations are undertaken within 6 metres of an external wall then the Party Wall Act 1996 may have some application.

In this case the Council were deemed to own the land adjacent to a house that collapsed and therefore notice of the intended works should have been given pursuant to the Party Wall Act. Had the requisite notice been given then it is possible that investigations into the proposed works would have been undertaken and the necessary precautionary measures put in place to prevent the collapse of the house.

Where a party fails to follow the requisite procedures under the Party Wall Act then the other party affected by such action can seek an injunction restraining the works from continuing until the procedures are completed and will further have a claim for damages in both trespass and nuisance.

It is also a provision of the Party Wall Act (Section 7 (2)) that a Building Owner who causes damage to an adjoining owner as a consequence of undertaking works pursuant to the Act is liable to compensate the adjoining owner for any loss or damage caused as a consequence of undertaking works that are governed by the Act.

In this case although works were not being undertaken to a Party Wall, excavation works were being conducted within 6 metres of the adjacent building and therefore Section 6 of the Act was of application. Unfortunately the Council were ignorant of the legislative requirements. Section 6 of the Act is specifically drafted to prevent excavations interfering with the foundations of a nearby property and so it should be no surprise that the Council were found liable for their failure to comply with the Act.

Further, it was noted that Section 9 of the Party Wall Act specifically states that nothing in the Act gives a person the right to interfere with an easement of light or other easement, such as an easement of support. Where a party undertakes works in the vicinity of other buildings then the significance of any easements should always be considered. Interference with an easement can result, as in this case, with a substantial liability for damages.

Finally, the case provided a reminder of the importance of the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978. Notwithstanding the fact that Crowley settled the claim brought by the Claimant it was still able to proceed with its claim for a contribution from the Council, and indeed secured a significant contribution notwithstanding that the Council denied liability in the main claim.

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MJD Solicitors | Matthew Dillon

Matthew Dillon

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