Boundary Walls – Court Process to Deal with Disputes

Who can do what to their boundary walls?  It can often be subject of dinner table conversation but as construction sector activity picks up, management of boundary walls and party wall disputes will become a feature of many development plans over the coming months and years.

Disputes relating to the potential damage and inconvenience caused to party (shared) walls by works or development by a neighbour or a developer are not unheard of.  “Works Orders” are a relatively new and novel method of addressing such disputes. Introduced by sections 43 to 47 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act, 2009, Works Orders can be applied for in the District Court by either the building owner intending to carry out works to a party structure or the adjoining owner requiring the damage caused by such works to be made good where the building owner who carried out the works failed to do so within a reasonable time.

Essentially a building owner is entitled to apply for a Works Order to carry out works to a party structure for the purpose of (a) compliance with a statutory provision, (b) works to preserve the party structure, (c) carrying out an exempted development or (d) in compliance with a condition contained in a grant of planning permission.

The building owner is obliged to make good all damage caused to the adjoining owner by the works or to reimburse the adjoining owner for the reasonable costs and expenses of such repairs. In addition the building owner is obliged to discharge the reasonable costs of professional advice sought by the adjoining owner with regard to the likely consequences of the works.

Note however that the “building” neighbour may claim a reasonable contribution or deduction from any reimbursement from the costs of making good damage that takes into account the proportionate use or enjoyment of the party structure which benefits the adjoining owner or as is reasonable to assume, the adjoining owner will benefit from. It is not a claims charter – compensation will be limited in the District Court.

The District Court has a wide discretion in deciding the contents of the Works Order and can make such orders as it sees fit in the circumstances of the case. It will consider the statutory requirements in the 2009 Act along with any other circumstances which is considers relevant and it therefore goes without saying that behaviour of the parties may play a deciding factor in the decision to grant or refuse a Works Order.

For more information on Works Orders and how to deal with party walls, contact Sharon Pennick in our Commercial Property team.

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