Basement developments- How to fight back

12 Aug 2019 | Shilpa Mathuradas

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Basement developments are growing ever more popular, particularly in wealthy London boroughs, leaving homeowners fearful that neighbours’ excavation projects will damage their homes, wipe thousands off house prices and cause endless noise and inconvenience.

Battling a neighbours’ proposed development can be a daunting prospect but you do have a right to be notified of the works if they are taking place within six metres of your property, to object and to demand compensation for any loss or damage.

Shilpa Mathuradas, partner and head of property litigation at London law firm, Osbornes Law explains, “You may be able to object to planning permission for basement developments, but must do so before permission is granted and in extreme cases, to judicially review the local authority’s decision.

“Once planning permission has been granted your neighbour will typically serve you with notice under the Party Wall Act 1996. As part of this process, your neighbour will need to provide detailed plans, which will include how they intend to underpin or otherwise strengthen your foundations.”

A surveyor will scrutinise the plans and advise on the potential for damage and disruption. You are entitled to appoint your own surveyor or agree a joint surveyor with your neighbour. Either way, they must foot the bill.

Shilpa explains: “The surveyor will make an independent assessment known as a Party Wall Award, that sets out the permitted works, the costs your neighbour is liable for, such as insurance and professional fees, and record the condition of your property ahead of works. The surveyor’s report is binding and can only be appealed to the County Court so will give you protection against inconvenience, loss or damage.”

If the development goes ahead, your neighbour is obliged to avoid the works causing you unnecessary inconvenience, even if that means they are more costly. If the worst happens and there is damage to your property, they will be liable for compensation.

Shilpa’s five top tips to follow if you are worried about a neighbour’s basement development plans are:

1. Keep things civil between yourself and your neighbour if possible. Ensuring good communication and cooperation will make it easier to resolve the situation.

2. Object to your neighbours planning application within 21 days of notice from your local authority.

3. Engage an expert surveyor to deal with any party wall issues – lots of surveyors consider themselves to have sufficient knowledge in this area but you need a specialist.

4. If you let out your property, contact your tenant about the proposed works so that you can be on notice of any claims they might make and discuss preventative measures when agreeing the Party Wall Award.

5. If your neighbour plans to move or the work is being undertaken by a developer, remember that a Party Wall Award only applies to the individuals who own the property when it is agreed, there is no mechanism for transferring the benefit.


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