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September 2015

Question

I live on a street in a small town. All the houses are adjoining with some larger than others. My neighbour’s house is one storey higher than mine and his gable-end wall has been leaking into my attic for some time. His gable-end wall is in severe need of repair. Is my neighbour obliged to remedy this problem or should I regard its solving as a matter of joint enterprise?

Also, there is a brick chimney, 12 rows high (about 360 bricks), on top of my neighbour’s roof. While it was built about 1,000 years ago, it is now in a bad state that constitutes a clear and present danger to everything underneath. Again, is my neighbour obliged to deal with this – if pointed out to him or is it a matter of joint enterprise?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Answer

Generally, the wall in your attic on the boundary will be shared with your neighbour which is a party wall. Where this wall continues above roof level, then it is likely to be in the ownership of your neighbour. However, this may not be the case and the first matter you should address is one of ownership. Once this is understood, then you can look at responsibility for repairs.

If it becomes apparent that your neighbour is responsible and they are willing to repair, you will need to facilitate access from your property to undertake the works. I would check that your neighbour’s builder is properly insured. I would seek evidence, especially as they will be working on and over your property. You should also inform your own building’s insurer.

In the event that your neighbour is unwilling to deal with the problem, then you can revert to the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009. Chapter 3 serves to regulate work on boundaries. There are procedures in place to deal with works on party structures where a “building owner” who carries out work can do so even if their neighbour dissents. The neighbour is described in the Act as the “adjoining owner”. The Act gives you rights and responsibilities whichever side of the “fence” you are on.

The Act also provides that the building owner must pay to the adjoining owner the reasonable cost of obtaining professional advice to protect their interests with regard to the method of repairs and pay reasonable compensation for any inconvenience caused. The building owner can also claim from the adjoining owner a contribution to the cost of repair work if it can be proved that the structure is in shared ownership.

The Act is in place to deal with any such disputes, but it is always better to reach agreement rather than resort to dispute.

James Drew is a Chartered Building Surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.