If you own or rent a commercial unit in a building with other owners or renters, there is a good chance you have at least one party wall. Party walls are simply the walls between two or more separately owned properties.
Keeping party walls in good condition is in the interests of all property owners. This is especially true when party walls act as fire barriers or provide structural support. Still, if a property owner on the opposite side of your party wall wants to renovate, you may encounter some conflict. Here are three ways to avoid party wall disputes.
1. Have a comprehensive party wall agreement
Arguably, the best time to address party wall disputes is before they arise. With a comprehensive party wall agreement, all property owners understand their rights and responsibilities. Before you purchase a property that has an existing party wall agreement, your due diligence should include reading it.
2. Ask for professional help
If you suspect another property owner may be damaging or neglecting the party wall, you may want to ask for professional help. A structural engineer may use laser technology to gauge the stability of the wall. He or she may also attach monitors that send automatic alerts when there is a problem.
3. Pursue alternate dispute resolution
While you can probably sue to enforce the terms of a party wall agreement, you may not ever have to go to court. After all, your party wall agreement may include a provision for resolving disputes. If the agreement is silent on the matter, meeting with a neutral mediator may help you reach common ground with the other property owner.
Alternate dispute resolution does not always work, of course. Ultimately, to safeguard your investment and your property, you may need to pursue all available options to protect your party wall.