At Vickery Holman we have specialist building surveyors ready to advise on litigation matters from a building surveying perspective.

Property litigation services covering the South West

We have specialist building surveyors who can provide advice on litigation matters from a building surveying perspective. We work closely with colleagues within different specialities and outside consultants, allowing us to provide our clients with informed advice on disputes, statutory compliance, and licences amongst other matters.  

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In the event of a dispute, we are often called upon to act as an Expert Witness. Our experts wield a unique blend of expertise in construction, property law, and dispute resolution. These professionals play a pivotal role in assisting courts in reaching well-informed decisions as the courts often rely on expert witnesses to provide specialised knowledge and insights. Expert witnesses, armed with their professional qualifications and extensive experience, are ideally positioned to fulfil this crucial role. Our expert surveyors offer impartial, independent assessments of complex technical matters, helping to clarify issues and inform the court’s deliberations.

Building projects can be complex undertakings, involving multiple parties, intricate contracts, and a myriad of potential pitfalls. Despite careful planning and execution, disputes can arise, causing delays, financial strain, and stress for all involved. Resolving building disputes requires a nuanced understanding of the legal landscape and effective communication strategies. Building disputes can stem from a wide range of issues, often exacerbated by misunderstandings, differing expectations, and unforeseen circumstances.

In cases where building projects or defects lead to disputes between parties, we can provide expert testimony and dispute resolution services. Drawing on their technical expertise and professional credibility, our surveyors help resolve conflicts through negotiation, mediation, or expert witness testimony.

Another source of potential dispute is around boundaries and party walls. Building owners have a legal obligation to comply with the requirements of the Party Wall Act. Failure to serve the necessary notices or obtain the appropriate agreements can result in disputes, delays, and potential legal action. Where a property owner has failed to comply with the Party Wall Act, we are often called up on help resolve the issue. Our building surveyors facilitate negotiations between building owners and adjoining property owners to reach mutually acceptable agreements with the aim of resolving disputes amicably to minimise the need for formal legal proceedings.

Our Litigation team are based in and operate across the South West providing private and public clients with a full range of services. Please choose which area of specialism you’d like to find out more about below.

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Litigation FAQs

A building surveyor is responsible for assessing the quality and condition of buildings and are a crucial part of any construction or property maintenance team, advising on safety issues, tenders, contractors, maintenance schedules, energy regulations, boundaries, party walls and licences, as well as project managing building schemes. They will also advise on the condition of properties in relation to leases to provide dilapidation assessments for landlords and tenants, or in relation to contracts, should there be disputes between parties. A qualified building surveyor is likely to have a degree in building surveying and a chartership (MRICS) or association (AssocRICS) with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

 Dilapidations relates to a commercial property that has been let to a tenant and refers to the condition both during and after the period of the tenancy. Lease agreements stipulate the level of repair or maintenance that is required from a tenant during, or on completion, of a tenancy, and the parts of the property that are the responsibility of the tenant. Dilapidations relate to any breaches of the obligations of the tenant, including to repair, redecorate or reinstate elements of the property. Landlords and tenants can disagree on the levels of work required and it is worthwhile getting expert advice from a building surveyor before entering into a lease, as well as during or at the lease end, as costs can be significant for both landlord and tenant. 

When a lease comes to an end, the tenant will have to comply with the clauses in their lease, especially the repairing and decoration requirements. It is a good idea for a tenant to commission a Dilapidations Liability Assessment well before the end of the lease term in order to allow a tenant to budget for repairs or decoration costs before the end of the lease. A tenant who has ‘to keep in repair’ may find they incur considerable costs, so it is worth having your lease evaluated before you sign it. Tenants often feel that repairs required are less than the landlord will ask for, which can lead to a dispute. Our building surveyors can advise you on defects and fabric repairs along with the impact on value. 

A “full repairing and insuring” lease will require the tenant to be responsible for the whole of a commercial property, while an “internal repairing and insuring” lease will leave the responsibility for the external building fabric (walls, roofs, soft and hard landscaping etc.) with the landlord.

As the end of a tenancy approaches, it is recommended that landlords appoint a RICS accredited building surveyor to carry out a dilapidations survey, and to present the tenant with a Schedule of Dilapidations in advance of the lease ending. The intended use of the property may affect the extent of work that a tenant may be required to undertake. If a financial settlement is to be agreed, the money to be paid by the tenant for repair work might be limited to the loss in value to the property. If the landlord chooses to undertake dilapidations work at the end of the lease, they can reclaim the cost of doing so from the tenant.

Landlords usually want a property ready to go back on the market as fast as possible, so agreeing the work in advance is sensible. There is the possibility, in some leases, for a landlord to undertake work on behalf of the tenant prior to the lease end and recover this money via the lease. Careful assessment of the options available to a Landlord in advance of the lease end is advised. 

A Party Wall Agreement is compulsory for anyone carrying out certain work to shared structures or within 3-6m of neighbouring structures. A written notice needs to be submitted, preferably several months before the work starts. Typical projects requiring a Party Wall Agreement are excavation for foundations, loft conversions, extensions and removing a chimney stack.

If you do the work without a Party Wall Agreement, your neighbour can seek a Court Injunction to stop you proceeding. If any damage is incurred to your neighbour’s property, and there was no Party Wall Agreement, you may have to pay additional costs in compensation.

There is no formal qualification to be a Party Wall Surveyor, even a chartered surveyor may not be conversant with the Party Wall etc. Act, so you should ensure any advice you receive is from a suitably experienced surveyor. Other affiliations such as being a member of the Pyramus and Thisbe Club may also indicate a surveyors interest and wider involvement in the Act. 

 If your neighbour is starting work to a shared wall or excavation within 3-6m of your property, and the work is covered by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, but you have not been served Notice, we recommend you talk to your neighbour immediately and ask if they intend to serve a Party Wall Notice. While you can decide to consent anyway, you must be given the opportunity to consent or not. If you are concerned that work is proceeding without notice or agreement, the remedy is to apply for a Court Injunction to halt the work. If damage is incurred by you, and the neighbour didn’t apply for a Party Wall Agreement, you can sue for damage under Common Law. The Courts will nearly always favour the other party over the neighbour who has not been compliant with the Party Wall Act. 

To resolve a boundary dispute, you should first assess the land in question, review your Title documents and any other conveyance information, and try to have a conversation with your neighbour about their understanding of the boundary. Resolving a boundary dispute requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. The cases can be very complicated, which is why we recommend using an experienced surveyor to advise you if you cannot resolve the dispute directly with the neighbour. Land Registry offers a process for resolving disputes, but it’s still worth getting expert advice on the validity of your claim. RICS have mediation and dispute resolution services to help neighbours avoid litigation, which can be a good option since it explores the dispute and helps both parties achieve an outcome that suits everyone. 

An Expert Witness surveyor is a highly experienced and qualified surveyor who can give evidence in a court or at a tribunal on matters regarding land, property or construction. Disputes can arise during any a project or on any property, and may be based around matters involving boundaries, access, planning, valuations, dilapidations or damage incurred. Vickery Holman has a team of expert witnesses who have a large area of specialisms and experience. 

An Expert Witness surveyor is a highly experienced and qualified surveyor who can give evidence in a court or at a tribunal on matters regarding land, property or construction. Disputes can arise during any a project or on any property, and may be based around matters involving boundaries, access, planning, valuations, dilapidations or damage incurred. Vickery Holman has a team of expert witnesses who have a large area of specialisms and experience. 

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