PLC Construction has introduced a new regular feature: “Ask the Team”. This will be based on questions you have asked. We edit the questions and answers, where appropriate, to maintain anonymity.
Our first Ask the Team suggests an answer to the question “who is a building owner under the Party Walls etc Act 1996?”
In your Practice note, Party Walls etc Act 1996 (PWA 1996), you explain that the PWA 1996 was introduced to provide a framework to enable neighbours who share a boundary (usually a party wall or structure) to carry out building works. This is achieved by providing a dispute resolution procedure to protect the interests of the adjoining owner, while giving the building owner the rights it needs to carry out building works. This is because building works by a building owner can cause damage to an adjoining owner’s buildings and interrupt the adjoining owner’s own use and enjoyment of the party wall or structure. The PWA 1996 defines building owner and adjoining owner.
Does the definition of building owner extend to a party with a reversionary interest, entitled to receive only a nominal rent or profit?
In short, probably not.
What is important under the PWA 1996 is who wishes to carry out works that will affect an adjoining property.
The definition of “owner” and “building owner” comes from section 20 of the PWA 1996. The definition of “owner” is non-exhaustive and includes:
- The owner of the land.
- A reversioner entitled to receive the rents or profits of the land.
- Someone in possession of the land other than as a mortgagee or a tenant of less than a year.
A “building owner” is an owner of land who wishes to exercise rights under the PWA 1996.
If the reversioner is in receipt of a nominal rent, it is likely that there is someone else in possession (such as a long term tenant). In that situation, both the reversioner and the long term tenant will be “owners”, but only the party that wishes to carry out work to the property will be the “building owner” for the purposes of the PWA 1996.
Therefore the first question to ask is “does this party have the power to carry out works?”, that is, do they have sufficient control of the property as the reversioner to be able to carry out works which the PWA 1996 relates to? It is unlikely that a party with enough control over the property to carry out works would fall outside the definition of owner and the definition of owner is probably non-exhaustive for that very reason. Equally, it is unlikely that a reversioner with an entitlement to a nominal rent only would be in a position to carry out building works.
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