22 July 2021
Let the surveyor beware: K Group Holdings Inc and Anor v Saidco International SA and Anor
Can a surveyor determine compensation under a party wall award for alleged property damage more than six years after the damage was done? We now know the answer is “no”, following an interesting Judgment given by HHJ Parfitt on 19 July 2021.
The facts of the case were somewhat convoluted. In 2009 a building owner, H&MUK, entered into a party wall award with Saidco (which had an interest in Flat 54) in respect of works it was carrying out to the upper floors of a block. H&MUK owned no interest the building. Saidco complained that the flat had suffered water damage from leak caused by the works, but no compensation was awarded.
In the ensuing decade H&MUK’s surveyor deemed himself incapable of acting; H&MUK itself went into liquidation; and Saidco, (which was a Panamanian company) was suspended under Panamanian law. However in November 2020 Saidco’s surveyor awarded it over £200,000, payable by the former and current headlessees of the upper floors. The 2020 award also required updated structural calculations be provided, failing which the new flats would have to be removed. The headlessees appealed.
HHJ Parfitt was not impressed with the 2020 award. In addition to finding that a party wall award was time-barred six years after occurrence of the alleged damage that had led to the claim, the Judge determined that it was a breach of natural justice for the 2020 award to have been made without the Appellants even knowing about it, and that was enough to invalidate the award. The Appellants’ lack of knowledge also meant there could not have been a dispute that gave Saidco’s surveyor the jurisdiction to make the 2020 award. Even more fundamentally, a party wall award could not bind anyone other than the parties to the original award.
Scott Goldstein, Partner and Solicitor for the successful Appellants, said: “Party wall surveyors invariably become involved in statutory procedures. This case is a salutary warning to property owners and their surveyors of the importance of correctly understanding and applying the procedures in the Party Wall (etc) Act.”
Scott Goldstein of Payne Hicks Beach acted alongside Stephen Jourdan QC and Cecily Crampin in this successful application.
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