Appealing a party wall award
Before describing briefly how to lodge an appeal, it is important to understand what you are getting into. An appeal is an expensive piece of litigation. You need deep pockets, even if your appeal is successful – or at least good legal cover insurance.
Nicholas Isaac QC, a barrister specialising in party wall matters, estimates that it costs between £16,500 and £33,000 to WIN an appeal of a party wall award. The high cost of challenging perceived unfair behaviour is prohibitive and perhaps the biggest reason why litigation is avoided.
Before you Appeal an Award, you must think carefully about what you are hoping to achieve; whether you have a realistic chance of success and lastly; are there any reasonable alternatives that may negate the need for Appeal. Section 10(17) of the Party Wall Act states either of the parties to the dispute may, within the period of fourteen days beginning with the day on which an Award made under this Section is served upon him, appeal to the County Court against the Award and the County Court may –
1. Rescind the Award or modify it in such manner as the Court thinks fit; and
2. Make such order as to costs as the Court thinks fit.
It should be noted that the fourteen-day time period only relates to Awards which are valid. If an Award is not valid, perhaps because it goes beyond the Surveyor’s jurisdiction, then you can challenge it at any time. This is implied in the High Court ruling on Gyle-Thompson & Others v Wall Street Properties Limited, though be aware that this case was non-binding.
Whilst Appeals in relation to Party Wall Awards are governed by Part 52 of the Civil Procedures Rules, it is advisable that you bring your appeal within fourteen days of the Award being made. There have been instances whereby people have wanted to appeal an Award in the belief that they have 21 days in line with Part 52, however, the statutory nature of the Appeal means that the fourteen days specified in Section 10(17) of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 overrides Part 52 of the Civil Procedures Rules. It can also be considered that the fourteen-day appeal period starts from the time the Award was actually received (Freetown Ltd v Assethold Ltd).
When you appeal an Award, you are referred to as an ‘appellant’ and you will need to complete form N161. Form N161 is an ‘Appellant’s Notice’ and as well as filing it at County Court, the Notice must be served on the other party and the Surveyor(s) whose Award is being appealed. You should append any evidence to the Notice along with a skeletal argument outlining your reasons for appeal. The form has twelve sections for you to consider and once the form has been filed to the correct court within the appropriate time frame, you will have kick-started the appeals process.