If Santa smashes your chimney who’s liable?

Has one of your children ever asked you how Santa fits down the chimney? Has this ever made you wonder who would be liable if the chimney stack collapsed and your party wall was damaged in the process? writes Zah Azeem, Partner at Wimbledon based Chartered Surveyors.

The inspiration for this idea belongs entirely to Kate Gurney, of solicitors Herrington Carmichael. You can read her article in full here. But as party wall specialists ourselves Kate makes a good point that a party wall is a wall shared by two adjoining properties. So if a chimney stack is on/within a party wall, then the Party Wall Act will also apply, and each property owner will be liable for the repair and maintenance of their half of the chimney.

The Act also contains provisions that prevent any building works from being carried out which could compromise the structural integrity of the party wall.

Under the Party Wall Act, if an owner of a property wishes to carry out any works to a party wall, then the Act provides that they must first serve a party wall notice on the adjoining property owner, advising them of the works due to be carried out and the date these works are due to begin.

Notice is required to be served on the adjoining property owner, ideally, at least two months prior to the works commencing.

If works being undertaken to the party wall result from a defect in the wall, or essential repair works need to be carried out, then the costs of these works can be shared between the owners.

However, if works are being carried out, and the party wall is damaged, or if damage occurs to the wall through recklessness of one of the owners, then the liability for any repairs will lay with the owner who is having works carried out, or who has caused the damage.

If one property owner damages the chimney stack then they will be liable for the relevant repairs to be undertaken.

So, as Kate says, “If your chimney stack is a party wall feature, you may want to direct Santa to the front door instead!”

If you would like to discuss something related to a property valuation, please contact me direct via email at zah@scrivenertibbatts.co.uk or call 020 8947 7040.