Breuer v Leccacorvi (unreported, Central London County Court 11th February 2014
The common law measure of damages, namely diminution in the value of property, may apply and need to be considered by the surveyors making an award in party wall cases.
Level of Court
This is a County Court decision, and therefore not binding upon other courts in the future. Other courts may have regard to the decision and the reasoning used, and may be persuaded by that reasoning, but are not obliged to follow either.
The building owner, Mr Breuer, carried out party wall works to his property which caused damage to the adjoining owner’s property, owned and occupied by Mrs Leccacorvi. There was some evidence – people having viewed the property with a view to purchasing the same – that Mrs Leccacorvi did not intend to carry out works of repair, but instead simply intended to sell her property in its damaged state. An earlier third surveyor’s award (“the Award”) had already determined that damage had occurred, and had set out how the surveyors should themselves determine the level of compensation payable. The party-appointed surveyors then made an addendum award (“the Addendum Award”) requiring Mr Breuer to pay what they assessed to be the cost of repairing the damage, some £71,430 plus VAT. Mr Breuer appealed the Addendum Award, both on the basis that his works had not caused all of the damage complained of, and that the surveyors should have awarded Mrs Leccacorvi compensation based on the diminution in value of her property attributable to the disrepair, not on the (much higher) cost of repair. As well as disputing the applicability of the common law measure of damages, the adjoining owner contended that the Award, which had not been appealed, was binding upon the surveyors making the Addendum Award in terms of the process they should follow in determining compensation.
Whether the common law measure of damages, namely diminution in value, applies in relation to compensation under section 7(2), and whether it should have been applied or considered by the surveyors making the award? Further, whether the Award (as to the procedure for the determination of the cost of repairs/compensation payable) had been binding on the surveyors making the Addendum Award?
The judge decided, first, as an issue of fact, that Mrs Leccacorvi had been undecided about whether she was going to sell her property at the date of the award. Secondly, she determined that the third surveyor’s award, in so far as it set out a methodology for determining compensation, was not binding upon the surveyors. Finally and in circumstances where the surveyors did not know that Mrs Leccacorvi was going to carry out the repair works, she decided that “the award should… have been made in accordance with general common law principles on the basis of diminution in value”. The appeal was therefore allowed.
Follow the link below to a PDF of the Judgment: