Party walls; compensation; remedial works; mitigation of loss; surveyors

Facts: The Welters built their basement extension shortly before the McKeeves, and consequently it was the Welters’ contractors who underpinned the party wall between their respective properties. The underpinning was carried out poorly, such that, when the McKeeves’ contractors excavated for the basement on that side of the party wall, they discovered poor quality underpinning which required remedial work. After various delays the McKeeves instructed their contractors, Cranbrook Basements, to carry out a scheme of remedial works which was agreed between the parties, but at a cost which had not been agreed and was considered by the Welters to be excessive. Cranbrook completed the remedial works at a cost of £148,882 plus VAT, the McKeeves paid Cranbrook for that work, and the third surveyor made an award that the Welters should pay the full cost to the McKeeves. The Welters appealed.

Held: The court held that the proper cost of the remedial works was £47,977.30 plus VAT, and that the McKeeves had failed to mitigate their loss – in particular by failing to either instruct a quantity surveyor to assess the reasonableness of the Cranbrook quote, or to obtain alternative quotes for the remedial works from other contractors. Consequently, the McKeeves were restricted in law to recovering the reasonable and proper costs of the remedial works, namely £47,977.30 plus VAT, and the third surveyor’s award was amended accordingly. The judgment includes, at paragraphs 165-174, a very useful commentary on how party wall surveyors should approach their task of dispute resolution under section 10 of the Act.

The full judgment can be found here: Welter v McKeeve 27th November 2018

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