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Kaye v Lawrence revisited: The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and the revolution of 1894
As the High Court itself anticipated, two-and-a-half years ago the judgment of Mr Justice Ramsey in Kaye v Lawrence  EWHC 2678 (TCC) generated much interest among party wall surveyors, in particular the perceived extension of the availability of ‘security for expenses’ to an adjoining owner where a building owner is carrying out work entirely on his own land. The issue of security for expenses is to some extent merely the tip of the iceberg, being one logical outcome of a defining of the relationship of established common law rights with rights conferred by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. The judgment is in fact a mine (some may say minefield) of long-awaited clarification on a number of matters that have sharply divided party wall surveyors for years. Mr Justice Ramsey's ruling gives clear guidance not only on the application of security for expenses but also rights of access onto an adjoining owner's land in order to carry out works on the building owner's land and the authority of surveyors to deal with insurance by the building owner and the design team. Uncertainty and differences of opinion between appointed surveyors on fundamental matters are unhelpful to parties caught up in the Act and can lead to significant unnecessary costs for the hapless building owner. Party wall surveyors of all persuasions would better serve the parties who appoint them and the intention of parliament by welcoming the clarity given by the few cases that reach the higher courts and then applying it with the practical even-handedness for which they are justly regarded by the judiciary.
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Mikael Rust fell asleep reading Part VI of the London Building Acts (Amendment) Act 1939 on his first day at work as a graduate building surveyor in 1977. He has been dealing with party wall matters under the 1939 provisions and the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 ever since. A proud member of The Pyramus & Thisbe Club since 1978 he has also served on the Building Surveyors Divisional Council and various sub-committees at RICS before resigning in 2011. He now lives in Sweden but travels frequently to London where he is still very much involved in party wall matters and has been known to give the occasional talk on the subject.