• Cost of ‘party wall’ repair should be borne jointly by land owners


    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I am a land owner in Mariveles, Bataan. The land is adjacent another property owned by my neighbor, Castan. Ever since I bought this property in 1999, there was already an existing wall separating my property and that of Castan. Neither of us knew the background of this dividing wall other than that it was aligned with the mojon and already there when we both bought our property from the previous owner.

    One day, Castan asked me to repair holes in the wall, saying I caused the damage. I told him that the holes were brought about by rainwater seeping into the wall, making it weak and prone to cracks. I refused to spend a centavo on it. I consulted barangay (village) authorities and they determined that it is a party wall and therefore all expenses for repairing it should be borne by Castan and me equally. Is this correct?

    Dear Choi,
    It appears that the wall dividing your property and that of Castan is indeed a party wall. Under Article 659 of the New Civil Code (NCC), an easement of party wall is presumed in the following instances to wit:

    “Art. 659. The existence of an easement of party wall is presumed, unless there is a title, or exterior sign, or proof to the contrary:

    In dividing walls of adjoining buildings up to the point of common elevation;

    In dividing walls of gardens or yards situated in cities, towns or in rural communities;

    In fences, walls and live hedges dividing rural lands.”

    In your case, you mentioned that the wall is what separates your rural land from Castan’s. Such a presumption is further supported by the fact that, as you also mentioned, the wall is aligned with the mojon or boundary marker, which is usually placed to make a physical delineation between pieces of property.

    Taking into account that the wall is considered a party wall, not an exclusive wall built inside one landowner’s property, the costs of repairs and maintenance should be borne by owners of the lands or tenements benefiting from its existence. This much is clear from Article 662 of the NCC that also provides, thus:

    “Art. 662. The cost of repairs and construction of party walls and the maintenance of fences, live hedges, ditches and drains owned in common, shall be borne all the owners of the lands or tenements having the party wall in their favor, in proportion to the right of each.

    Nevertheless, any owner may exempt himself from contributing to this charge by renouncing his part-ownership, except when the party wall supports a building belonging to him.” [Emphasis supplied.]

    Applying the foregoing to your situation, it is clear that the expenses to repair the holes in the party wall should be borne equally or proportionally, if such is the case, by the co-owners for whose benefit the wall was constructed. If Castan refuses to contribute, then you may compel him to do so in court relying on Article 658, read in conjunction with Article 488, of the above-mentioned law, to wit:

    “Art. 658. The easement of party wall shall be governed by the provisions of this title, by the local ordinances and customs insofar as they do not conflict with the same, and by the rules of co-ownership.

    x x x
    Art. 488. Each co-owner shall have a right to compel the other co-owners to contribute to the expenses of preservation of the thing or right owned in common and to the taxes. Any one of the latter may exempt himself from this obligation by renouncing so much of his undivided interest as may be equivalent to his share of the expenses and taxes. No such waiver shall be made if it is prejudicial to the co-ownership. (395a)” [Emphasis supplied.]

    We do find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Thus, the opinion may vary when the facts are changed or further elaborated. We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.


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