Access for Surveyors under the Party Wall Act

Saturday, 8th June 2024 | by: Justin Burns

It’s considered good practice to record the condition of the parts of an adjoining owner’s property that are at risk from works falling within the scope of the Act prior to those works commencing. Such a record will be invaluable if damage is reported either during of following the works. Unfortunately, if an adjoining owner decides not to allow access for a schedule of condition to be prepared, there is nothing that the building owner or the surveyor can do about it.

Section 8(5) provides the appointed surveyor with a right if entry:

A surveyor appointed or selected under section 10 may during usual working hours enter and remain on any land or premises for the purpose of carrying out the object for which he is appointed or selected.

But while section 8(2) sets out how an owner can force access if it is denied (the Gene Hunt clause), there is no corresponding right for the surveyors.

In theory, Section 16 of the Act, the section that deals with offences, could be invoked but I’m not aware this has been tested in court for the purposes of recording a schedule of condition. That may be because, while all surveyors would agree that it’s beneficial to have a record of the condition of the adjoining owner’s property on file, the Act makes no reference to schedules of condition. I think most judges would have some sympathy for an adjoining owner that does not want to allow strangers into their home.

Surveyors get their own clause setting out the notice periods that relate to access but they are essentially the same as for a building owner requiring access to undertake works i.e. 14 days except in case of emergency. Notice should be served on the building owner and the current occupier.

In practice, it’s very rare that notice has to be served to gain access for the surveyors. The initial visit, to record the schedule of condition, is arranged by agreement with the adjoining owner and provides an opportunity for the surveyors to consider the works in context. If the works authorised in the award are later varied, or something unexpected comes to light, the adjoining owner and their surveyor are generally appreciative that the building owner has been honest enough to bring it to the their attention and therefore happy to allow any further access required.

In the final part of this short series of posts I’ll look at what happens when things go wrong, either while trying to obtain access or while works are being undertaken from the adjoining owner’s property.

If you live in the Cambridgeshire or north Essex area and require advice relating to rights of access under the party wall act, or any other aspect of party wall procedures, you’re welcome to contact us on 01799 543532 or via email.

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