The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 sets out a framework to facilitate works that have the potential to affect shared structures or adjoining properties but seeks to ensure that such works are undertaken without adjoining owners and occupiers suffering unnecessary inconvenience.
This balance is achieved by requiring the party intending to undertake the works (known as the ‘building owner’) to formally notify affected neighours (known as ‘adjoining owners’) who can either consent to the notice if they have no concerns about what is proposed, or dissent so that a ‘dispute’ is triggered.
Party wall disputes can only be determined by surveyors, so both parties must appoint a surveyor or concur in the appointment of a single surveyor (known as an ‘agreed surveyor’). If separate surveyors are appointed they must select a third to which any matters the appointed surveyors cannot agree upon may be referred. The surveyor or surveyors set out their determination in a document referred to as a party wall award which is served on the owners.
Although not mentioned in the Act, the surveyor or surveyors will prepare a schedule of condition covering the parts of the adjoining owner’s property at risk from the work and a copy if this will be attached to the award.
Once the award has been served and the notice period has run (or been waived), the building owner may commence their work but they remain bound by both the terms of the award and the provisions of the Act. The Act covers areas such as rights of access and compensation for loss or damage which may be reiterated in the award alongside more specific terms such as protections relating to access and safeguards designed to reduce the risk of damage.
The Act leaves it up to the surveyors to determine which owner is responsible for their fees but, in most cases, that will be the owner benefitting from the works.
The surveyors remain appointed to resolve any further disputes that arise relating to the authorised works.
In the coming weeks and months I will dig further in to the detail of the procedures above and explain how the various steps work in practice. I’ll also look at how procedures have been shaped by court decisions. As I upload new posts, I will add a link below to create an index.
If you live in the Cambridgeshire or north Essex area and require advice on party wall matters you are welcome to contact the author of this post on 01223 620755 or via email.