To understand the purpose of a party wall award it’s necessary to take a step back and appreciate where it fits within the procedures set out in the Act. Where a party wall notice has been served and has not been consented to by the affected adjoining owner a dispute arises. Both the building owner and the adjoining owner must appoint a surveyor and the document that those surveyors agree, and which resolves the dispute that arose, is a party wall award.
Party Wall disputes are rarely specific and don’t have to be as an adjoining owner who does not respond to a notice within 14 days of it being served will be deemed to have dissented to it. Appointed surveyors are therefore guided by section 10(12) of the Act which sets out what an award may determine:
As you can see, the scope of what an award can cover is fairly broad. It will typically include something between 12 and 16 clauses in addition to a preamble setting out details of the affected properties, the appointing owners, the notices that have been served and the surveyors that have been appointed.
The RICS provide a template that can be used as a starting point and which is updated every few years as case law clarifies certain sections of the Act (we’re currently on the 7th Edition). The template is amended to suit the details of the notified works with clauses added and tweaked as necessary.
The most important clause within the award is the one which sets out the building owner’s obligations (typically clause 4). It will include a series of conditions which must be complied with by the building owner covering areas such as working hours, dust control and safeguards relating to access.
Attached to the award will invariably be a schedule of condition documenting any cracks or other defects to the adjoining owner’s property prior to any works commencing. Also included will be a set of drawings to illustrate the proposed works and possibly method statements if the surveyors consider such appropriate.
The award should be agreed between the surveyors with no input from their appointing owners – this is essential in preserving the impartiality of the surveyors through the dispute resolution process. The owners should each see the final document at approximately the same time, when it is served on them by the surveyors and the appeal period begins to run.
The appointed surveyors may agree further awards, often referred to as addendum awards, after the works have commenced if further disputes arise such as over the cause of damage or the cost of making it good.
If you live in the Cambridgeshire or north Essex area and require advice on party wall awards, or any other aspect of party wall procedures, you’re welcome to contact us on 01223 620755 or via email.