We have many years experience of dealing with party wall matters so are well placed to help you navigate the process, whether you’re the party planning the works (referred to as the ‘building owner’) or an affected neighbour (the ‘adjoining owner’).
These are some of the works which will typically fall within the scope of the Act and must therefore be formally notified to affected neighbours:
The process starts with service of the necessary notices – there are 3 types covering various aspects of work such as those described above – each has its own notice period and there is specific information that must be included. Owners can draft their own notices but it takes a bit of research to get it correct and even minor errors can render a notice invalid. We can do this for you for a modest fee of £65 plus VAT per adjoining owner.
Before drafting the notice(s) on your behalf we’ll review the drawings (without charge), explain the procedures and quote a fee for acting as your appointed surveyor should the need arise. You will then be clear on exactly what to expect.
If the notice is consented to, it effectively completes the process and works can commence (subject to notice periods having run or been waived). However, if your neighbour does not consent, or fails to respond, a ‘dispute’ arises and each party must appoint a surveyor to resolve that dispute by producing a document known as ‘party wall award’.
A party wall award authorises the notified works, including access where that is necessary, but only in a manner that reduces the risk of damage to shared or neighbouring structures as much as possible and does not inconvenience adjoining occupants any more than is necessary. The surveyor(s) must strive to find a reasonable balance.
If you’ve received a party wall notice, or believe that you should have, we’re happy to provide some initial advice without charge. If the works are minor you may feel comfortable consenting to the notice; perhaps with us preparing a schedule of condition (see below).
However, if the works put your property at significant risk or you have other particular concerns you may choose to appoint us. While we cannot prevent legitimate works from going ahead it is our job to ensure that they are undertaken with the minimum of risk and without causing you unnecessary inconvenience.
We will also ensure that you are compensated for any losses which arise as a result of the works, receive any expenses that are due to you and are aware of all your rights including the right to request security where that might be appropriate. In all normal circumstances our fee will be paid by your neighbour.
The Act allows a single surveyor to act for both owners if they are comfortable with that arrangement (known as the ‘agreed surveyor’). This can work well where the works are minor and the appointed surveyor does not have any other involvement with the works. Appointed surveyors have an obligation to act impartially regardless of which owner contacts them first.
This arrangement can work particularly well where the owners are on friendly terms but would like a surveyor involved to guide them through the process and ensure that both their rights are protected.
Where an adjoining owner consents to a party wall notice we would still recommend that a schedule of condition is recorded. This is a detailed written record, supported by photographs, covering the parts of the property which are at risk from the works. That will typically be those parts within approx. 3 metres, both horizontally and vertically, although that can be extended depending upon the nature of the proposed works.
Building owners can include an offer to pay for a schedule of condition when notice is served to improve the chances of a consent or an adjoining owner might make the preparation of a professional schedule a condition of their consent.
In simple terms a party wall divides the buildings of two owners with the boundary between the 2 properties usually, but not always, positioned at the centre of the wall. If an owner (known as the ‘building owner’) plans to undertake works that directly affect a party wall they must write to their neighbour (known as the ‘adjoining owner’) explaining what it is they propose to do and when they are planning to start.
Many owners are surprised to learn that the Act actually covers two other specific types of work (that’s why the ‘etc.’ bit is in the title); new walls (but not fences) built at or astride the boundary and excavation close to an adjoining or shared structure.
For excavation to be notifiable it must be within 3 metres of a neighbouring structure (increasing to 6 metres for deep excavation such as piling) and deeper than the base of the foundations to that structure.
If you are relaxed about the work and the affect that it will have on your property you should confirm your consent in writing. However, if you are concerned it is recommended that you seek advice or request further information before replying. You can, at any time, dissent to the notices and appoint a surveyor to help you address those concerns. If you do not reply to the notice within 14 days you will be deemed to have dissented and be ‘in dispute’ with the building owner.
‘Dispute’ is just the term used in the Act when an adjoining owner does not consent. It doesn’t mean that you cannot remain friends with your neighbour or that they cannot undertake their work; it just means that the Act’s dispute resolution procedures are triggered and the owners are obliged to appoint surveyors.
The appointed surveyors will review the plans, assess the risk to the adjoining owner’s property and agree what must be done to reduce that risk. They will also ensure that the building owner carries out their work in a manner that limits the inconvenience to the adjoining owner
The good news is that, in all normal circumstances, the building owner pays the surveyor’s fees; which is only fair as they are the ones benefitting from the work. The Act confirms that fees charged by an appointed surveyor must be reasonable.
As an adjoining owner you can either allow the building owner’s contractor to make good or request a payment in lieu so that you can employ your own contractor. If there is a dispute over the cause or the extent of damage you can use the Act’s dispute resolution procedures; even if you consented to the initial notice. If there is an award it will include a record of your property before the work commences.