Party Wall FAQs - Building Owner
If you are planning to have work carried out, you may need to serve Notice under the Act. Why do I need to do this, how do I do it? The following may answer some of your questions;
Why Do I Have to Serve Notice?
Under the Act, as the ‘Building Owner’ carrying out the work, you are obligated to serve Notice on your neighbour(s) – known as Adjoining Owner(s) - for works that are outlined in the following sections of the Act;
Section 1 - constructing a wall along the boundary (Line of Junction)
Section 2 - works to a wall or structure that separates your two properties
Section 6 - excavating for foundations etc. within a certain distance of structures on your neighbour’s property
The Act states that you must serve these formal legal documents, the Notices, (and in some cases provide drawings) at a set period of time before you wish to carry out the works, enabling the Adjoining Owner time to consider what is being proposed and how it could affect their property.
The Adjoining Owner then has 14 days to make a written response to the Notice(s).
What Options Do They Have?
What happens next is solely the decision and legal right of the Adjoining Owner. They will be presented with four options and below is a brief explanation of each;
They may simply consent to the Notice if they are happy with the works to proceed without any involvement from a Party Wall Surveyor, this will enable you to commence works as soon as the statutory Notice period has elapsed, or sooner if they agree.
It should be noted that consenting to a Notice does not remove either owner's right to raise a dispute and implement the provisions of Act at any time during the works, should there be a dispute between the parties to which this Act relates.
Also, we would always recommend that a Schedule of Condition is carried out even if your neighbour consents, as the next option explains.
(with Schedule of Condition)
If they choose this option, it will mean that they consent to the works, but on the basis that a Schedule of Condition is carried out on their property. Although not a requirement under the Act, this option can afford both sides some future protection if things go wrong and we would recommend this as a minimum.
A Schedule of Condition involves a surveyor inspecting their property in the areas likely to be affected by your works and noting any existing cracks or defects, or lack of. Usually, this would involve approximately 150+ photos being taken and these are referenced in the report and kept securely in our files for future reference, if necessary. If damage does occur as a result of the works, then this document can be used as a basis for establishing the extent of any repairs or compensation that may be due, if the damage is proved to be a result of the works.
By Dissenting (not Consenting) your neighbour will determine that you are both ‘in dispute’ and a single Party Wall Surveyor, an ‘Agreed Surveyor’ will need to be appointed, in accordance with the Act. With this option selected, a Surveyor would be appointed to act impartially for both sides as the Agreed Surveyor.
The Agreed Surveyor would prepare a legal document called a Party Wall Award which provides a binding framework to ensure the works covered by the Act are planned to be carried out in a diligent way and give a means of recourse if problems occur. The Award settles the ‘dispute’ in a way that protects both interests but still enables the works to proceed in a reasonable time frame. A Schedule of Condition would be carried out with this option automatically.
By choosing to this option, the Adjoining Owner again signals that they dissent to the Notice under the Act (as above) and would like a Party Wall Award to be prepared. In this case, they are requesting that two surveyors are appointed, one for each owner.
The very first thing that the two surveyors must do is to agree in writing who is going to act as the ‘Third Surveyor’ (to effectively arbitrate) in the unlikely event that a dispute arises between the two appointed surveyors. The Third Surveyor is rarely called upon and if (s)he is, (s)he will give directions as to who pays his/her fees.
The two surveyors would then check the documents, settle any disagreements and prepare the Award. A Schedule of Condition would automatically be carried out with this option.
What Happens If They Don’t Reply?
Under the Act, the Adjoining Owner has a statutory period of 14 days to respond in writing to the Notice, indicating their wishes in this matter. If they fail to do so, the Act states that they have automatically ‘dissented’ and a dispute is raised. Your surveyor will then appoint a second Party Wall Surveyor to act on their behalf if they do not appoint a surveyor within a further 10 days – this enables the matter to move ahead under a reasonable time frame.
Who Pays For The Surveyors Time?
Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the Building Owner (you) will have to pay the surveyors fees, including the costs of carrying out the Schedule of Condition and preparation of any Award.
The only time this could change is if the Adjoining Owner is deemed to have taken up more of the surveyor’s time that they feel is ‘reasonable’ for resolving the matter at hand, or if the Adjoining Owners Surveyor is deemed to have acted unreasonably or incompetently.
What Will I Have To Pay?
As the Adjoining Owner may choose one of several options, providing an exact final cost at this stage is not possible. However, we will always provide you with a breakdown of the costs of each element and you will only be charged for the work that is actually required.
Still unsure? Feel free to contact us for free, impartial advice