The Party Wall Act covers three distinct types of work, alterations to a shared (party) wall, the construction of new walls on the boundary and excavation work close to neighbouring properties. The third category is often overlooked by owners planning to extend their property.
Where work falls within the scope of the Act it is necessary for a Building Owner to serve notice and obtain the affected Adjoining Owner’s consent; if that consent is not forthcoming the parties are deemed to be ‘in dispute’ under the Act and surveyors must be appointed so that the dispute can be resolved by way of a Party Wall Agreement (technically called an ‘Award’).
Often an Adjoining Owner only becomes aware of their neighbour’s plans to extend when a Party Wall Notice lands on their door mat.
An Adjoining Owner has the option to either consent or dissent to a notice – if no response is made within 14 days the parties are deemed to be in dispute under the act. Where a dispute arises each Owner must appoint a surveyor so that a Party Wall Award can be agreed.
Although not stated in the Act the surveyors will Award that their reasonable fees must be paid by the Owner undertaking the works.
An Owner planning to undertake works that fall within the scope of the Act should start planning early; notice periods are either 1 and 2 months depending upon the type of work but where complex works are to be undertaken it can take longer than that for an Award to be agreed.
We always advise Building Owners to speak to their neighbours before serving the formal notice. Neighbours that feel they are being kept informed are far less likely to immediately appoint a surveyor when a formal notice is served and, often unnecessarily, run up a large bill for surveyor’s fees.
We recommend that Building Owners have their plans checked over by an experienced party wall surveyor to confirm whether the works come within the scope of the Act and if necessary draft the required notice(s). Our specialist Party Wall Surveyors offer that service for a flat fee of £65 plus VAT.
The Act allows for the same surveyor to be appointed by each of the Owners; in that scenario the surveyor will act as ‘Agreed’ and impartially regulate matters affecting both owners. By having a surveyor draft the notice a Building Owner can increase their chances of having that surveyor adopted as ‘Agreed’ which will help to keep the costs down on small projects.