The Party Wall etc. Act 1996
Despite its title, the Act is not only concerned with party walls. If you or your neighbour are planning to undertake an extension, convert the loft space, reconfigure internal layouts, remove a chimney breast or otherwise directly work on the party wall, the proposed works may well fall under the provisions of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
As fully qualified Building Surveyors and full members of The Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors we are able to handle these matters for you competently, responsibly and in a neighbourly fashion.
What is a Party Wall Award?
A Party Wall Award is a legally binding document drafted and served by surveyor(s) appointed by owners of two or more properties.
A party wall agreement would be an agreement between two parties (neighbours) formed and agreed without the involvement of surveyors.
The Award will detail the rights and responsibilities of the owners in carrying out the works, who will be responsible for making good of damage, or paying for any compensation due. It will also detail the time and manner of the execution of the works to reduce unnecessary inconvenience to the neighboring owners.
An important part of the Award is the Schedule of Condition which is a survey completed of the relevant areas of neighbours' properties, recording the condition pre-existing to the works. If any damage is deemed to be caused during the works, this document can be referred to and used as evidence.
A Party Wall Award is required where neighbour(s) have dissented to notice(s).
I am proposing works
(The Building Owner)
Those owners who propose to carry out works are known under the Act as Building Owners. As a Building Owner you have rights to undertake certain work to your property and maybe even gaining access to adjacent land to undertake that work. However, with those rights come some responsibilities, namely to notify your neighbours of the proposed works, where these fall under the remit of the Act. The owners adjoining the Building Owner's property or land who may be affected by the works are know as Adjoining Owners under the Act. Any reasonable fees that your Adjoining Owners incur are funded by the Building Owner.
If you are proposing building work and are not sure whether the works are notifiable, contact us for advice and to see how we can assist in ensuring compliance with the Act
Where notice is served for works notifiable under the Act, it is imperative that the notices are valid. If they are invalid they will be meaningless. Often when Building Owners draft and serve their own notices they miss out certain information, making the notices invalid which means they lose time on the process and may need to delay the start date of their works. To avoid this, we can draft and serve notice on your behalf, or we can draft notices and send to you, for you to sign and serve. This way you have the comfort of knowing the notices are valid.
If neighbours consent to the notices, then there need be no further action, although they can conditionally consent and request a survey of their property (Schedule of Condition), or other condition.
Where the notice is dissented to, a Party Wall Award will need to be drafted before the works can proceed.
See below for some typical notifiable works under the Act.
I am a neighbour
(The Adjoining Owner)
The owners who live next to those proposing works are known under the Act as Adjoining Owners. As an Adjoining Owner you have certain rights protecting you from unnecessary inconvenience and damage to your property. The Act covers these and if you receive notice, however you respond, the Act will offer its full protection. It is strongly recommended that a Schedule of Condition be carried out of your property before the works start. This can be used as a point of reference should any damage occur or be suspected.
Any fees you reasonably incur will need to be paid by the Building Owner.
If you have received notice or your neighbour is carrying out building work, contact us to see if we can help.
The wording of the Act can be unfriendly, mentions disputes and can be confusing. If you have received notice from a neighbour, comfort should be taken in that they are complying with legislation and fulfilling their statutory duties.
As notice has been served, the provisions of the Act are live, therefore, however you respond to the notices you will be protected by the Act’s provisions. Consequently, comfort should be taken in the knowledge that by serving notice, your neighbour is aware of these provisions and their statutory duties and is aware that they will be responsible for putting right any damage the notifiable works cause.
Your options in responding to a notice are detailed in the boxes below. You will have 14 days to respond to notices before your neighbour can progress matters in absence of your response.
It is understandable that you may have concerns about how the notifiable works are undertaken and what would happen in the event that damage occurs to your property. Upon receiving a notice or notices, you may wish to review the notice(s) any drawings provided. It may also be a good idea to discuss the proposals with your neighbour to talk through any concerns or queries you may have, before responding to the notice(s). It is advised that any agreement made should be written or confirmed in writing.
The terms ‘dispute’ and ‘dissent’ often confuse owners as they do not want to be ‘in dispute’ with their neighbours. The Act is an enabling act to enable Building Owners to proceed with notifiable works while offering protection to Adjoining Owners. These works may otherwise be illegal under common law. If a notice or notices are dissented to it is not strictly a disagreement or objection to the proposed works, but this indicates that the Adjoining Owner would like the full protection available under the Act with clauses in written form, to safeguard their interests. It should be noted that the works cannot be stopped through the Act, provided the relevant works comply with the clauses in the Act.
As the Adjoining Owner, you may have specific concerns regarding damage to your property or the disruption the works may cause. Dissenting may be the best option to resolve these concerns, as a surveyor would be appointed to ensure the works are completed legally, while setting restrictions with the aim of reducing the risks to you and your property as well as reducing unnecessary inconvenience associated with the relevant works.
If it is your intention to dissent a notice to disrupt or stop the works you should not do this – you should instead contact the Local Planning Authority where you have a specific objection to a proposal governed by Planning legislation. It is not possible to stop works progressing under the Act. If you do dissent in an attempt to stop or disrupt the works progressing, you may also be liable for fees which have been unreasonably incurred. It should be noted that when notices are consented to, the clauses of the Act still fully protect the Adjoining Owners in the event that any damage occurs. It is also possible for you to appoint a surveyor if a dispute arises, even after consenting to the notice(s).
Surveyors appointed under the Act have a legal obligation to act impartially and diligently and in accordance with the Act and therefore cannot take instructions from an owner where those instructions would interfere with the proper function of the Act.
This option has three parts,
1) Consent with no further action.
2) Consent on the condition that a Schedule of Condition survey be carried out of your property before the works start. This is advisable as a minimum
3) Consent and state your conditions.
Dissent and appoint your own surveyor
When a notice is dissented to and you want your own surveyor to act on your behalf, you may dissent the notice and appoint your own surveyor. Their reasonable fees will be charged to the Building Owner. The Building Owner may ask if you would agree to use your Surveyor as the Agreed Surveyor - this would be a reasonable request.
Once your surveyor and the Building Owner's have been formally appointed they will both agree and appoint a Third Surveyor. The Third Surveyor will not become involved in the matters unless a matter or matters are referred to them by the two surveyors or either of the owners. Their fees will be payable by whom they determine to be liable therefore.
Dissent and appoint an Agreed Surveyor
When a notice is dissented a dispute under the Act occurs, either one or two surveyors need to be appointed to settle the dispute. Often an Agreed Surveyor will be suggested in the notice. However, you need not go with the suggestion and can discuss this with the Building Owner. They may agree to appoint your preferred surveyor as the Agreed Surveyor.
Where an Agreed Surveyor is appointed, they will act impartially on behalf of both owners to resolve the dispute under the Act, to enable the works to proceed without unnecessary inconvenience to the Adjoining Owner. In most circumstances the Agreed Surveyor route would be suitable for settling the matter. This will also result in the Building Owner only needing to settle the fees for one surveyor, which still offering you the same protection under the Act.
Not responding is taken as dissenting to the notice and is not advisable. Where contact with the Adjoining Owner cannot be made an independent surveyor must be appointed on their behalf and the Building Owner will appoint their own surveyor. A Section 10 notice will first be served giving 10 days formal notice that if you a response is not received, the matters will progress in absence of a response.
It is imperitive that notices are served correctly to ensure they are valid. We have seen many a 'DIY' notices rejected due to mistakes making them invalid.