Responding to a Party Wall Notice
It can be quite a daunting experience to receive a Party Wall Notice through the letter box informing you that your neighbour intends to undertake work to their property that affects the Party Wall. In this article we look at the practical consideration of ‘consent ‘ and ‘dissent’ to a Party Wall Notice.
Not only is the language used in the notice stiff and formal, but being informed that you are likely to suffer noise and disruption due to building works is unlikely to be welcome news.
There is also the complex consideration of how to respond to the notice whilst also maintaining good relations with neighbours. The Party Wall Notice procedure requires a requires a fairly stark choice between ‘consenting’ to the works and ‘dissenting’.
The desired outcome for the owner planning work is that a neighbour provides ‘consent‘. This allows them to take advantage of the benefits of the Act without having to pay up for surveyors fees.
However, most adjoining owners are reluctant to allow work to go ahead that might risk damage to their property without the involvement of a surveyor to review the timing and manner of works before they start.
Party Wall Notice – Dissent
There are some common misconceptions about what ‘consent‘ or ‘dissent‘ means in regard to a Party Wall Notice.
Firstly, it is important to appreciate that the Act is an enabling piece of legislation. The procedure set out by the Act, if properly followed, gives building owners rights to undertake works to a party wall that they wouldn’t otherwise have; and protection to adjoining owners whose property may be affected by the works. It does not give an affected neighbour the ability to block or stop work.
In order for the provision of the Act to apply there must be a dispute between the parties that they are calling on a party wall surveyor to resolve. The word ‘dispute’ is unhelpful, in that it implies animosity between neighbours. What it really means is that there is a matter that neighbours cannot agree upon or they need assistance with understanding the proposed works from a professional.
A neighbour to building work might be happy for the work to progress, but very unhappy if this was to happen at unsociable hours or over the weekend. ‘Dissenting’ to the work in such an instance allows for the appointment of Surveyors or a Surveyor. This may assist in preserving the relationship between neighbours. The surveyor will be a buffer between them and enable the parties to avoid difficult conversations about matters they are not so clear on.
In addition to this, the Surveyor will review the planned works. This will ensure a neighbouring property is properly protected. It may also identify areas which may need further input from the design team / contractor. This can avoid more costly and problematic disputes down the line.
Party Wall Notice – Consent
An adjoining owner can ‘consent‘ to the works. In this case there is no dispute for surveyors to resolve, and no requirement for an Award.
Consents can be conditional. One of the most obvious conditions we recommend is for the building owner to pay for an experienced surveyor to take a record of the condition of their neighbour’s property before the work starts.
A schedule of condition will be considerably cheaper than the cost of one or two surveyors producing a party wall award. It will also benefit both owners. An accurate record of the condition of a neighbour’s property will avoid potential disputes in the future if there is any damage as a result of work.
It is also important to bear in mind that an adjoining owner consenting to a party wall notice does not lose any of their rights under the Act. This includes the right to appoint a surveyor later in the process if a specific dispute arises. This is not made clear on most party wall notices.
Issuing a Party Wall Notice
We always advise building owners who might be planning building work to ensure that their relationship with their neighbour is protected and respected. The key to achieving this is to ensure there is up front and honest communication.
The most obvious way to do this is to speak to neighbours early in the process; warn them that a party wall notice is on the way and briefly explain the purpose of the Act. This is helpful in avoiding any misunderstanding and improving the chances of gaining consent to works.
If consent is not given, it is important to bear in mind that this does not necessarily indicate any deterioration of relations with a neighbour. It is the most common response to a Party Wall notice, and an understandable reaction from a neighbour wishing to protect their property.
Further Guidance when appointing a Party Wall Surveyor
If you are an Adjoining Owner and have received a notice we can advise on how you can best protect your property and manage the Party Wall process.
For information on how the Party Wall Act affects you see our Party Wall Fact Sheet. You can also find further information in our Party Wall FAQs. This has been compiled this from questions we are often asked about the Act.
You can also find guidance on choosing a Party Wall Surveyor in our recent news article.
There is some further information in the government’s explanatory booklet on the Party Wall process.
If you are unsure how the Party Wall Act affects your property and want some advice please give us a call. If you would rather we called you instead, please fill in our Contact form and we will be in touch. With offices in London, Birmingham , Manchester, Bristol & Plymouth we have surveyors based locally to your property all around the UK.
For advice direct from one of our Surveyors, please call our Enquiry line on 020 4534 3135
If you have any concerns regarding the Party Wall Act; or if you have received a notice from a neighbour and want advice on how best to protect your property, please contact :
DD : 020 4534 9339
M : 07803 504 021
Office : 020 4534 3140