Should you Consent to a Party Wall Notice?
If you are a neighbour (Adjoining Owner) to proposed building work and have received a party wall notice, should you consent and allow work to progress without engaging party wall surveyors?
We always advise building owners to speak to their neighbours before serving a formal notice. Neighbours that feel they are being consulted and kept informed are far less likely to immediately appoint a surveyor when a notice is served. This can avoid running up a large bill for surveyor’s fees which might not be necessary, particularly if the proposed work is minor.
Effect of Consent to a Party Wall Notice
However, for the Adjoining Owner, providing consent to a party wall notice has a significant effect on their rights should any dispute arise during the work. Consent to a notice represents confirmation from the affected neighbour that they are happy for the work to proceed without engaging the provisions of the party wall act, and the important protections this provides.
In such circumstances we always advise that a Schedule of Condition of the Adjoining Owners property is recorded before work starts. This report records the condition of the neighbour’s property. Having this prepared in advance of work starting can be vital in mitigating disagreements between the parties on whether damage has been caused as a result of the works, but the risk of such a dispute does not go away.
Dispute Resolution following Consent
Having consented to works and prudently undertaken a Schedule of Condition (SoC), the question then arises as to what happens if there is a dispute, for instance if damage has been caused?
Had the Adjoining Owner dissented to the notice, surveyors would have been appointed and in the normal course of events would undertake a final inspection once work had been completed to check for damage to the neighbours’ property, with reference to the original SoC. The cost of this exercise would be the responsibility of the Building Owner.
However, in consenting to the party wall notice, the provisions of the party wall will not have been applied and surveyors will not have been appointed. In order to assess and verify the extent of any damage the Adjoining Owner would have to bear the cost of a final inspection by a suitably qualified surveyor. Should a dispute then arise as to the cost or responsibility for damage, the Adjoining Owner will be reliant on the Building owner to agree to the appointment of surveyors under the Party Wall Act to resolve the dispute. There is no automatic mechanism to invoke the Party Wall Act due to a dispute following consent.
If the Building Owner agreed to invoke the provision of the Act it would facilitate agreement between surveyors as to the cost and responsibility for damage, and result in the production of a legally enforceable Party Wall Award to resolve the dispute. Whilst this would be the cheapest and most pragmatic route to resolution, the Building Owner is under no obligation to do this.
If the Building Owner does not agree to use the Party Wall Act to resolve such a dispute, the only recourse for the Adjoining Owner would be legal action through the Courts. This is far from cheap, as it would involve the appointment of a solicitor and counsel as well as a surveyor to act as expert witness, all at the Adjoining Owner’s cost. Should Court action prove unsuccessful, the Adjoining Owner would also be liable for the Building Owner’s legal and surveyor costs too.
Consent to a Party Wall Notice?
This brings us back to the initial question – should you consent to a Party Wall Notice? Whilst providing consent will save the Building Owner some small amount of surveyor’s fees, and maintain good neighbourly relations, the potential liability transferred to the Adjoining Owner is significant. We would only advise consent where the work proposed is minor and you are content that any dispute over damage is unlikely.
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