Building Owner Party Wall Advice
If you are a Building Owner planning to carry out building works on your property that might be covered by the Party Wall Act we would strongly recommend that you have your plans checked by a suitably qualified and experienced party wall surveyor before work starts.
The Building Owner must tell their neighbours if you want to :
- Build on or at the boundary of your two properties
- Work on an existing party wall or party structure
- Excavate below and near to the foundation level of their building or structure
Your neighbour can’t prevent you from making changes to your property that are within the law. However, they can affect how and when your works are carried out.
Failure to follow the provisions of the Party Wall Act may result in the works being unlawful and risks an application for an injunction to stop you from continuing the works. The Courts take a dim view of those who fail to comply with the notice obligations and statutory regime of the Party Wall Act, whether deliberately or through ignorance, as we set out in a previous article.
If you need guidance on whether the Act applies to the work you are planning send us the plans. Our surveyors will check the proposed work and clarify whether it comes within the scope of the Party Wall Act.
What are a Building Owners’ duties under the Act?
Where work falls under the provisions of the Act you must inform all Adjoining Owners by giving written notice, normally at least two months before the planned start on site. The notice is only valid for a year, so it is also important that it is not be served too early.
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.
Don’t forget : notice must be served on all adjoining owners whether they are freehold or leasehold.
If an adjoining property has been converted in to flats it may be necessary to serve multiple notices. In such situations it is important that the process is carefully managed to keep the number of surveyors involved (and the resultant fees) to a minimum.
Once a notice is served the adjoining owner(s) have 14 days in which to reply. If they agree to the proposed work, then that agreement must be in writing. If an adjoining owner expressly disagrees or does not reply to a Notice within 14 days of receipt, then he is deemed to have dissented and a statutory ‘dispute’ arises. Adjoining owners may also serve a counter notice indicating additional work they would like included for their own benefit and at their own cost.
Even if the adjoining owner consents to the works in the notice it is prudent to undertake a schedule of condition covering those parts of their property that are at risk from the works.
What happens if a Dispute arises?
Each owner must appoint a party wall surveyor to act for them individually or agree on a single ‘agreed’ surveyor to act for both owners. By having a surveyor draft the notice a building owner can increase their chances of having an ‘Agreed Surveyor’ appointed which will help to keep the costs down on small projects.
Where two surveyors are appointed to act for each owner individually, the two surveyors have to select another surveyor, the third surveyor. If required, the third surveyor would be called upon if the two surveyors cannot agree of if either of the owners or either surveyor calls on the third surveyor to make an Award.
What does the surveyor do?
The surveyor (or surveyors) will settle the dispute by making an ‘award’ (also known as a ‘party wall award’). This is a document which sets out :
- The work that will be carried out.
- How and when the work will be carried out (to limit times of noisy work for instance).
- Specifies any additional work required (protective measures to prevent damage for example).
- It usually contains a record of the condition of the adjoining property before the work begins. This is desirable as it can assist in identifying and attributing any damage to adjoining properties for instance.
- Allows access for the surveyor to inspect the works while they are going on. This is to ensure they are in accordance with the award.
Where the proposed works involve underpinning and basement excavation the party wall award will be more complex to reflect the greater risk. It may also include issues such as security for expenses and Special Foundations.
Who pays the surveyor’s fees?
The Building Owner will usually pay all costs associated with drawing up the Award. This includes the adjoining owner’s surveyors’ fees, if the works are solely for the Building Owner’s benefit. It is therefore important that the whole process is managed efficiently to keep adjoining owner’s surveyors fees to a minimum.
Adjoining owners’ surveyors are not required to quote in advance. Their fees are calculated by reference to an hourly rate. The final figure is then agreed with the building owner’s surveyor. Should the two surveyors fail to agree upon a reasonable amount the matter can be referred to the Third Surveyor who has the final say.
Further Guidance for Building Owners
For information on how the Party Wall Act affects you as a Building Owner, 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.
If you are planning works that are covered by the Act, or for further advice on Party Wall matters please contact :
DD : 020 7947 0960
M : 07816 845 160
DD : 020 7947 0965
M : 07507 709 434
DD : 020 4534 9339
M : 07803 504 021
To request a call back from a member of the Party Wall team, please fill in our Contact Us form.