In July 1997 the Government introduced legislation, known as Party Wall, etc. Act 1996 across the whole of England & Wales to protect neighbors’ rights and to ensure a legal framework is in a place where building works may affect the adjoining properties. The Act enables buildings works whilst protecting the adjoining owners and occupiers.
In simple, Notices are how Building Owners inform, in writing, their neighbours who may be affected by the building works they are looking to carry out.
Building Owners, the owners proposing the works which fall under the remit of the Act, must give a Notice in writing to all the affected owners of the neighbouring properties who have an interest in the property.
This notice should fully identify the owners who intend to have the work undertaken and describe the work proposed, providing plans and details if possible to ensure the recipient fully understands what is proposed.
Work involving party walls or party structures requires two months’ notice, whereas, for certain excavations or new walls built at the boundary, one month’s notice is required.
The adjoining owner(s) then have 14 days in which to reply.
A notice is required to be responded to within 14 days. After expiration of 14 days, where the neighbour has not already responded to the Notices served, there is an automatic dispute in place known as a deemed dispute. If they agree to the proposed work then that agreement must be in writing, simply put, the consent given must be in writing.
The Adjoining Owners have three choices given to them under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
This will mean there will be no dispute and there will be no involvement of a surveyor. Consent must be given in writing within 14 days.
One surveyor may be appointed, where the adjoining owners have dissented or a deemed dispute has arisen.
The adjoining owners have the right to appoint a surveyor of their choice who may be different from the Building Owners’ Surveyor.
Where the adjoining owners on whom the Notices were served and have not responded, Building Owners or their appointed surveyor send a reminder letter to the adjoining owners. This letter is valid for 10 days, after which a surveyor is appointed on the adjoining owner’s behalf so that the statutory process may progress.
The objective of the Party Wall Surveyors is to resolve a dispute which arises when the adjoining owners’ dissent to the Notices served on them.
They are required to follow the Party Wall Act framework so that the building works progress and that they do not cause unnecessary inconvenience to the affected neighbours.
Party Wall Surveyors’ duties are somewhat similar to Arbitrators, in the same manner, that the party wall surveyors also produce an Award which is a method available to resolve a dispute which arose when the neighbours dissented to the Notices.
Party Wall Surveyors are required to Act impartially under this statutory appointment and must always look to resolve the dispute as an independent person and not to be pressured by any of the appointing owners and that the Act’s requirements are administered properly, efficiently, and fairly.
Party Wall Surveyor appointed by the Building Owners is known as Building Owners Surveyor.
Party Wall Surveyor appointed by the Adjoining Owners is known as Adjoining Owners Surveyor.
A surveyor appointed by the two neighbours in dispute is known as an Agreed Surveyor.
Although not part of the Act, it is the only recipe available to ensure no damages have been caused to the adjoining affected property by the proposed building works.
Schedule of Condition Surveys are carried out of the neighbouring properties where the neighbours have chosen to have this done. When neighbours consent to the Notices, they can request for the survey to be carried out as an extra option.
As Agreed Surveyor or where they appoint their own surveyor, Schedule of Condition is seen as best practice and is carried out in most cases where access is granted by the neighbours.
Building Owners should always consider getting a Schedule of Condition carried out of the neighbouring affected properties to protect themselves against any potential false claims. Responsibility typically rests on the Building Owners to show there were no damages that existed before works were undertaken by them.
Once surveys are conducted, Survey Reports are then created and appended to the Award.
Party Wall Award, also known as Party Wall Agreement by some, is drafted and served on all owners who have dissented to the Notices. This is a legal document that puts a responsibility on the building owners and protects both sides during the development stage. The award is a legally binding document.
This final document is sent to all parties involved and once served on the parties involved, the dispute is then resolved.