Been served a Party Wall Notice?
Are you an Adjoining Owner?
The adjoining owner is the owner of the land or buildings (leaseholder/freeholder) adjoining that of a building owner who is proposing works notifiable under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. Often the adjoining owner is not aware that works are being proposed that may affect their property until a party wall notice has been served or alternatively if the local council writes to the adjoining owner notifying them that a planning application has been made for works carried out by the neighbouring property.
The question is then are the proposals notifiable under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, if they are the building owner has an obligation to serve valid party wall notice on the adjoining owner giving 14 days to respond, depending on the elements of the works a party wall notice period will either be one month or two months. If the adjoining owner is aware that works are being carried out to a neighbouring property and has not been served a party wall notice, this may be because a building owner is not aware of their obligation under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 to serve notice for the notifiable elements of the works, In this instance, the adjoining owner may wish to approach a party wall surveyor to seek further advice on the process and direction on where they go from here. By the adjoining owner approaching a party wall surveyor before notice being served this will allow a party wall surveyor at the request of the adjoining owner to investigate the proposals via the local council planning portal and if they are notifiable the adjoining owner may appoint a party wall surveyor to politely write to the building owner advising of their appointment in writing and inviting the building owner to engage with the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
If the building owner does correctly serve notice on the adjoining owner then you have the option to either consent to the notice with a schedule of conditions only or dissent and appoint your own surveyor, you may also agree to a jointly appointed agreed surveyor. If no response to the notice is received within 14 day's then a dispute is deemed to have arisen under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and both owners must appoint a surveyor so a party wall award can be drafted and served.
The three options that should be presented usually by way of an accompanying acknowledgement form with the notice served are:
1 - you may consent to the works set out in the notice to go ahead as proposed and agree that a schedule of condition survey only is carried out of your property before works commence. The cost for this will be met by the building owner carrying out the work. There will be no party wall award in place with this option.
2 - You dissent to the works set out in the notice to go ahead as proposed and concur in the appointment of a singerly appointed agreed surveyor so that a schedule of condition survey and a party wall award be drafted and are in place before work commences.
3 - You dissent to the works set out in the notice served as proposed and appoint your own surveyor to join with the building owners surveyor in carrying out a schedule of condition survey and drafting and serving a party wall award.
The option of a jointly appointed agreed surveyor acting impartially between both sides would keep the building owners fees to a minimum and expedite the process, the appointed agreed surveyor has a duty under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 to act impartially to protect both owners interests.
Once an official response to the notice served has been received the party wall surveyor (s) will carry out a review of the following information:
Land registry documents.
Floor Plans as existing and proposed.
Structural drawings and calculations.
As part of the service to you, the surveyor (s) will arrange for a convenient visit to your home to carry out a schedule of condition survey this will include recording the condition of the parts of your property adjacent to the notifiable works that are likely to be affected, this will include a photographic record in order to simplify matters in the event that accidental damage should be caused to your home by the building owners notifiable works. A copy of the schedule of condition write up will be provided to you as part of the final party wall award package served which will include the party wall award, the schedule of condition write up and all plans and method statements.
Once the schedule of conditions is complete and all plans and method statements are in order the surveyor (s) will draft and agree on a party wall award which is a legal document setting out the rights and responsibilities of both owners in relation to the notifiable works being proposed.
I would add we always listen to our client's concerns and ensure any concerns feature in any party wall award arranged to protect the adjoining owner's home. The reasonable costs of the surveyor (s) would be included within the award and be payable by the building owner proposing the works.
Some of the clauses included with a party wall award relate to:
Working hours which are usually dictated to by local building control.
The control of dust and debris during the works.
Protective measures and supports
Access to the adjoining owner’s land or the building owners land.
Security during the course of the works.
Making good damage to the adjoining owner's property.
Upon completion of the notifiable works, it is often the case that the surveyor (s) will carry out a final inspection of the adjoining owner's property.
The final inspection will allow the party wall surveyor (s) to reconcile the schedule of condition taken prior to works commencing against those same areas post-completion of the works, so to assess if there has been any change to the condition of your property as a result of the building owners notifiable works.
If there has been damage caused to your property that can be attributed to the building owners notifiable works then the party wall surveyor (s) will make their determination, request that it is made good by the building owner’s contractor, or if the adjoining owner so wishes request that payment is made in lieu to the adjoining owner so that they may appoint their own contractor to make good the damaged area (s).