Party Wall Notice
I do not share a party wall with my neighbour. I am building an extension on my own land - do I still need to serve a party wall notice?
The Party Wall Act does not only deal with shared party walls. Any excavation (required for most types of new foundations) within three metres of any structure on an adjoining property may require you to notify your neighbours under the Party Wall Act. If your excavation will be to a lower level than your neighbour's existing foundations, which is usually the case with older properties, then a party wall notice will be required.
I have received a notice under the Party Wall Act 1996 - is it valid and what do I do next?
We are always happy to offer our opinion on the validity of party wall notices at no cost - please either fax or post the notice to our office for advice. If you decide that you would like a “party wall award” drawn up and for one of our party wall surveyors to act on your behalf please contact us. Your party wall surveyor will then deal with the party wall notice on your behalf. If you do not want a “party wall award” you should consent to the party wall notice within 14 days of receipt or else you may automatically be deemed to be in dispute with the party wall notice.
My neighbour has started works subject to the Party Wall Act 1996 already or has told me that he is going to start such works shortly. I have not had a party wall notice yet - what should I do next?
Even if you do not intend on appointing a party wall surveyor, it is important that you get a party wall notice from your neighbour. Without a valid Party Wall Act notice the works may take place contrary to the legal provisions of the Party Wall Act. If you have serious concerns that work may be starting without party wall notice being served, and you are absolutely sure that works will fall under the Party Wall Act , we may be able to assist you in seeking an order from the court which will stop such works until a notice is served and you are given the opportunity to appoint party wall surveyors.
I have received a letter from my Local Authority - is this anything to do with Party Wall Act?
No. Your Local Authority will not become involved in the party wall process under any circumstances, nor will they serve notices on behalf of your neighbours. Your neighbour will need to serve a party wall notice upon you directly.
More answers to the most commonly asked questions about the Party Wall Notices can be found in the Government's Party Wall Act 1996 Explanatory Booklet.
Party Wall Award
I am confused as to what a party wall award actually is and whether this is different from having a party wall survey completed of my property.
A "party wall award" is a legally binding document prepared by specialist "party wall surveyors”. It allows the building owner to undertake works at, or close to the party wall lawfully whilst safeguarding the rights of the adjoining owner. The "party wall award" determines how and when the party wall works are to be undertaken, states the precise nature of the party wall works in plain English, and sets in place procedures and obligations to protect both parties from potential damage or claims. As a part of the "party wall award" the party wall surveyors will generally examine and comment upon the drawings for the works.
In most cases the party wall surveyors will also attach a "schedule of condition" which is a written report of his/her survey of the relevant parts of the adjoining owner's property. The "schedule of condition" allows the party wall surveyors to return to the adjoining property after completion of the party wall works to verify and record any damage that may have occurred.
Although the party wall surveyor will try to keep the "party wall award" as simple as possible, it is a formal legal document and accordingly if you have difficulty understanding it then one of our specialist party wall advisors will be happy to go through the final "party wall award" with you to explain what it means.
How long does it take to make a party wall award?
Our party wall surveyors can normally offer two types of service. Please note that if one of our party wall surveyors is acting on behalf of only one of the parties, we can only offer a standard service. In most cases, where two party wall surveyors from different companies are used, the "party wall award" will be produced within three to four weeks of the surveyors being appointed*.
If our party wall surveyors are acting for both parties then our standard service time is usually ten to fourteen days. Our party wall surveyors can usually offer an express service (an extra charge will apply) to draft and serve the "party wall award" within three working days* if required.
*The surveyors report may uncover matters that require resolution and this may affect the time taken for the award to be issued.
How much will a party wall award cost?
The cost of a "party wall award" can vary depending upon the type of work being proposed and the nature of the properties. We are usually able to offer a flat rate fee for straight forward domestic work if our surveyors are appointed by both parties.
Where we are only appointed by one party (i.e. the other party appoints a surveyor from another company) then we charge on an hourly basis at £140 plus VAT per hour. In these circumstances our fees can range from £900 upwards, depending on the complexity of the case and the cooperativeness of the other parties involved.
Party Wall Surveyor
My neighbour has told me that if I appoint party wall surveyors then I will put them to a lot of additional expense - surely it is not worth getting a party wall surveyor in these circumstances?
It is true that the building owner will normally have to pay your party wall surveyors costs; however this expense must be seen in context of the cost of the entire building project. One would hope that the Building Owner has gone to additional expense to have an engineer check his drawings and a surveyor inspect his property in order to secure his own interests: these costs are as much a part of having building work completed as architectural or planning fees. The party wall surveyor's costs are normally minimal in comparison with the budget of the overall project - the benefits that a party wall award can have for both parties often far outweigh the party wall award cost. A party wall award easily allows claims for damages to be verified and dealt with quickly. It also ensures both parties have a written record of their legal position and the party wall award can therefore often prevent future neighbourly disputes. In some cases the only way to resolve a disputed claim for damages without a "party wall award" is through the courts, which usually puts an end to any amicable neighbourly relations.
If you have a good understanding of the proposed work and you feel that the risk of damage to your property is relatively low then you may consider signing a “party wall agreement” if your neighbour offers this to you. The agreement will set out a basic framework detailing what work is to take place, how the work is to be carried out, and what will happen in the event of damage occurring. In signing the agreement you are consenting for the work to proceed. Surveyors will not be appointed to look into the proposed scheme. The cost of purchasing the agreement will usually be paid by the person undertaking the work.
The Local Authority Building Inspector will be checking the works during their progress - will he be doing the same job as the Party Wall Surveyors?
Absolutely not. The Building Inspector is being paid to check on the safety and conformity of the Building Owner's works from their side of the boundary. He will not normally enter your property at any stage and will not be able to assist you with any damage claim. The reason this is because you are given an opportunity to appoint your own party wall surveyor and you are not therefore the Local Authority's concern.
My neighbour has given me written assurance that their contractors are fully insured and will repair any damage to my property immediately. Surely this means that I am protected anyway?
This assurance is certainly a start, however even accredited contractors are sometimes not as reputable as we might like to imagine and in the event of serious damage occurring some would rather disappear than make a claim against their insurance. Even if the contractors are reputable, it is very easy for them to dispute whether they have caused certain types of damage, such as cracks to your walls or ceilings. Even if you take photographs of your property yourself, this is unlikely to provide sufficient neutral evidence in the event of a claim being made. Furthermore, insurance claims often take many months to settle and this may result in you having to either make a significant initial outlay to repair your home or leaving your property damaged for some time.
You have sent me a letter - how did you get my details?
We obtain details from the planning department of your local authority of any works proposed which are likely to affect neighbours under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. Party wall procedure is totally separate from the planning application process and consequently your local authority is under no obligation to provide you with any information regarding your rights under the Party Wall Act. We send letters to all planning applicants and their neighbours to ensure that they are informed of their rights, obligations, and options under the Party Wall Act before works commence. We have strict procedures in place to ensure that your data is treated in accordance of the Data Protection Act: you should be aware that the data that we collect is freely available in the public domain.
More answers to the most commonly asked questions about Party Wall Surveyors can be found in the Government's Party Wall Act 1996 Explanatory Booklet.