Party Wall advice
If you are planning on carrying out work to a shared wall or a wall that sits astride the boundary (a party wall), enclosing on someone else’s wall, excavating within 3m or 6m of an adjoining building or structure, or are building at, or up to the boundary line, then you need to think about your obligations under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 (The Act). Also bear in mind that in multi-occupied buildings walls and floors/ceilings between flats can also be classified as ‘party structures’.
At the bottom of the page please see a link to download a helpful booklet.
Party Wall health check
If you’re an owner planning to carry out notifiable work or if your neighbour is planning on doing work that you think might come under The Act, I’m always happy to have a free chat on the telephone to help clarify things or advise you on your options.
It’s important to start thinking about the of The Act early on in the project, not only in terms of your adjoining owners but also on how you might be able to go about the works. Left to the last moment you might find your start of work held up, construction plans having to be altered or additional costs being incurred.
I can help identify the party wall implications of a project early on so that they can be factored into the timings and the costs.
You might also need to think about access to carry out works near to boundaries. Sometimes this can be gained under the benefits afforded by The Act. If not you might need to negotiate and agree access arrangements and licences with neighbours for things like brickwork/pointing, scaffolding or crane oversail. I can help you deal with these issues too.
It’s worth bearing in mind that if access is not available under the Act, then a neighbour is under no obligation to give you access to their land. It pays to think ahead.
Party Wall procedures
I identify the need for notice under The Act as determined by your building plans, draw up the necessary notices and serve them on the respective adjoining owners. I then go on to agree consents or alternatively where the neighbour(s) dissent, agree awards with the surveyor(s) appointed by adjoining owners.
Also bear in mind that there may be multiple adjoining owners, all of whom may be entitled to notice. This takes time, so make sure you allow for it!
Likewise I can act for an adjoining owner who has received notice under The Act and who wishes to appoint a surveyor to act on their behalf.
On smaller projects where the works under the Act are simple and straightforward, if both sides concur on the appointment, I can also act as The Agreed surveyor whereby I act for both owners. This helps keep costs down and can speed things up.
This option can be difficult for owners to understand as they feel that an Agreed surveyor cannot act for two people. The important thing to remember is that any surveyor appointed under the Act is acting as prescribed by the Act, rather than as demanded by either appointing owner. As such, no surveyor appointed under the Act should behave in a way that frustrates the process simply for the benefit of one or other of the appointing owners.
Neighbourly liaison advice
People react differently when faced with a neighbour’s building works. Likewise building owners themselves can sometimes loose perspective and fail to acknowledge their neighbour’s concerns. Their enthusiasm can sometimes lead them to interpret reasonable concerns raised by their neighbours as just being awkward.
I can advise on the best approaches to smooth the way as far as possible. More often than not, it’s a question of thinking ahead and being considerate. This can sometimes be hard if there are underlying resentments, or if there have been objections raised during the planning process.
Schedules of condition
Under the Act a building owner carrying out works has an obligation to make good any damage that the work causes to adjoining property. Unless a record is made of how things stand before the start of work, building owners do expose themselves to possible erroneous claims of damage by adjoining owners.
Noise and vibration from building sites can make people look at cracks that they haven’t noticed before and then attribute them to the works. Schedules of condition record existing damage and will form part of an award. Even if an adjoining owner consents to a notice, it’s still advisable that a building owner prepare a schedule, as their obligation to put right damage is not diminished by the act of consent.
On bigger projects, maybe where significant excavation is planned, preparing schedules of condition can be a means of appeasing or reassuring parties who are not entitled to notice but who will by their relative proximity have concerns about possible damage.
It’s worth remembering The Act is designed to enable parties wishing to carry out legitimate works near to, or on boundaries or party structures. It’s not a piece of legislation to be used by adjoining parties to block the rights of building owners. It’s important that appointing owners and their appointed surveyors remember this.