Certain works which are likely to affect your neighbours are covered by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. This legislation provides protection to all parties involved and is intended to enable the works to be undertaken. In the event of non-cooperation from your neighbour or disagreement, party wall surveyors agree how the works should be carried out, including necessary protection measures and rectification of any damage. The purpose of the act is to avoid litigation by dealing with potential problems up front.
You are legally required under the act to serve a formal written notice to your neighbour if you are planning any works that will involve:-
- affecting an existing party wall/structure (walls/ceilings/floors separating your property from another)
- building a new wall on/over the boundary line of your site
- excavating within 6m of existing buildings on surrounding sites
Some works are considered too minor to require the process of notification. Anderton Gables can advise you on which notices are required, which properties need to be notified, and can serve the notices on your behalf.
Your neighbour or ‘Adjoining Owner’ can either agree to the works as proposed in the notice, or disagree. If they decide to disagree, or do not respond Party Wall Surveyor(s) will become involved and draw up a Party Wall Award which states how the work should be done and the responsibilities of the various parties involved. The adjoining owner can insist on appointing their own surveyor in addition to your surveyor; however, all party wall surveyors must act impartially, in the interest of protecting all stakeholders and enabling the works to be undertaken. Unfortunately the cost of all party wall surveyors fees usually will be payable by the building owner proposing the work.
In order to ascertain whether any damage to your neighbour’s property has been caused by the execution of the works, a ‘Schedule of Condition’ is normally prepared by the party wall surveyor(s) prior to the works, which can then be referred to following completion. The building owner undertaking the works will be liable for any damage caused. For this reason and to avoid false claims, even in the event your neighbour agrees to the works and accepts the notice it is strongly advisable to prepare a Schedule of Condition of their property in the areas which may potentially be affected.
Party wall matters can cause a delay to the project, so this should be considered reasonably early in the design stage. Depending on the notice required you may need to inform your neighbours up to 2 months prior to your proposed start date. If the project is complex it may take some time for the surveyors to come to an agreement, or several awards may be required. The act does provide various mechanisms for non cooperation including non communication of adjoining owners and their surveyors, however there are also rights of appeal and referral to a third surveyor if necessary.
If work requiring a notice is undertaken without notification, or in breach of the notice or non compliance with the agreed party wall award, an injunction can be served to stop the works.
For all your Party Wall related matters and to seek initial advice please contact Vince Rimmer.