When dealing with Party Wall Matters, I see many notices which are deficient and could very likely be deemed invalid if challenged in court, which could require the entire process to start over again. Many of these are prepared by the owners themselves, whilst others are prepared by surveyors who are possibly lacking knowledge of The Act.
There are different requirements for notices depending on what the proposed works are:
Line of Junction works
If an Owner wishes to build a new wall on the ‘Line of Junction’ (effectively the boundary line), they must serve written Notice to the Adjoining Owner(s), which “describes the intended wall”.
To adequately “describe” the wall, I would suggest it is necessary to state the height, length, thickness/width, and materials to be used (particularly the finishes that the Adjoining Owner will see), and whether the wall will form part of a building. It would be best practice to also state any intention to install foundation projecting onto the Adjoining Owner’s land.
Although it is not a requirement, it is a good idea to provide a plan showing the location (and therefore length of the proposed wall). The description might be provided with the use of annotated drawings, referred to in the written Notice.
Party Structure (Party Wall/Party Fence Wall) works
Where works are proposed to a Party Structure, the Owner must serve written Notice to the Adjoining Owner(s), which states “the name and address of the building owner”, “nature and particulars of the proposed work” and “the date on which the proposed work will begin”.
Again, although not required, the works might be best described using some annotated drawings, but be mindful that an Adjoining Owner might not be familiar with complex construction drawings, and a more simplified format might be appropriate, along with a basic description in the written Notice.
There is no requirement to refer to sub-sections of The Act, and a Notice that only states an intention “to carry out works under section 2(2)(f)” for example, with no further detail, does not adequately inform the Adjoining Owner of the “nature and particulars of the proposed work”.
If the proposed works include placing ‘special foundations’ (i.e. reinforced concrete foundations) on the Adjoining Owner’s land, the Notice must also provide details of these including “plans, sections and details of construction of the special foundations together with reasonable particulars of the loads to be carried thereby”. As is it only possible to install ‘special foundations’ with the Adjoining Owner’s consent, this is often avoided as part of the structural design process.
Adjacent Excavation works
When excavations (or piling works) are planned, within the requisite distances and depths of and Adjoining Owners building/structure, an Owner must serve written Notice to the Adjoining Owner(s) “indicating his proposals and stating whether he proposes to underpin or otherwise strengthen or safeguard the foundations of the building or structure of the adjoining owner.”
The Notice must be accompanied by plans and sections showing – the site and depth of any excavation, and the location of any proposed building or structure.
I have received numerous Notices for adjacent excavations which do not include any drawings and are therefore clearly deficient. If there is no proposal for strengthening/safeguarding the Adjoining Owner’s foundations, it is best to state why; usually due to the method of the works, or no apparent substantial risk.
Remember the purpose of the notice is to inform the Adjoining Owner of the proposed works. If they can’t clearly understand what is planned, it is highly unlikely they would be willing to consent and allow the works to proceed. A poorly prepared, or vague Notice is almost guaranteed to result in a dispute and require Surveyors to prepare an Award. A properly informed Adjoining Owner might well be happy to consent.
The best advice is when preparing Notices is – READ THE ACT!
An owner might wish to employ a professional to prepare Notices on their behalf – but make sure it is one who actually knows what they’re doing…