I received an email earlier this week from a lady who was concerned that her neighbour was going to use The Party Wall Act to delay the building of her rear extension.
He had threatened to “do everything possible to delay the building work and if possible stop it altogether, including insisting on 3 surveyors being involved and instigating court action wherever possible in order to push the costs up”.
The Party Wall Act was designed to be an enabling legistlation so it was disappointing to hear about someone that was planning to use it for the opposite purpose.
While it is true that Adjoining Owners can slow party wall procedures down to a certain extent it should not add to your costs as a Building Owner so long as your surveyor and designer are competent.
It will be essential that the initial paperwork is drafted correct. If you are sure that the Adjoining Owners are going to dispute the works you should ask your party wall surveyor to prepare the notice – he should check it carefully and obtain proof of postage. The surveyors’ appointments and the selection of the Third Surveyor should be confirmed in writing. If any of the initial paperwork is invalid then you may find yourself having to start over at a later stage.
The Third Surveyor is selected at the start of the process but is only required to act if one of the parties refers a matter to him – this would normally happen when the surveyors cannot agree one of the matters in dispute but either owner can also make a referral. If the Adjoining Owners were to make what appeared to be a frivolous referral I would expect the two appointed surveyors to continue with their work and serve the agreed awards. It is up to the Third Surveyor to award on which party should pay his fees so if the referral had no basis the party that made that referral would receive the bill.
Following the serving of the Award the Adjoining Owners have 14 days in which to appeal it in the County Court. If the appeal is dismissed then the Adjoining Owners will have to pay the associated costs – the Act does not say that you must wait until the appeal period has run to commence work.