Party Wall and Covid-19 – How we are avoiding delays and protecting owners

Monday, 23rd March 2020 | by: Peter Barry

Here at Peter Barry, we have been very aware of our obligations to our clients, staff and the Country given that our job involves visiting people’s homes and properties.

Our Managing Director Justin Burns outlined our procedures and introduced Risk Management Plans for all work types on 16th March.  By the end of that week, we were able to report a successful implementation and outstanding response from our clients. We will be monitoring the situation and will update our procedures accordingly.

Despite the success of the previous week it is still sensible to outline how certain jobs types could be impacted by Convid-19 and how we are prepared to overcome them.

Timings

The Party Wall has many time focussed aspects. The service of notices, which start the process have typical response times of 3-4 weeks. You can read about the 3 options that neighbours have here.

Notice periods for excavation works and new walls on boundaries are 1 month whilst works to a party wall have 2 months.

Where one of our surveyors acts jointly between the parties as the Agreed Surveyor, you can expect the process to be resolved in 3-4 weeks for a simple rear and/or loft extension.

If a neighbour appoints their own surveyor, this is often 3-4 months.

Notices can be served as they normally would. We may even see a quicker response rate with everyone working from home and having more time on their hands to

Inspection (Schedule of Condition)

The Schedule of Condition is a photographic and written record of the neighbour’s property and is a snapshot before works take place. It protects the neighbour in the event of damage and allows for it to be put right or compensated financially.

It also protects the persons undertaking the works against inaccurate claims of damage.

The Act makes no mention of a Schedule of Condition so technically awards can be served without one. It is, however, best practice.

At Peter Barry we believe the options are as follows:

Option 1: Inspect whilst adopting protective measures in accordance with the file’s Risk Management Plan.

The inspection can take place with a focus on:

a) checking ahead to determine the health of occupiers and surveyors

b) stringent hand washing

c) stringent social distancing

Social distancing will be over and above the 2m rule with surveyors advocating a zero contact policy. Now that we are heading into Spring, occupiers can head out into the garden or take a walk whilst the inspection is taking place.

Option 2: Agree and serve the Award with a requirement for the inspection to take place before works commence

This would require cooperative and forward-thinking between the surveyors but if the final proposals are accurate and detailed there is little reason for the inspection to delay service.

Normally it is only after the inspection that the surveyors review the proposals, with the award then served 2-3 weeks later.

With the inspection delayed until just before the start of works you could see awards being served quicker that they otherwise would have been!

 Option 3: Agree and serve Award without an inspection

This would be the least desirable option but there are also good and bad ways to implement this.

One of our surveyors has already served an award where the neighbours took their own internal photographs and left the gate open to our surveyor to take those of the external. Good.

Serving an award on the technicality of a schedule not being required with no record whatsoever. Bad.

Conclusion

We will always look to agree awards that offer the maximum protection for both those undertaking works and neighbours that are affected.

We believe that the systems we have in place will lead to minimal disruption and minimal delays to projects.

If you have are looking to undertake works or have been served with a party wall notice, please email us or phone us on 020 7183 2578 and we can work together in these challenging times.

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