Often an adjoining owner only becomes aware of their neighbour’s proposed works when a party wall notice lands on their door mat. An adjoining owner has the option to either consent or dissent to the notice – if no response is made within 14 days the adjoining owner is deemed to have dissented and the parties are ‘in dispute’ under the Act. Where a dispute arises each owner must appoint a surveyor so that a party wall award can be agreed and served.
Once appointed, the two surveyors select a Third Surveyor who may be called upon to settle any issue that they cannot agree. Referrals to the Third Surveyor are rare.
A party wall award is a legally binding document that sets out who the parties are, includes details of the proposed work and what safeguards have been agreed to ensure that those works are undertaken with the minimum of risk and without causing unnecessary inconvenience to the adjoining occupiers.
These are some typical examples of issues that might be addressed in a party wall award:
The party wall award will also include a schedule of condition covering the parts of the adjoining owner’s property that are considered to be at risk from the works and copies of all relevant drawings and method statements. At the end of the works the surveyor acting for the adjoining owner will generally make a further visit to re-check the schedule of condition and hopefully confirm that no damage has been caused.
The surveyors do not have any control over planning issues such as the size and appearance of a proposed extension or potential loss of light; these must all be addressed through the planning process.
In all normal circumstances the building owner (the party undertaking the works) will be responsible for the fees of both their own and the adjoining owner’s surveyor. I say ‘in all normal circumstances’ because this is not specifically stated in the Act and is therefore more of a ‘rule of thumb’ applied by party wall surveyors. The surveyor acting for the adjoining owner keeps a record of their time and when all other matters have been resolved puts their fee forward to the building owner’s surveyor for agreement. If the two surveyors fail to agree upon what constitutes a reasonable fee they can refer the matter to the Third Surveyor who will have the final say.
The Act allows for the same surveyor to be appointed by both the building owner and the adjoining owner (known as the ‘agreed surveyor’) but often adjoining owners will prefer to appoint a surveyor that they have chosen.
If you’ve received a notice and would like some advice on how you can best protect your property, please do not hesitate to contact us today.