An owner planning to undertake works that fall within the scope of the Act should start planning early; notice periods are either 1 and 2 months depending upon the type of work but where complex works are to be undertaken it can take longer than that for an award to be agreed.
We always advise building owners to speak to their neighbours before serving the formal notice. Neighbours that feel they are being kept informed are far less likely to immediately appoint a surveyor when a formal notice is served and, often unnecessarily, run up a large bill for surveyor’s fees.
We recommend that building owners have their plans checked over by an experienced party wall surveyor to confirm whether the works come within the scope of the Act and if necessary draft the required notice(s). We offer that service for a flat fee of £65 plus VAT per adjoining owner.
The Act allows for the same surveyor to be appointed by each of the owners; in that scenario the surveyor will act as ‘Agreed’ and impartially regulate matters affecting both owners. By having a surveyor draft the notice a building owner can increase their chances of having that surveyor adopted as ‘Agreed’ which will help to keep the costs down on small projects.
All affected adjoining owners with an interest of greater than 12 months must be notified so if the adjoining property has been converted in to flats it may be necessary to serve multiple notices. In that scenario it is important that the process is carefully managed to keep the number of surveyors involved (and the resultant fees) to a minimum.
The building owner is responsible for their own surveyor’s fee but also the reasonable fees of any surveyors appointed by the adjoining owners. Adjoining owners’ surveyors are not required to quote in advance so their fees are calculated by reference to an hourly rate with the final figure being agreed with the building owner’s surveyor. Should the two surveyors fail to agree upon a reasonable amount the matter can be referred to the Third Surveyor who has the final say.
Where the proposed works involve underpinning and basement excavation the party wall award will be more complex to reflect the greater risk and may include issues such as security for expenses and Special Foundations.
If the adjoining owner consents to the notice it would still be prudent to have a schedule of condition covering the parts of their property that are at risk from the works. Neighbours will often look more closely for cracks once work starts next door and may mistakenly believe that some existing cracks are new.
If you are planning on undertaking works that fall within the scope of the Act you are very welcome to contact our party walls team for some initial advice – if you would like a fee proposal remember to attach drawings showing the proposed works.