Facts & Questions
1. What are my duties under the Act?
If you intend to carry out any of the building works mentioned, you must inform all Adjoining Owners. You must not even cut into your own half of the wall without telling the next door neighbour of your intentions.
The Act contains no enforcement procedures for failure to serve a notice. However, if you start work without having first given notice in the proper way, Adjoining Owners may seek to stop your work through a court injunction or seek other legal redress.
A neighbour cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given to them by the Act, but he can influence how and when the work is done.
The Act also says that a Building Owner must not cause unnecessary inconvenience. The Building Owner must provide compensation for any damage and must provide temporary protection for buildings and property where necessary.
2. Who counts as an "Adjoining Owner"?
Essentially, an Adjoining Owner is anyone with an interest greater than a tenancy from year to year in the adjoining property. If the next door property is occupied by a long term tenant or leaseholder it will be necessary to notify the landlord as well. Where there is more than one owner of the property, or more than one adjoining property, it is your duty to notify all of them.
3. How do I inform the Adjoining Owner or Owners?
It is obviously best to discuss your planned work fully with your neighbours before you (or your professional adviser) give notice, in writing, about what you plan to do.
You should appoint a professional adviser/party wall surveyor to give the notice on your behalf. Whilst there is no official form for giving notice under the Act, your notice must include certain details for it to be valid:
- Your own name and address the building’s address (if different) a clear statement that your notice is a notice under the provisions of the Act (you may want to mention the section(s) concerned).
- Full details of what you propose to do (including plans where appropriate) when you propose to start. You may deliver the notice in person or send it by post. Where the neighbouring property is empty or the owner is not known, you may address the notice to "the owner" of the premises and fix it to a conspicuous part of the premises. You do not need to tell the local authority about your notice.
4. What happens after I serve notice?
A person who receives a notice about intended work may give his consent in writing, or give a counter-notice setting out what additional or modified work he would like to be carried out. A person who receives a notice about intended work, and intends to serve a counter-notice, should let his neighbour know within 14 days.
If, after a period of 14 days from the service of your notice, the person receiving the notice has done nothing, a dispute is regarded as having arisen and you must appoint a Party Wall Surveyor.
If you receive a counter-notice you must respond to it within 14 days. If you do not, a dispute is regarded as having arisen, again you must appoint a Party Wall Surveyor.
As mentioned before your notice should not come as a surprise. If you have already ironed out possible snags with your neighbours, this should mean that they will readily appoint an agreed surveyor in response to your notice.
5. What does the surveyor do?
The surveyor (or surveyors) will prepare an "award" (also known as a "Party Wall Award").
This is a document which:
- sets out the work that will be carried out.
- says when and how the work is to be carried out. For example, not at weekends if the buildings are domestic properties.
- records the condition of next door before the work begins (so that any damage can be properly attributed and made good).
- allows access for the surveyors to inspect the works while they’re going on (to see that they are in accordance with the award). It is a good idea to keep a copy of the award with your property deeds.
6. I do not share a party wall with my neighbour. I am building an extension on my own land - do I still need to serve a party wall notice?
The Party Wall Act does not only deal with shared party walls. Any excavation (required for most types of new foundations) within three metres of any structure on an adjoining property may require you to notify your neighbours under the Party Wall Act.I have received a notice under the Party Wall Act 1996 - is it valid and what do I do next?
If your excavation will be to a lower level than your neighbour's existing foundations, which is usually the case with older properties, then a party wall notice will be required.
7. I have received a notice under the Party Wall Act 1996 - is it valid and what do I do next?
We are always happy to offer our opinion on the validity of party wall notices at no cost - please either fax or post the notice to our office for advice. If you decide that you would like a party wall award drawn up and for one of our party wall surveyors to act on your behalf please complete the adjoining owner authorization form found on this website and return it to us with the original notice. Your party wall surveyor will then deal with the party wall notice on your behalf. If you do not want a party wall award you should consent to the party wall notice within 14 days of receipt or else you may automatically be deemed to be in dispute with the party wall notice.
8. My neighbour has started works subject to the Party Wall Act 1996 already or has told me that he is going to start such works shortly. I have not had a party wall notice yet - what should I do next?
Even if you do not intend on appointing a party wall surveyor, it is important that you get a party wall notice from your neighbour. Without a valid Party Wall Act notice the works may take place contrary to the legal provisions of the Party Wall Act. If you have serious concerns that work may be starting without party wall notice being served, and you are absolutely sure that works will fall under the Party Wall Act , we may be able to assist you in seeking an order from the court which will stop such works until a notice is served and you are given the opportunity to appoint party wall surveyors.
9. I am confused as to what a party wall award actually is and whether this is different from having a party wall survey completed of my property.
A Party Wall Award is a legally binding document that allows the building owner to undertake works at, or close to, the party wall lawfully whilst safeguarding the rights of the adjoining owner. The party wall award governs how and when the party wall works are to be undertaken, states the precise nature of the party wall works in plain English, and sets in place procedures and obligations to protect both parties from potential damage or claims. As a part of the party wall award your party wall surveyors will generally examine and comment upon the drawings for the works. In most cases the party wall surveyors will also attach a 'schedule of condition' which is a written report of his survey of the relevant parts of the adjoining owner's building. The schedule of condition allows the party wall surveyors to return to the adjoining property after completion of the party wall works to verify and record any damage. Although the party wall surveyor will try to keep the party wall award as simple as possible, it is a formal legal document and accordingly if you have difficulty understanding it then one of our specialist party wall advisors will be happy to go through the final party wall award with you to explain what it means.
10. My neighbour has told me that if I appoint party wall surveyors then I will put them to a lot of additional expense - surely it is not worth getting a party wall surveyor in these circumstances?
It is true that the building owner will normally have to pay your party wall surveyors costs; however this expense must be seen in context of the cost of the entire building project. One would hope that the Building Owner has gone to additional expense to have an engineer check his drawings and a surveyor inspect his property in order to secure his own interests: these costs are as much a part of having building work completed as architectural or planning fees. The party wall surveyor's costs are normally minimal in comparison with the budget of the overall project - the benefits that a party wall award can have for both parties often far outweigh the party wall award cost. A party wall award easily allows claims for damages to be verified and dealt with quickly. It also ensures both parties have a written record of their legal position and the party wall award can therefore often prevent future neighbourly disputes. In some cases the only way to resolve a disputed claim for damages without a party wall award is through the courts, which usually puts an end to any amicable neighbourly relations.
11. The Local Authority Building Inspector will be checking the works during their progress - will he be doing the same job as the Party Wall Surveyors?
Absolutely not. The Building Inspector is being paid to check on the safety and conformity of the Building Owner's works from their side of the boundary. He will not normally enter your property at any stage and will not be able to assist you with any damage claim. The reason this is the case is because you are given an opportunity to appoint your own Party Wall Surveyor and you are not therefore the Local Authority's concern.
12. My neighbour has given me written assurance that their contractors are fully insured and will repair any damage to my property immediately. Surely this means that I am protected anyway?
This assurance is certainly a start, however even accredited contractors are sometimes not as reputable as we might like to imagine and in the event of serious damage occurring some would rather disappear than make a claim against their insurance. Even if the contractors are reputable, it is very easy for them to dispute whether they have caused certain types of damage, such as cracks to your walls or ceilings. Even if you take photographs of your property yourself, this is unlikely to provide sufficient neutral evidence in the event of a claim being made. Furthermore, insurance claims often take many months to settle and this may result in you having to either make a significant initial outlay to repair your home or leaving your property damaged for some time.
13. How much will a party wall award cost?
The cost of a party wall award will vary depending upon the type of work being proposed and the nature of the properties. Most party wall surveyors charge on an hourly basis rather than giving a flat rate: If you intend to carry out any of the building works mentioned, you must inform all adjoining owners. You must not even cut into your own half of the wall without telling the next door neighbour of your intentions.
For further advice you can contact us on: 07976 125887 or 0121 236 2070
You can also email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org