Knowing what to do when a notice has been served or you
want to carry out works on a shared structure or boundary can be difficult and
confusing. Let’s break The Party Wall Act down and look at the typical processes
The Party Wall Act comes into play during three types of building work: when working on an existing shared (or party) wall, when building new structures across the boundary of two or more properties, and when excavating in close proximity to neighbouring properties.
If you’re carrying this kind of work out, you’ll need to serve the affected neighbouring property with a notice.
Once a legal notice has been served upon the neighbours, they can either consent to the works or have a Party Wall Surveyor represent them.
That Surveyor can either be what is known as an Agreed Surveyor whereby one individual acts for both neighbours independently and impartially, or alternatively the Adjoining Owner may appoint their own Surveyor and the two Surveyors will then liaise in order to bring about an agreement.
The Party Wall Act is there to facilitate and enable building work to take place whilst protecting all parties from damage that may occur and spurious claims by clearly identifying pre-existing and post-work damage. The Act also controls specific aspects of the work that affect an Adjoining Owner, to make the construction process smoother and less disturbing. In this way, neighbours can avoid any costly legal disputes by having a professional Surveyor look at both the particular legal and construction issues which arise as a result of undertaking building work.
Once the Surveyor or Surveyors have been appointed, the next step is to record the condition of the Adjoining Owner’s property in what is known as a Schedule of Condition report. This will list any and all superficial defects noted within that property and this will later be used to assess whether any damage has occurred.
The Surveyor/s will then collate all information produced by the design team (namely the architect and engineer), as well as any method statements produced by the contractor to show how they will safely undertake the work. Once all the information is to hand, the Surveyors will produce a document called a Party Wall Award which includes the schedule of condition, the architectural and engineering drawings and the method statements, as well as any other pertinent information.
The Award also sets out all parties’ rights and obligations, including the hours of noisy work permitted and any restrictions, any particular risks and steps taken to mitigate the risk, the nature of the works in general and the Surveyor's fees (which are all payable by the party undertaking the building work, known as the Building Owner). The Award is then served upon all parties and works can commence.
In most cases, the Surveyor or Surveyors will return upon completion of the construction work and will re-inspect the neighbouring property to identify any damage if this has occurred.
They will then set out how damage shall be dealt with under the Act, which may include preparing and serving a further Award. A Building Owner has an obligation under the Act to make good any damage and compensate any loss, and the Adjoining Owner can choose whether to receive money for the damage or to have their neighbour repair the damage.
In this way, a Party Wall Surveyor has a quasi-judicial role and will determine and agree any disputes between a Building Owner and an Adjoining Owner. Any judgement made by Party Wall Surveyor can be appealed to the county court within two weeks of making the judgement and therefore both the Building Owner and Adjoining Owner have the full protection of both the Party Wall Act and common law.
The Hopps Partnership are on hand to offer specialist advice whether you are a Building Owner planning on undertaking building work or you are an Adjoining Owner who has been served a Notice by their neighbour. Our team of surveyors have a wealth of experience and would be happy to speak with you regarding any queries or concerns.
What is a party wall?
More information can be found in this article on the GOV.UK website.
The Party Wall Act Explained (PDF)
Detailed information on the Party Wall Act 1996 can be found here.
Read our handy guide to Party Wall terminology