By Rebecca Jenkins (with a little help from Tony Pearson!)
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is a piece of legislation that seeks to form an agreement between two neighbouring property owners in relation to proposed works to a party structure. The party structure is anything that is in shared ownership between two properties (for example, a garden wall, the dividing wall between two properties, a floor between two storeys of a building, a chimney stack etc.) OR excavations within distances specified in the Act.
The Act does not give the Adjoining Owners any rights to veto proposed works but it does require the Building Owner to consider and, if necessary, put in measures to mitigate risks to the Adjoining Owner’s property.
So why do you need a Party Wall Surveyor?
At the outset, potentially, you may not need a Surveyor. The Act does not require the notices to be served by a Surveyor, but it does require them to be served in a particular way. Incorrectly completed notices may be invalid and, in the event of a dispute arising, this could cause costly delays to a project.
So what will a Surveyor do?
A Party Wall Surveyor will inspect drawings and structural calculation packages to ensure the correct detail is included in the notices and, importantly, they will identify which Adjoining Owners are entitled to notice and serve them in the correct manner. In addition, the Surveyor will be able to answer the Adjoining Owner’s queries relating to the proposed works which could be all that’s needed to secure a consent response.
When must a Surveyor be engaged?
Once the Adjoining Owner has received their notices they have the option of either ‘consenting’ to the works or ‘dissenting.’ Where a consent response is received you are able to agree any reasonable conditions to that consent (such as a schedule of condition, which we highly recommend) and, once satisfied, proceed with your works.
Where a ‘dissent’ response is received then you are required to engage a Surveyor to act on your behalf. The Adjoining Owner will also need to engage a Surveyor and this can, if you both agree, be the same Surveyor, known as the ‘Agreed Surveyor.’
You will also need to employ a Surveyor in the event that the Adjoining Owner doesn’t respond to your notices in the required timeframe as set out by the Act.
The Act aims to protect both the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owner’s interests. Your obligations under the Act should not be overlooked but seen as a key tool in the building works. This is particularly relevant if you need access to the Adjoining Owner’s property to do the work, as the Act can give rights for this access.
For advice and guidance please do feel free to contact us and we would be happy to help you.