If you are a property owner who is planning to carry out some renovation or extension work to your property, or if you are a neighbour to someone who is commencing building works on their property, then you might want to learn more about the Party Wall Act and how it applies to you. 

In the current market, it has become harder to buy a new house, therefore, more people are renovating and extending on their existing properties. You will need to find a Party Wall Surveyor if you plan on carrying out any building work involving excavation near a neighbouring property or works to a Party Wall. 

Here are some of the questions you should be asking:

1. The first question you should ask is what is the Party Wall Act? 
This act provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to Party Walls, Party Fence Walls and Excavations near neighbouring buildings. 

2. What is a Party Wall? 
The Party Wall stands astride the boundary of land which belongs to two different owners. It can be a wall that is part of one building which separates two or more buildings. In the case of a garden wall that lies between two owners, this is commonly referred to as a Party Fence Wall.

3. Are Party Wall agreements compulsory? 
It is compulsory to serve notices if the said works are covered under the Act, for example, neighbours extension Party Wall or affecting a ceiling or floor, it is advised that you give appropriate written notice to the owners and occupiers. If the notices are not consented to, then an award (agreement) will need to be drawn by a Surveyor.

4. Do I need to consider the Party Wall Act or notify my neighbours if I plan to work on internally on shared walls? 
Yes, you will need to notify the neighbours if you intend to carry out works to the Party Wall.

5. When do I need to appoint a Party Wall Surveyor? 
It is recommended to appoint one at least 3 months before the building works start. The administration of the Party Wall Act will likely take less time but plenty of time is allowed so you can start building works without any delay. The service of notices takes 14 days, followed by a further 10-day letter if no response is received. Therefore it could take up to a month before any surveying can be done.

6. What will a Party Wall Surveyor do? 
The Surveyor offers advice on the procedure, obligations and responsibilities. The first point of action is it review the proposed plans and confirm if the works meet the criteria under the Act. If so, then the relevant Party Wall Notices are served to all affected neighbours. If the notices are dissented to, then the Surveyor or Surveyors will then conduct a site visit and prepare a schedule of condition of neighbouring property. Once this is done, the Surveyor/s finalise the terms of the Party Wall Award and serve this forthwith to all owners at which time building works can commence.

7. How much will it cost? 
Generally, the Building Owner carrying out the works will cover the costs of the appointment of the Surveyor for works that are solely for their benefit, for example, the neighbours loft conversion Party Wall. The cost differs between the works as well as the Surveyors, find a Party Wall Surveyor will experience with your type of works.

8. Can the Party Wall be amended? 
Yes, however, this should be brought to the attention of the Surveyor/s at first instance. You also have the right to appeal the Award at the County Court within 14 days of service of the Award but this needs to not be taken lightly as there may be costs incurred if unsuccessful. 

9. Who is the Building Owner in the Party Wall Act? 
The party who owns the property where the building works are due to be carried out. 

10. Who is the Adjoining Owner in the Party Wall Act? 
This is the party who is potentially affected by the works. 

11. Should a solicitor be consulted? 
Generally no, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 was introduced to stop expensive litigation between two property owners and instead introduce the role of expert Party Wall Surveyors in the specific field.

12. When does a Party Wall Award expire? 
The notice is valid for one year, it is best not to serve it too long before you are looking to start your work. As a minimum notice should be served two months prior to your intended start date, of course, this does not guarantee a start date, but it allows sufficient time for the work of Surveyors to be completed if there is a dispute.

13. Can the Party Wall Act be used to resolve boundary disputes? 
No, because the Party Wall Act does not have any provisions that can be used to resolve boundary disputes. These disputes must be resolved through Boundary Surveyors, the Courts or by mutual agreement. 

14. Can a Party Wall Award be applied retrospectively? 
Generally no, unless this is mutually agreed by both owners. Note that works commencing before valid notices and if required a Party Wall Award can lead to an injunction. 

15. Works have commenced without a Party Wall Notice or Award being served, what are my rights? 
If your neighbour has commenced works that are notifiable under the Party Wall etc. Act without serving the appropriate valid notices then a temporary injunction can be applied for at the County Court by the Adjoining Owner (neighbouring property). This will mean that a court order prevents works from continuing until a Surveyor/s has been appointed to finalise a Party Wall Award. Unfortunately, an injunction can be costly for the Building Owner carrying out works for failure to follow due legislation.

Is construction working going on at your neighbour’s house? Are you proposing to carry out works? Do you need to find a Party Wall Surveyor? Contact Seven One Associates to get help and support today!

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