If your neighbour is proposing works on their side of a party wall, there is a set legal process which must be followed. We can provide advice and guidance
Home-Approved is experienced at dealing with issues that arise when one neighbour wants to improve their property with works that may affect the party wall. This may involve cutting into the party wall, excavations within certain distances or building up to or across the line of junction. In some cases a garden wall may also fall into the category as a party fence wall.
Where do you stand legally?
Your neighbour has a legal obligation to give you formal notice of their plans if the works are notifiable under the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
If you receive a notice there is a statutory requirement for you to respond within 14 days otherwise a dispute will be deemed to have arisen.
You should always look to appoint an experienced party wall surveyor who will ensure that works are carried out in accordance with the Act and that any damaged caused to your property as a result of the works is rectified or repaired according to the details set out in the party wall award. In normal circumstances the reasonable cost of you appointing your own surveyor is covered by the building owner (person doing the work).
Matthew Brown, Managing Director, of Home-Approved Building Surveyors says:
It is important to choose a competent and experienced party wall surveyor to deal with matters relating to the Party Wall etc Act 1996. You should check that your surveyor is a member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors (FPWS) as all their members receive the correct training and ongoing professional development.
Whilst the building owner is responsible for the cost of your surveyor it is important to understand this will be only be the “reasonable” cost. We provide a written estimate of our fees and ongoing charges prior to instruction and ensure we communicate professionally at all times with everyone involved in the process”.
Frequently asked questions from adjoining owners
- What is a party wall surveyor?
This is a person who is appointed by the building owner or adjoining owner to resolve disputes between the building owner and adjoining owner and which is connected with any work to which the Act relates.
- Can anybody act as a party wall surveyor?
Any person may potentially act as a party wall surveyor except the respective owners, who are not allowed to act for themselves. It is however usual to appoint surveyors, architects or engineers etc, who are experienced in the workings of the Act. We would recommend that you choose someone who is a member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors (FPWS).
Each party may appoint their own chosen surveyor or each party may appoint a single surveyor. In the latter case the surveyor is known as the “agreed surveyor”.
- What is the role of the surveyor?
The building owner’s surveyor draws up the party wall award which contains a description of the works to be undertaken and details the execution of the works. This includes the hours during which the work can be carried out, what happens in the event of damage, and rights of access. The adjoining owner’s surveyor checks the award for accuracy before agreeing it. The surveyors will also normally prepare and agree a schedule of condition.
- What is a schedule of condition and do I need it?
A schedule of condition is a written record of the condition of the adjoining owner’s property before the work starts. It should record any existing defects or damage. It usually describes the walls, floors and ceilings and any other parts that may be affected by the works such as garden fencing or planting. Photographs usually support the schedule of condition.
Preparing a schedule of condition is not a requirement of the Act but it is most prudent and common practice to do so and we would advise that this is done. If an adjoining owner does not grant access for this to be carried out then an award may be made without one. However, if damage does then occur it may be more difficult to prove that the damage is attributable to the building owner’s works.
- Is the surveyor impartial?
The surveyor has a legal duty under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 to act impartially at all times.
- Do I have to allow access to my property?
The Act gives certain rights to the building owner to enter the premises of the adjoining owner during working hours, on giving notice. However such access must be restricted to the purpose of undertaking the specified works pursuant to the Act.
There is no right to enter your land to build an extension – unless access to undertake the works can be shown to be absolutely necessary and the works are in pursuance of the Act.
The surveyors are entitled to access over either owner’s land in order to fulfil the purpose for which they are appointed.
- Who pays the surveyor's fees?
The building owner (person carrying out the work) in most cases is responsible for the cost of your surveyor. It is important to understand this will be only be the “reasonable” cost. Another reason why you should choose a surveyor who is a member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors.