If you are undertaking works that fall within the scope of the Party Wall Act there is a requirement to formally notify any affected owners and either gain their consent or go through an expensive dispute resolution process involving the appointment of surveyors. In this post we look at ways in which you can ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible.
The most important thing that you can do is to make your neighbours aware of your proposals as early in the process as possible. If they only become aware when the planning application goes in or when they receive a party wall notice they will be understandably anxious and anxious owners are much more likely to seek advice from party wall surveyors.
If you arrange a meeting with your neighbours as soon as you have some plans to show them, it gives you the opportunity to provide reassurance. Ideally, you will understand the proposals well enough to fully describe them and explain how the risks will be managed, but if not, you’ll need to extol the virtues of your building team.
It’s a common misconception that an adjoining owner loses their rights if they consent to a party wall notice. In fact, anyone undertaking building works has a legal obligation to make good damage caused by those works, regardless of whether or not their neighbour has consented to the associated party wall notice, so you’re not giving anything away by promising to do so. Consenting neighbours can also appoint a surveyor later in the process if there is a dispute over the cause or cost of making good damage.
Only appointed surveyors can produce party wall awards (the document that resolves the dispute which arises when a notice is dissented to) but there’s nothing to prevent neighbours from agreeing matters between themselves. This is best done in the form of a conditional consent i.e. you serve the party wall notice and your neighbour agrees to consent on condition that you adhere to specific conditions e.g. only working on weekdays, painting the wall facing them a certain colour etc. If the suggested conditions are too onerous, surveyors will have to be appointed to formally resolve the dispute but it’s worth hearing what your neighbour has to say.
It may be that all your neighbour requires is for the condition of their property to be recorded prior to any works commencing. This could be as simple as a set of photos being taken and held on the files of both owners but even if the schedule is prepared by a Chartered Surveyor that’s still considerably cheaper and quicker than going through the dispute resolution procedure.
If, despite your best efforts, your neighbour dissents to the notice and appoints a surveyor there are still plenty of things that you can do to keep the costs down including choosing an experienced surveyor who will anticipate potential queries and ensure that your neighbour’s surveyor’s fee is reasonable.
Post written with the assistance of Justin Burns BSc (Hons) MRICS FFPWS of Peter Barry Party Wall Surveyors.