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Avoiding Party Wall Disputes

Sep 4, 2023


Thank you for clicking on today’s Property Surveying blog.  As party wall surveyors we are frequently asked common and typical questions by clients and enquirers alike. 

In this blog post, we aim to look at one of the most typical questions we find ourselves asked here at Stokemont on a daily basis.

This question tends to be asked by building owners who are in the run up to their planned construction works.

With construction costs being so hefty and of such a significant outlay, it is quite right that building owners will look to make cost savings where possible. 

Party wall surveying procedures are by no means a cheap endeavour.  The procedures of the Act also give a building owner the opportunity to control the overall costs.  That control coming by way of the adjoining owner’s Party Wall Notice response.

When a Party Wall Notice is served upon an adjoining owner by a building owner, the adjoining owner will have three Party Wall Notice response options.

Party Wall Notice Responses

In short these three Party Wall Notice response options are as follows:

  • Consenting to the Party Wall Notice.
  • Dissenting to the Party Wall Notice and appointing an agreed party wall surveyor.
  • Dissenting to the Party Wall Notice and appointing their own party wall surveyor.

The most favourable outcome that an adjoining owner can present to a building owner by way of their Party Wall Notice response is a Party Wall Notice consent. 

A Party Wall Notice consent will meant that the building owner does not need to go through any of the legal formalities as set out by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. 

However, it also means that a building owner will not need to incur the cost that can come with party wall surveying procedures. 

Building owners will naturally want to aim for Party Wall Notice consents, as they offer this significant cost saving. 

If an adjoining owner opts to dissent to the Party Wall Notice, the next most cost effective option they can choose is selecting an agreed party wall surveyor.

In making an agreed party wall surveyor selection, they are going to be giving the building owner the opportunity to use the same party wall surveyor that they have selected.

The benefit in this approach, is that the building owner will only be paying a single party wall surveyor’s fee.

This is a significant saving when compared to the Party Wall Notice response option where an adjoining owner appoints their own party wall surveyor.

In that situation, the building owner will find themselves liable for both their own party wall surveyor’s fee and the adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor’s fee. 

That is very much the worst case scenario that a building owner would have, as the overall costs would be at the highest possible level that the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and specifically that the Party Wall Notice responses give rise to.

So how can a building owner make cost efficiencies in the run up to the Party Wall Notice?

There are a number of different exercises that the building owner can put forward in an effort to reduce the overall cost that they are likely to pay as part of the party wall surveying procedures.

We are now going to look at these in greater details to ensure that our clients and enquirers are fully informed of these.

Pre-Construction Work Discussion

A building owner is likely to have long planned their construction work to their property.

They would have visualised the end result, whether that be a new loft room, kitchen extension, or side extension.

They are likely to know the type of tiles they want, kitchen worktop, colours of the walls and perhaps even the furniture too.

Conversely, unless the building owner has actively engaged in discussion with their neighbour the adjoining owner, they are likely to be unaware of the forthcoming construction works.

Naturally with all construction works there is going to be a degree of risk, not to mention nuisance.

If the building owner approaches the adjoining owner at the earliest possible date, they are going to be able to lessen the impact and surprise that can come with an adjoining owner learning their neighbour is going to be undertaking construction works. 

This will ensure that they are prepared for what is to come, this usually trickles down to a more favourable Party Wall Notice response. 

Discussing Party Wall Surveying Procedures

The next option is one that many building owners will actively try and avoid.

Here at Stokemont we would advise that you openly discuss and inform the adjoining owner of the party wall surveying procedures. 

Years ago, party wall surveying procedures were relatively unknown.  However, these days with the vast amounts of information available on the internet, while also taking into account that if the building owner does need to apply for planning, they are likely to receive letters from party wall surveying firms. 

It is therefore very likely that the adjoining owner will have some understanding of the party wall surveying procedures. Even if that understanding is basic.

We would therefore advise that a building owner takes a pro-active approach and discusses the party wall surveying procedures generally. 

Importantly sounding out if the adjoining owner has a preferred party wall surveyor they would like to use.

That would give the building owner the opportunity to then put forward the idea of an agreed party wall surveyor.

That agreed party wall surveyor selection ultimately boding well for the building owner’s financial bottom line. 

While also ensuring that the adjoining owner has selected a party wall surveyor of their choosing. 

Discussing Work Timings

The final point that we believe to be a sensible one here at Stokemont is to discuss work timings. 

Work timings are usually one of the more sensitive topics of concern for an adjoining owner.

With work from home being so prevalent these days, the adjoining owner is rightly going to want to limit the overall impact and nuisance that the neighbouring works have upon them.

A building owner can actively avoid this by discussing the planned contractor working hours. 

In all reality, these are likely to be the normal Local Authority hours.

Conventionally these hours tend to run from 0800 to 1800 Monday to Friday.  0800 to 1300 on Saturday, omitting Sundays and Public Holidays.

In reality these working hours are wide and in many cases it is virtually impossible to not cause some form of nuisance to the neighbour, or neighbours during the course of the works. 

However, at the very early stages of the process, so long as the building owner has discussed these working hours with the adjoining owner, they will be able to identify any specific timings where quiet work can be undertaken.

Typical examples of this could be in the run up to school exams, where quite rightfully so the neighbours and parents will want to ensure that their children have the best opportunity to study for the upcoming tests.

A building owner could therefore likely factor in these quiet hours to not only smooth neighbourly relations and bode well when it comes to Party Wall Notice responses, but also to reduce the overall nuisance the works have upon their neighbour.

Party Wall Notices are a typical activity that we undertake here at Stokemont on a daily basis.

We are very proud to have a free Party Wall Notice creator on our website, we would advise taking a look at this if indeed you want to take a less formal approach to the Party Wall Notice service. 

Equally, we are also able to formally serve Party Wall Notices on adjoining owners.

Our fees for Party Wall Notice service tend to start at around the £40 plus VAT mark.

If you would like to discuss this party wall surveying blog post, or any of our other blog posts or services, please feel free to get in touch with us and give us a call today.  We will be very happy to assist and advise you. 

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