Thank you for clicking on today’s Property Surveying blog post topic. Today, we are going to be looking at party wall surveying procedures, in particular the scenarios that can arise if the building owner refuses to, or fails to serve a Party Wall Notice upon the adjoining owner.
Party Wall Notices are required if the building owner is planning on undertaking construction works to their property. These construction works will need to fall within the realm of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
For the works to be covered under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 they will need to fall into three broad categories set out as follows:
New walls built up to or astride the boundary line.
Commonly these are the construction of garden walls, walls of extensions, or any other wall that is in close proximity to the legal boundary line separating the two respective properties.
Works directly to a party wall or party structure.
Works directly to a party wall or party structure cover not only party walls, but also floors and ceilings, which are commonly referred to as party structures.
Any works that take place to these elements of the building will fall within the realm of the Party Wall etc. Act.
However, generally speaking these tend to be works such as removal of chimney breasts, insertion of any form of beams or walls, removals of walls or any other works that have an effect upon the property respectively.
Excavations within 6m.
Any excavations within 6m of an adjoining structure will be covered by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
Commonly these will include excavations for new walls, buildings, or anything else that requires foundations.
Importantly under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 the foundations will not only need to be within 6m, however will also need to be a depth lower than the neighbouring foundations.
Commonly, we are asked how we can know the depth of the neighbouring foundations, thereby validating if indeed party wall procedures are required.
In order to assess this, a reasoned party wall surveyor’s judgement will be made.
Noting that the majority of property stock was built around the turn of the century or the 1930s, these types of construction tend to have corbel footings no deeper than 300mm or 400mm beneath the ground level.
By virtue of this, almost any modern form of construction will be to a depth lower than that of the existing structure.
Now that you have an understanding of the types of work that the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 covers now let’s look at the procedures that follow.
Party Wall Notices
First and foremost, the building owner will need to serve a Party Wall Notice upon their adjoining owner a minimum of one, or two months in advance of the works commencing.
Once the Notice has been served the adjoining owner has the legal right to dissent and appoint a party wall surveyor on their behalf.
Party Wall Surveyor Roles
That party wall surveyor’s role and duty is to legally protect the adjoining owner’s property, reduce the nuisances associated with the work and ultimately administer the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
Party Wall Awards
The final conclusive step that a party wall surveyor will take is to agree at Party Wall Award.
The Party Wall Award will legally protect the adjoining owner above and beyond common law in the event of damage.
Furthermore, it will also govern the building owner’s works thereby ensuring they are done with specific surveyor input implemented in an effort to reduce the risks associated with the works.
Refusal to Serve Party Wall Notices
In the event that the building owner fails to, refuses to or simply doesn’t serve a Party Wall Notice upon the adjoining owner. Unfortunately there are a limited number of options open to the adjoining owner at that point.
First and foremost the adjoining owner can proceed to the courts and obtain a court issued injunction.
The injunction will not only formally stop the works on site, but it will also come with significant costs that the building owner will then need to cover further down the line.
These costs will include all the normal types of fees that come with legal procedures, such as, court costs, solicitor fees, surveyor fees, and potentially barrister fees.
While injunctions are an expensive endeavour, they are the ultimate offering that the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 offers an adjoining owner in the event of issue.
It is worth noting as well, that the building owner is going to be liable for the injunction fees if indeed the injunction is upheld.
In order for the injunction to be upheld, all that the adjoining owner would need to prove is that the works were indeed notifiable at the time of the injunction being issued and granted.
Schedule of Condition Report
The next option is for an adjoining owner to instruct a surveyor to undertake a Schedule of Condition report privately.
The Schedule of Condition report will safeguard the adjoining owner in the event of any damage onwards from that point.
Importantly, it will also ensure that there is a robust impartial record of proof in place. This record of proof will document the condition of the property at the date of the surveyor’s visit.
Therefore, if there is any issue or damage resulting from the works onwards from that stage, it would be incredibly straightforward for the adjoining owner to not only hold the building owner accountable for the damage, but have a clear path to having it made good and resolved.
Unfortunately, here at Stokemont, on a daily basis we have scenarios whereby building owners either knowingly, or unknowingly fail to serve Party Wall Notices upon their adjoining owners.
If indeed you are in this type of situation and would like to speak with party wall surveyors today, please feel free to give us a call and we would be more than happy to assist and advise you.
If you are a building owner, and are perhaps reading this blog, it is likely you are in the category of an owner who unknowingly has not gone through the party wall surveying procedures. We would advise taking action as quickly as you can, to rectify and remedy the situation.
This is likely going to be highly favourable from a cost perspective. However, it is also going to uphold your important neighbourly relations that are going to be in place long after the works are completed.