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What is a Party Wall Award?

Aug 4, 2022

Today, through our Property Surveying blog, we are going to be looking at party wall surveying procedures.

Particularly, this blog is going to take a focussed review of party wall procedures as set out by the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

The content of the blogpost itself is going to focus on Party Wall Awards, and importantly what makes them legally valid.

Party Wall Awards, are also commonly referred to as Party Wall Agreements within the general public.

It is important to note that a Party Wall Award and a Party Wall Agreement are one and the same.

The Party Wall Award itself is the penultimate conclusion of the party wall surveying procedures, effectively means that the party wall surveyor, or party wall surveyors, have completed their statutory role and drafted, agreed, signed and served the Party Wall Award.

The Party Wall Award will give the building owner the legal right to progress their planned construction works.  Importantly, being able to progress those works without further delay, procedure, or having to adhere to protocols as set out by the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

In order for a building owner to have the legal right to undertake their proposed construction works, there needs to be a number of important procedures and steps that have taken place in advance of that date.

These will not only ensure that the building owner has that legal right to progress works, however, it will also ensure that the Party Wall Award that is agreed is legally valid and free from issue in that regard.

In order for a Party Wall Notice to be deemed legally valid, first and foremost, the Party Wall Notice which commenced the procedures will need to be valid.

Party Wall Notices are imperative, as they set out the start of the party wall surveying procedures and importantly invoke the Party Wall etc Act 1996 on an adjoining owner.

While Party Wall Notices can take many shapes and forms, being served by laypeople and professionals alike, they will always generally follow the same standardised template and include necessary information.

Once the Party Wall Notice has been deemed as valid, at that stage for a Party Wall Award to be applicable and come into play, the adjoining owner will have to have dissented to the Party Wall Notice, with that dissent being followed by the appointment of a party wall surveyor.

The party wall surveyor’s role is one of administering the statutes, ensuring that the adjoining owner’s legal rights are upheld, and the party wall procedures are followed in an effort to achieve that.

The party wall surveyor’s primary duty as set out by Section 10 of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 as follows:

Where a dispute arises or is deemed to have arisen between a building owner and an adjoining owner in respect of any matter connected with any work to which this Act relates either—

(a) both parties shall concur in the appointment of one surveyor (in this section referred to as an “agreed surveyor”); or

(b) each party shall appoint a surveyor and the two surveyors so appointed shall forthwith select a third surveyor (all of whom are in this section referred to as “the three surveyors”).

Ie, it is to resolve any dispute that exists between the building owner and adjoining owner respectively.

It is important to note that while the Act does use the phrase dispute, in many cases it is too strong a word to illustrate the actual state of play on site.

While the Act may refer to the party wall procedures as a dispute, that is merely the Act using legal terminology and referral to clarify the position as per the wording of the Act.

That being said, it is a party wall surveyor’s role to resolve the party wall disputes, and they will do this through standardised steps and procedures, ultimately getting to the Party Wall Award Agreement.

These procedures are set out as follows, albeit are not always limited to:

Schedule of Condition Report

Prior to construction works taking place, and in particular the party wall element of the construction works, the party wall surveyor, or party wall surveyors will undertake a pre-works Schedule of Condition Report of the adjoining owner’s property.

This benchmarks the condition, importantly ensuring that the adjoining owner has a record of proof, while also ensuring the building owner has a copy of that, thereby protecting both owners.

Reviewing Construction Drawings

The party wall surveyor’s role will also be to look at the building owner’s proposed construction works, and in particular the party wall element of those works from the perspective of the adjoining owner’s property.

The party wall surveyor, or party wall surveyors, will be ensuring that the risks, nuisances and effects of those works pose the least amount of issue to the adjoining owner.

This will include both short-term and long-term issue.

Contractor Method Statement

The party wall surveyor will also be looking at the works from a practical perspective, often insisting on Contractor Method Statement or Sequence of Works, so that they can fully ensure that the risks associated with those works have been carefully considered, mitigated and are at their lowest possible point.

Once all of these procedures have been followed, at that stage it is for the party wall surveyor, or party wall surveyors, to agree the Party Wall Award and serve that on the appointing owners, the building owner and the adjoining owner.

So, to come back to the title of this blogpost, in order for a Party Wall Award to be valid importantly, both the Party Wall Notice needs to be valid, while also the procedures getting to Party Wall Agreement stage need to have been carefully followed and adhered to.

Party Wall Awards, once served and as set out above, will give the building owner the legal right to commence and progress their planned works.

These works can progress upon the signature and service of the Award, and while the Award does have an appeal period as per Section 10 of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 as follows:

Either of the parties to the dispute may, within the period of fourteen days beginning with the day on which an award made under this section is served on him, appeal to the county court against the award and the county court may—

(a) rescind the award or modify it in such manner as the court thinks fit; and

(b) make such order as to costs as the court thinks fit.

However, in all normal circumstances, building owners will hotly progress the planned works upon receipt of the Party Wall Award.

If you would like to discuss your party wall surveying procedures with our team of surveyors, please feel free to give us a call today, or pop over an email and we will be more than happy to assist and advise you.

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