Party Wall Surveys Explained: When You Might Need One, And How We Can Help
Negotiating with your neighbours can be tricky at the best of times, especially if they play loud music in the dead of night, or their kids have thrown water bombs over the fence for the seventeenth time this week. But when you need building work done on a Party Wall, despite the name, it need not be a “dispute”. Prince Krofa & Sons is here to explain the matter for both Building and Adjoining Owner.
What is a “Party Wall” and a “Party Structure”?
A “Party Wall” divides the buildings of two owners, with the boundary between ownerships usually, but not always, positioned at the centre of the wall. They can either form part of a building or not, in the case of a garden wall. A wooden fence is not a Party Wall.
A “Party Structure” is a floor, driveway or other non-dividing structure that separates buildings or, parts of buildings with different owners, for example, flats. Party Wall agreements are different from planning permission and building regulations approval.
If you want to carry out work near or on a shared property boundary, or “Party Wall”, you must tell your neighbours at least one to two months in advance, as is defined in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
When do I need to serve a Party Wall notice?
Notifiable works fall into the following three categories, laid out in the scope of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996:
1) The construction of a new wall at the line of junction between two properties (Section 1)
This section comes into play when an owner is intending to build a wall or extension to an existing wall, either right against or straddling the boundary line on both owner’s land, whereby a new Party Wall will be created. The owner who wants to build the wall will need to serve a Section 1 ‘Line of Junction Notice’ on the Adjoining Owner.
2) Works which have a direct effect on a Party Structure (or adjoining structure) (Section 2)
This covers works by the Building Owner to demolish, cut into, repair, rebuild or extend the height of a Party Wall, for example, to build a loft conversion or add another floor. Chimney removal is also covered under this category.
3) Excavation close to an Adjoining Owner’s building (Section 6)
It can come as a surprise to some that Building Owners must serve a notice on their neighbour to dig a hole entirely on their own land. This is because excavating close to any structure carries a risk that the foundations to that structure will be compromised and movement will occur. Sketches and/or drawings are a requirement for this notice.
Minor works, such as plastering, adding or replacing electrical wiring or sockets, or drilling to put up shelves or cabinets, are not covered under the Act, and you do not need to inform your neighbour about it.
What happens after I have notified the Adjoining Owner?
Notice must be given in writing by the Building Owner, and once this has been done, the Adjoining Owner has 14 days in which they can do any of the following:
- Give their consent.
- Serve a counter notice requesting additional works be done at the same time (at their own expense depending on how they will benefit from them).
- Refuse consent. This starts the dispute resolution process, which is where surveyors are appointed. This would also happen if the Adjoining Owner did not reply at all within 14 days.
Who can I appoint as a Surveyor?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 defines a ‘surveyor’ as any person who is not a party to the works, which makes sure the owner cannot act for themselves on the matter. Either the Building Owner and Adjoining Owner can appoint a separate surveyor each, or both can concur in the single appointment of an ‘Agreed Surveyor’. A Building Owner can appoint a surveyor on behalf of the Adjoining Owner if they refuse or fail to do so themselves.
Surveyors are appointed to resolve a dispute, so, no matter who they were selected by, they are bound by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 to act completely impartially.
Once a Party Wall Surveyor has been appointed, that appointment cannot be rescinded unless the surveyor is declared ‘incapable of acting’, i.e. they have died or are lost at sea. This is to prevent an appointer from trying to sack a surveyor because their decision goes against them.
What will a Party Wall Surveyor do?
A “Party Wall Award” will be prepared by the surveyor(s). This is a document which resolves the dispute that was triggered when the Party Wall notice was not consented to, and will usually consist of three parts:
1) The Award itself, a set of requirements governing how the proposed works should progress. This is usually an RICS template which is amended according to the specific works.
2) A “schedule of condition” of the Adjoining Owner’s property. If there are two surveyors, this is prepared by the Building Owner’s surveyor who then sends a copy to the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor for agreement.
3) Sketches and/or drawings of the proposed works.
Other topics it will cover could include working hours, permission of access over the Adjoining Owner’s land and necessary safeguards.
What happens once an Award has been given?
Works can begin in compliance with the requirements laid down in the Award, subject to statutory time limits.
When works are being carried out, the Building Owner must avoid causing unnecessary inconvenience, protect the Adjoining Owner’s property from damage caused by the works, and fix or pay for any damage that is caused. The Adjoining Owner must allow surveyors and workmen access to their property during usual working hours to carry out the building works. They must be given 14 days’ notice except in an emergency.
How much does a Party Wall Award cost?
This is largely made up of the the appointment of the Surveyors and or other specialists needed to prepare the Award, i.e. Structural Engineers. Surveyor fees can vary hugely depending on works, time, and location.
Surveyors appointed by the Building Owner will normally quote a fixed fee, while the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor will charge by the hour (£200 is the current average for London), with contingencies for additional visits. The final figure is agreed and entered into the Award just before it is served.
Fees charged by Adjoining Owner’s surveyors in London range from £900 for an Award covering a simple job such as damp-proofing or cavity wall insulation, to £1,750 plus for more complex works, such as a loft extension or basement conversion.
Why choose Prince Krofa & Sons for a Party Wall survey?
The person chosen to determine a Party Wall matter should have a good knowledge of the local area and its properties, be well versed in Party Wall procedures and ideally have a relevant qualification. Prince Krofa & Sons’ surveyors have been specially trained to to act as appointed surveyors, fulfil and agree Party Wall Awards. We have a breadth of experience with Party Wall disputes, and promise full impartiality, in line with the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. If you are in London or the Home Counties and need advice and/or consultation about a Party Wall matter, do not hesitate contact us.