What is the Party Wall etc Act?The Party Wall etc Act 1996 governs certain types of work that a building owner (the person undertaking the construction works), undertakes to their property. The Act ensures that prior to commencing those proposed works, the building owner serves a Party Wall Notice upon the adjoining owner (the neighbour adjoining the construction works). The Party Wall Notice gives the adjoining owner the opportunity and legal right to appoint a Party Wall Surveyor to review the proposed works from the perspective of their property and agree a legal document, known as a Party Wall Award, that safeguards them in the event of damage. One of the most common misconceptions about the Party Wall etc Act 1996 is that it only applies to properties that share a Party Wall. This is incorrect, the Act applies to following types of work:
New walls built up to the boundary line Most commonly this tends to be the flank wall of a building owner’s proposed extension. If the wall is being built up the boundary line, the Act will apply.
Works directly to a Party Wall Any works directly to a Party Wall including removing chimney breasts, insertion of steel beams (commonly for a loft conversion) or any other structural works to the Party Wall will fall within the remit of the Act. Excavations within 6 metres of the adjoining owner’s property If the building owner is planning on excavating within 6 metres of the adjoining owner’s property and to a depth that is lower than the adjoining owner’s foundations, the Act will apply. Commonly this tends to come into play in the form of foundations for an extension. Now that we have established what the Act is and the types of works that it covers, lets take a look at the response options that an adjoining owner has once the building owner has served a Party Wall Notice upon them. Option 1: Consenting to the building owner’s works Selecting this response option, reserves the protection that the Act affords an adjoining owner and essentially means that the building owner is free to progress their works without any of the Act’s formalities being followed. If an adjoining owner selects this option, they do still have the right to dissent at a later date, however they will likely have to pay their Surveyor’s costs in advance and then recover these from the building owner further down the line. Option 2: Dissenting to the building owner’s works and appointing their own Party Wall Surveyor Selecting this option will mean the adjoining owner appoints a Party Wall Surveyor, with that Surveyor reviewing the proposed works from the perspective of the adjoining owner’s property. Selecting this option will also mean that the building owner appoints their own Party Wall Surveyor, with the two respective Surveyors then going through the motions of agreeing a Party Wall Award. Option 3: Dissenting and agreeing in the appointment of an Agreed Party Wall Surveyor This option is similar to response option 2, however the key difference is that rather than there being two respective Surveyors acting for each owner, there will be one Party Wall Surveyor who acts impartially on behalf of both of the owners. The Surveyor, known as an Agreed Surveyor, will go through all of the same procedures that the two Surveyors would, with the outcome again being the agreement of a Party Wall Award. Irrespective of whether the adjoining owner selects response option 2 or 3, under all normal circumstances the building owner will be liable for the adjoining owner’s Surveyor’s costs. The Party Wall etc Act 1996 can often be overlooked by a building owner. In my experience Party Wall Procedures can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to conclude, therefore it is key to ensure that the procedure is started early thereby avoiding delay to proposed works. If you are planning on undertaking construction works that fall within the remit of the Party Wall etc Act 1996, or live next to a property that is shortly about to undertake Party Wall works, I would suggest speaking to a Party Wall Surveyor at the first instance to discuss the matter in greater detail. As one of the senior Surveyors at Berry Lodge, I regularly and happily offer 30 minutes free Party Wall advice to anyone who has Party Wall questions or queries. If you would like to discuss works you are planning on undertaking, or works that your neighbour is undertaking, give me a call now and I will be happy to advise. Bradley Mackenzie BA(Hons) MSc FFPWS MRICS MCIArb RICS Accredited Mediator – RICS Registered Valuer Berry Lodge Surveyors, 61 Highgate High Street, London, N6 5JY Website: www.blsurveyors.com Email: [email protected] Telephone: 020 7935 2502