Party Wall Agreements
A party wall award is commonly referred to as a party wall agreement, these agreements are a important legal requirement which forms part of the building and construction process, normally associated with extensions, loft conversions and renovation work.
As dedicated Party Wall Surveyors & Consultants we have written this article to help explain the legal principles and general process involved.
The Building Owners Responsibility
It is a building owners responsibility to determine in the first instance whether their project will be notifiable or not. Whilst the building owners professional team such as architects and contractors should have an understanding and be advising their clients of their legal obligation under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, the legal obligation to determine whether the project is notifiable under the Act sits with the building owner.
Key points to consider
1. Are you building on or near the line of junction (boundary)?
2. Are you undertaking work to a shared structure or party wall?
3. Are you excavating (normally for foundations) within 3 or 6 metres of a neighbouring structure?
If so, then its possible your work may be notifiable.
Telling your neighbour(s)
You must notify your neighbour in writing at least one or two months before you start depending on the type of work and no more than one year in advance. This is called serving a party wall notice, which is a legal instrument.
For example, if your undertaking work to a party wall as part of a loft conversion and are inserting steel beam support into a party wall then you must give between two and twelve months notice.
We always advocate first speaking with your before any party wall notice is sent, this provides the adjoining owner with enough time to consider their options and clarify any issues.
Responding to a notice
Once you have served the party wall notice(s) your neighbour has the legal right to consent, or not consent (dissent), or serve a counter notice if they require additional works to be completed at the same time (at their cost).
If your neighbour decides to consent then they must respond to your notice in writing within fourteen days. If this is the case, then no further action will be required and the building owner may commence work once the notice period has elapsed.
If within fourteen days your neighbour responds and chooses to dissent (which is their legal right) then a dispute under the party wall act is deemed to have arisen and a surveyor or surveyors need to be appointed to resolve the dispute by negotiating and agreeing on a party wall award.
If a response to notice is not received within fourteen days, then a dissent is automatically deemed to have occurred and the building owner will be required to appoint an independent party wall surveyor (not a joint agreed surveyor) to act on your behalf.
Party wall agreement
Once surveyors are appointed they will draft and agree on the content of the party wall award, taking into consideration amongst others any safeguarding measures they may be required to minimise the impact and likelihood of damage being caused.
It is good practise for the surveyors to undertake a pre-construction survey known as a schedule of condition which will form part of the award and act as evidence should damage occur.
Once appointed, the party wall surveyor/s role become that of statutory duty and they must act impartially to resolve matters taking into consideration the requirement of legislation governing party wall matters.
Under normal circumstance as the building owner is benefiting from the work they will be liable for all reasonable fees. Where work is undertaken at the request and benefit of a neighbour then the cost relating to this can be apportioned by the surveyors in the party wall award.
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For further advice feel free to get in touch with one of our friendly consultants