Party Wall Disputes
A party wall dispute is usually resolved by each boundary owner appointing a surveyor to agree the terms of a party wall award. Read on to find out how a party wall dispute begins, what happens throughout, and how to protect your property.
Metcalfe Briggs Surveyors often handle party wall disputes and would therefore be happy to discuss your circumstances today.
What is a party wall dispute?
At least 14 days before a building owner plans to begin work involving a party wall (or excavations near to a party wall) they must provide the adjoining building owner(s) with a party wall notice.
The adjoining owner can either consent or dissent (and not responding at all within 14 days is seen as dissent).
In the case of dissent under The Party Wall Act etc. 1996 the parties are deemed to be 'in dispute' with one another.
The Party Wall Act etc: 1996 relates to
Construction works on the borderline of two properties
Making adjustments to the party structure or the party wall itself
Excavating closer than allowed to the foundation structure of the nearest property (see 3 metre rule)
What happens when a party wall dispute arises between two parties?
Example 1: 1 surveyor (Recommended)
Both parties agree on an impartial surveyor to fully investigate, propose and eventually serve a party wall agreement which would see both parties consent.
Example 2: 2 Surveyors
Each party appoints a surveyor to represent their interests. The surveyors settle the dispute on behalf of their clients and propose and serve a party wall agreement.
Example 3: 3 surveyors
If the two appointed surveyors are unable to settle the dispute on behalf of their clients on their own due to disagreements in one way or another, a third surveyor is sometimes referred to in order to settle any issues.
Example 4: Your neighbour doesn't appoint a surveyor
You appoint a surveyor for your neighbour, the adjoining owner, on behalf of them, if they refuse to do so themselves.
note: Having 1 surveyor will save you time and money. So it is best to talk to your neighbours and agree to find someone you are both happy with.
What happens if you don't agree with the Party Wall Award?
You need to appeal to a county court within 14 days of receiving the party wall award. You can find a county court here.
Before you start any construction, surveyors will produce a party wall award. An award (also known as a party wall agreement) includes specific guidelines on how the construction works should be carried out, a schedule of condition and any work plans.
A schedule of condition identifies the current condition of, and areas of risk for all properties affected by the works, so that all parties are legally protected should any issues arise.
If you follow every step of the party wall dispute process carefully, your appointed surveyor will be able to deal with any damages before it is necessary to refer the case to a county court, to be judged by the law.
Using a surveyor to deal with party wall disputes is generally the cheaper option as surveyors will only seek to compensate quantifiable damages. Lawyers may, in court, pursue charges for moral damages such as disturbance and stress, along with any incurred legal fees.
How can you protect your property from a party wall dispute?
If you don’t get consent from your neighbours, construction works can’t be started until a Party Wall award is obtained.
Notify your neighbours about any changes that you intend to make. The best option is for both parties to agree on the construction work, well before it begins.
Use a RICS accredited firm such as Metcalfe Briggs Surveyors to ensure that all required documentation is handled correctly and served/filed on time.
Your neighbour may demand a security deposit. Your Surveyor can ensure the terms regarding where the deposit would be held and how deductions might be made.
Ensure that you constantly communicate with your neighbours throughout the project, in order to prevent any misunderstandings.
Speak to an RICS regulated Chartered Building Surveyor such as Metcalfe Briggs today.
Important points to consider to avoid a party wall dispute
The Party Wall Act etc 1996 does not transfer ownership of the wall to the party who intends to make changes, what it does is set the rights that a person has in relation to making changes.
The notice must be produced by the person who intends to do construction works, including a clear statement of the planned works. It is advised to provide the notice no less than two months prior to the work starts or no less than one month for any excavation or new party walls.
Construction can be started earlier than one or two months after the notice was served only if your neighbour provides a written agreement for the works to start earlier than intended.
The choice of format to send the documents (email, letter, in-person) must be agreed with the receiver. Any type of written communication is suitable as long as both parties are able to reach an agreement.
If construction works began without relevant documents being provided and a party wall agreement has not been reached, the case could be taken to the court by the adjoining owner with the intention to stop any construction works related to the party wall.
If you are able to get an agreement in writing with the details of construction works, before beginning work, then a surveyor is not needed.
Planning permission is a separate document. It does not exclude you from having to comply with the Party Wall Act etc 1996