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Party Wall Surveying Across the Midlands & Further South​​

Party Wall FAQs, Scenarios, Answers

What is a Dispute?

There are "actual" disputes and "deemed" disputes. An actual dispute is when an adjoining owner, having received notice, dissents within the notice period. A deemed dispute is when an adjoining owner does not respond to a notice within 14 days of the date on which it was served. Some disputes are inevitable, if, for example, an adjoining owner is determined from the outset to oppose a building project. Some disputes are avoidable, and in this case building owners could save themselves time and money.
The key to avoiding disputes is talking to your neighbour(s). Even if you don't know them very well, even if you don't get on, tell them about what work you are proposing. Ask how they feel about it. Engaging them in conversation and giving them the opportunity to air any concerns might make all the difference. It could be that they're fine about the idea in principle and all they need is some reassurance that, as far as possible, every care will be taken to respect their property, privacy and cause them the minimum of inconvenience. In previous weeks or months, they may have received a Planning Application Notice from the local authority. If they didn't object to it, it doesn't necessarily mean they don't have concerns.
Party Wall Surveying | Disputes | Awards
In the absence of a discussion, over the garden fence or over a cup of tea, if your neighbour receives formal notices under the Party Wall etc. Act, they may by now be feeling upset, negative and uncooperative. Don't rely on formal notification, believing that this is all you need to do and everything should turn out all right.
Of course, if a neighbour is rigidly against your project and is going to be unreasonable no matter what, there isn't a lot you can do. Whether a "deemed" or "actual" dispute has arisen, a dispute begins the process, and the legal requirement, for the appointment of surveyors.
The surveyor will assert your rights, implement the provisions of the Act, and resolve any disputes by way of an Award.

What is an Award?

An Award is a legal document drawn up by surveyors. A vital part of the dispute resolution process, it asserts the building owner's right to execute the work, and details such things as the timing and manner of the work. It may also determine "any other matter arising out of or incidental to the dispute including the costs of making the award".
Party wall award document sample
As soon as the Award has been prepared it is served on the building owner and the adjoining owner. If any party is unhappy with it, they have the right to appeal to the County Court within 14 days. Since it is increasingly the case that, if an Award is appealed, judges expect to see a Schedule of Condition of adjoining properties, it is recommended and quite usual for one of these to be prepared alongside an Award.

What is a Schedule of Condition?

brickwork, schedule of condition
cracked interior wall, building survey
roof line of house
A Schedule of Condition of neighbouring properties should be taken before any work begins. A safeguard for building owners and adjoining owners alike, it is a written and photographic record of any existing defects (and absence of defects) of adjoining property. A copy of this record is supplied to both owners and is kept on file by surveyors so that it can later be referred to if there are claims of damage being caused, or having been caused by the building works. There are provisions within the Act for dealing with repairs and compensations for damage caused.

How Long Does the Process Take?

While unexpected delays can never be fully accounted for in advance, it should be the aim of a good surveyor to ensure that everything is in place at the right times to facilitate smooth running. This will also be facilitated if a building owner contacts a surveyor as soon as it's clear that the Party Wall etc. Act may apply.
Assuming that all other statutory controls are in place (for example, Planning Approval and Building Regulations), the earliest that building work begins is usually one month after serving a Line of Junction Notice or an Adjacent Excavation Notice, or two months in the case of a Party Structure Notice. However, works can begin even sooner upon the written agreement of an adjoining owner. Please note: these shortest possible time-frames also assume complete accord with neighbours.
detached side of house with empty land, possible extension space
Having served notice, if there is no response from an adjoining owner after 14 days, a "deemed" dispute is said to have arisen. This is the stage where a surveyor or surveyors, if not already appointed, must now be appointed. To take the process forward, a building owner's surveyor will serve upon the adjoining owner a further notice, this time requesting that either the building owner's surveyor is appointed as agreed surveyor, or that the adjoining owner appoints a separate surveyor for themselves. This part of the process cannot be frustrated by an adjoining owner because, under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, if they fail in the above request a surveyor can be appointed on their behalf.
The agreed surveyor or the separate surveyors will then be tasked with drafting of an Award, which is served as soon as it is completed. If the Award hasn't been appealed at the County Court within 14 days, the work may go ahead.

Do I Need A Solicitor?

Party Wall Solicitor | high street premises sign
On receiving Party Wall Notices, some adjoining owners contact their solicitor. And while very occasionally a solicitor's involvement becomes necessary, party wall proceduress are largely dealt with by experienced Party Wall Surveyors.
 
There are, of course, solicitors who are experts on party wall and property law. If you think you need a solicitor in the Midlands, James Beat of Nelson's Solicitors in Nottingham is highly skilled and experienced.
 
For answers to many party-wall legal questions, see also Mathew Hearsum's website and excellent blog at www.partywallsolicitor.com .

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stone houses, Leicester North

"DIFFICULT" NEIGHBOURS
 
Q: I don't understand what's going on with my neighbours. I told them months ago about the extension and they said they had no problem with it. Now they've refused to consent to the party wall notices, and they want a separate surveyor and an award. That's going to cost me a fortune, isn't it?
 
A: It sometimes happens that neighbours who said they were okay with your building project then change their minds when they receive formal party wall notices. Obviously it's preferable and is going to cost you less if they consent to the notices and let you get on with the job. But in reality, with the imminence of nearby excavations and building works, many people can start to get worried about how their own property, security and privacy might be affected. Under the Act, they do have rights, and one of these rights is for them to appoint a separate surveyor.

tower cranes, large development site

ABSENCE OF NOTICE
 
Q: My neighbour has got builders in and they're excavating close to the boundary in preparation for building an extension. I know he's got planning permission, but shouldn't there be some other kind of legal notice? That Party Wall thing?
 
A: Possibly. It depends how deep the excavations are and how close the works are to your own house. Even if it's close to the boundary, but not on the boundary, and it's more than 3 metres away from the exterior wall of your house, he may not need to serve Party Wall Notices. The best thing to do is have a chat about it with him. If notices are required, it's always possible that he may not even be aware of this statutory duty.

street scene, row of terraces

residential building site

RIGHTS OF ACCESS?
 
Q: I'm really worried. My neighbour is about to start building a side and rear extension to his house, which will come close to the boundary line. He says he's going to take the fence down which belongs to him, so I suppose I can't argue with that. He's also saying that under the Party Wall Act he has the right to put a scaffold up in my garden to do the building work. I have young children and an elderly parent who spend a lot of time in the garden. A scaffold and contractors for several months would be a nightmare. Does he really have these rights?
 
A: Section 8 of the Act does give building owners certain rights of access to adjoining properties. But there are safeguards in the Act which aim to protect adjoining owners. A surveyor or surveyors determining on whether or not rights of access are appropriate will base their judgement on the following factors: Can the work be done from the building owner's side of the boundary? Would access cause adjoining owners "unnecessary inconvenience"? Would there be safety issues for building contractors if they didn't have access / weren't permitted to erect a scaffold on the other side of the boundary?

backs of houses in built-up area
city centre, adjoining properties
apartment block, Leicester

"DIFFICULT" SURVEYOR
 
Q: I engaged the services of a Party Wall Surveyor on the understanding that he'd be working for me, do what I tell him, and put the stroppy neighbours in their places. Now it's like he's working to some other agenda that's got nothing to do with what I want to happen.
 
A: It sounds as if you may not be completely clear about the role of Party Wall Surveyors. Once a dispute has arisen, their appointment is statutory. They can't necessarily do what you want them to do even if they agreed with your wishes. They have a statutory duty to resolve disputes in accordance with what is laid down in the Act. They are required by law to remain impartial in the proceedings and to determine and award only on matters related to, or arising from, the notifiable works.

big building development

RIGHT TO LIGHT?

Q: A couple of months ago I got Planning Approval for a side extension, my builder was ready to get started and a Party Wall Surveyor had served notices for Adjacent Excavation and Line of Junction. Next thing I know, I get a letter from the neighbours' surveyor, a specialist in Right to Light, apparently, saying that the current design will cause a "legal injury" and that if we attempt to build it they'll be seeking an injunction. They say that the extension will have to be redesigned so that it doesn't cause any infringement to Rights of Light. How can this happen? We were given Planning Approval.

A: Many councils use a "rule of thumb" guide to consider how or if building projects affect access to light for neighbours. What can and does happen is that some projects, which may be technically unlawful in this respect, go ahead if nobody raises any challenges. In the scenario you've described, the Party Wall process could be suspended until matters are resolved. Obviously it would have been better for you if this issue had been explored by your neighbours at a much earlier stage. But they may only have become aware of it later, and engaging a surveyor to carry out such an assessment will have been costly to them. Frustration and anger for both you and your neighbours is understandable. And it has to be said that a good designer or architect should have advised you if your proposed project might intefere with anybody's Right to Light.

Party Wall Answers | Scenarios
city centre, neighbouring properties
apartment block

BOUNDARY DISPUTE
 
Q: My neighbour is about to start building, but as I've said to her, she can't legally build up to the boundary because it isn't the real boundary. When the last owner replaced the side fence two years ago, he grabbed a strip of land that tapers from about six inches at one end to about two foot at the other. She wants to get on with the building and has now got a surveyor to serve Party Wall Notices on me. Can she really just build and take my land?
 
A: If you haven't already done so, you have to make her and her surveyor aware of the situation. The Party Wall process cannot go forward unless there is agreement between neighbours about the position of the boundary line. If your neighbour accepts where you say the boundary line should be, all well and good. But if she disagrees, then this matter is outside the remit of a Party Wall Surveyor. If you want to establish, or re-establish, the original boundary you will need to engage somebody who specialises in boundary disputes.

building site, brickwork, blockwork

suburban street scene

INJECTION OF DAMP-PROOF COURSE
 
Q: I live in a mid terrace house and my neighbour's Party Wall Surveyor has served a notice telling me that my neighbour plans to damp-proof the shared wall by drilling into it and injecting something into the cavity. I get on well with my neighbour, but I've heard that damp-proofing of this kind can cause problems later on for the adjoining owners. Any advice, please?
 
A: What typically happens with this method is that the plaster is stripped from the wall up to about a metre high, then the bare wall is drilled into and the cavity injected with a silicone-based substance. The wall is then re-plastered using a water-proof render. The advantages of this method are that it is less invasive, cheaper and faster than fitting a "physical membrane". The disadvantages of the chemical method are that it doesn't always work effectively, and sometimes it can, later on, cause problems on the adjoining owner's side. If you're worried, and if you're also seeing signs of damp on your own side of the wall, it might be worth talking to your neighbour about the possibility of sharing the extra cost of a physical membrane DPC.

terraced houses
houses built close together, party wall scenario

DEMOLITION / EXPOSURE OF PARTY WALL
 
Q: My neighbour served Party Wall Notices nearly a year ago. He wanted to demolish his end-terrace house (next door to me) and build a detached house, as he has plenty of spare land on the far side. I consented to his project and so no Party Wall Surveyors were apppionted. His old house has gone, the site's been cleared and the contactors are getting on well with the new build. The problem I have is that the wall that used to be an adjoining wall between our houses (but is now the external side wall of my house) is starting to show signs of damp. I've told the neighbour and his contractors but they've pretty much said it's my problem. Is there anything I can do?
 
A: Yes. Even though it's a year down the line, if Party Wall Notices were served, then the Party Wall etc. Act has been engaged. If your neighbour is refusing to take responsibility, then you have every right to appoint a Party Wall Surveyor to resolve matters (at your neighbour's expense, not yours). What was originally a party wall has been exposed to the elements. A building owner responsible for this action is also responsible for weather-protecting the exposed wall.

Excavation & Construction near boundary with adjoining property.
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How Can Party Walls Leicestershire Help?

To further discuss any Party Wall issues, please contact Party Walls Leicestershire on 0333 9000 310 for a free 30-minute consultation. You can also contact us on 07470 347849. If you prefer, you can make an inquiry using either the above contact form or the contact form on the Contact page. Either way, if it sounds as if Party Wall Notices or any of our other services are indicated, you will also be offered a free initial site visit and assessment. For a full schedule of our services, please see Services & Fees .