A Brief Explanation of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996
The party wall et cetera act 1996 is an act of parliament which requires anyone proposing works to the property to formally notify the neighbours before commencement and give them the opportunity to have the works reviewed by a Party Wall Surveyor.
The following are scenarios are examples of where it is necessary to serve a Line of Junction, Party Wall or Excavation Notice under the act:
-Raising a party wall
-Cutting into a party wall for any reason such as to place a steel beam or insert a flashing
-Cutting away a chimney breast
-Demolishing and all rebuilding a Party Wall or garden wall (Party Fence Wall)
-Excavating foundations within 3 or 6 m of a neighbouring property
-Building a new wall astride or against the Boundary
If you have any doubts as to whether your work comes under the remit of the act, please do not hesitate to call us for some free advice.
Once a legal notice has been served upon the neighbours (known formally as Adjoining Owner/s), they have the option to either simply consent to the works or have a Party Wall Surveyor represent them. That Surveyor can either be what is known as an Agreed Surveyor whereby one individual acts for both neighbours independently and impartially, or alternatively the Adjoining Owner may appoint their own Surveyor and the two Surveyors will then liaise in order to bring about and agreement.
Once the Surveyor/s have been appointed the next step is to record the condition of the Adjoining Owner’s property in what is known as a schedule of condition. This will list any and all superficial defects noted within that property and this will later be used to assess whether any damage has occurred.
The Surveyor/s will then collate all information produced by the design team namely the architect and engineer as well as any method statements produced by the contractor to show how they will safely undertake the work. Once all information is to hand the Surveyors will produce a document called a Party Wall Award which includes the schedule of condition, the architects and engineering drawings and the method statements as well as any other pertinent information.
The Award also sets out all parties’ rights and obligations including such items as the hours of noisy work permitted and any restrictions, any particular risks and steps taken to mitigate the risk, the nature of the works in general and the Surveyors fees which are all payable by the party undertaking the building work (known as the Building Owner). The Award is then served upon all parties and works can commence.
In most cases the Surveyor/s will return upon completion of the construction work and will re-inspect the neighbouring property to identify any damage if this has occurred.
The Party Wall Surveyor or Surveyors will then set out how damage shall be dealt with under the Act which may include preparing and serving a further Award, however in short a Building Owner has an obligation under the Act to make good any damage and compensate any loss and the Adjoining Owner can choose whether to receive money for the damage or to have their neighbour make good the damage, both of which are acceptable.
In this way a Party Wall Surveyor has a quasi-judicial role and will determine and agree any disputes between a Building Owner and an Adjoining Owner. Any judgement made by Party Wall Surveyor can be appealed to the county court within two weeks of making the judgement and therefore both the Building Owner and Adjoining Owner have the full protection of both the Party Wall Act and common law.
In conclusion the Party Wall Act is there to facilitate and enable building work to take place whilst protecting all parties from both damage that may occur and spurious claims by clearly identifying pre-existing and post-work damage. The Act also controls the nature and particulars of the work insofar as they affect an Adjoining Owner and therefore make the construction process smoother and less disturbing. In this way neighbours can avoid any costly legal disputes by having a professional surveyor look at both the particular legal and construction issues which arise as a result of undertaking building work.
The Hopps Partnership are on hand to offer specialist advice whether you are a Building Owner planning on undertaking building work or you are an Adjoining Owner who has been served a Notice by their neighbour. Our team of surveyors have a wealth of experience and would be happy to speak with you regarding any queries or concerns.