In this blog we will be looking at Party Wall Notices and in particular what should be done if the adjoining owner’s name isn’t available.
The common way to obtain an adjoining owner’s name is via the land registry information portal.
In very rare circumstances the land registry will not contain any information on the owner of the property. This isn’t a fault of the land registry, instead it will likely mean that the property has been owned for such a long period of time that the land registry haven’t been provided with the information required to update their data base.
The land registry property ownership details are updated when a property changes hands, therefore if that hasn’t happened, in our experience over the last 40 years, you will be unable to obtain the owner’s name.
So how does this apply to the Party Wall etc Act 1996?
As Party Wall Surveyors, the first formal role we have on any job is to serve a Party Wall Notice upon the adjoining owner.
We have looked at Party Wall Notices in detail in some of our other blogs, however in short, a Party Wall Notice is a legal document and therefore it has to be deemed valid to correctly commence the Party Wall procedure.
This is where the land registry information portal is important, by downloading the title deeds on a property, as Party Wall Surveyors we can demonstrate that we have attempted to obtain the most up to date and legally correct information for the adjoining owner.
This ensures that when we serve the Party Wall Notice and notify the adjoining owner of the works, we are doing so in the knowledge that the legal owner of the property will receive the Notice and will therefore be given the full response options as provided by the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
Therefore, in the event that the ownership details are not available the Party Wall etc Act 1996 confirms that the Party Wall Notice can be served upon “the owner” providing it delivered to the owner in person, or alternatively fixed to a conspicuous part of the property.
In five years of acting as specialist Party Wall Surveyors in London, we have only served the notice upon the owner by hand on one occasion.
The reality is it isn’t cost effective for the surveyor to do that, nor it is always possible as the surveyor will likely work normal working hours at which time the owner will likely be doing the same. This means that the owner will likely be at work when the attempt of hand service is made.
Therefore this only leaves service upon a conspicuous part of the property.
Although the Party Wall etc Act 1996 doesn’t define what “a conspicuous part of the property” is, we interpret this to mean service upon a place whereby it can be clearly seen by the owner.
In our experience this means the door or the gate of the property.
We have included a photograph of a Party Wall Notice we have served upon conspicuous parts of an adjoining owner’s property. We placed the Party Wall Notice complete with cover letter and drawings in a plastic wallet to ensure the Notice wasn’t detrimentally affected or rendered illegible by rain, damp or moisture.
The aim should be to ensure the Notice is as visible as possible as this will avoid a dispute further down the line.
If you are planning on serving the Party Wall Notices yourself and are unsure of the owner’s name or find yourself in the situation whereby you are unable to obtain the adjoining owner’s name, we would suggest speaking to our Party Wall team at the first instance.
Ensuring valid Party Wall Notice service is key to the Party Wall Process.