In this week’s blog, I will be discussing whether a building owner, who is the person undertaking the construction works, would be required to go through the Party Wall Procedures including serving a Party Wall Notice and potentially having a Party Wall Award in place for an extension to their property.
What is the Party Wall Agreement?
You may be wondering what Party Wall Agreements are? The technical term for this type of document is an “Award” or “Party Wall Award”.
Party Wall Awards are commonly produced by two Party Wall Surveyors, if the adjoining owner, who is the neighbour adjoining the works, decides to appoint their own Surveyor in response to the building owner’s Party Wall Notice, or it can be produced by an ‘Agreed Surveyor’ if the adjoining owner responds by concurring in the appointment of the building owner’s Party Wall Surveyor.
We can usually divide the Party Wall Agreement into 3 sections
Firstly, the Party Wall Agreement will set requirements as to how the proposed notifiable works, which are essentially the works that the Party Wall etc Act 1996 covers, should be undertaken on site.
For instance, if works are being undertaken directly to a Party Wall, you will commonly find clauses within Party Wall Agreements which will prohibit the use of power percussive tools on the wall itself. The benefit of a clause such as this is that it will limit the vibration to the party wall, which in turn should greatly reduce the risk of damage.
You will also commonly find clauses within Party Wall agreements in relation to a sectional hit and miss bays. This clause requires that foundations are to be in dug in 1m sequential hit and miss bays, ensuring no two bays are open alongside one another at the same time. The benefit of this clause is that it greatly reduces the risk of any structural movement to the adjoining owner’s property.
If you are an adjoining owner, you may find relief in the fact that Party Wall agreements also contain clauses which deal with the contractor’s working hours. This is because the Party Wall etc Act 1996 states “An award may determine the time and manner of executing any work”.
However, the working hours are in relation to the notifiable works which are taking place and Party Wall Surveyors do not have the authority to set working hours for any work which isn’t notifiable under the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
As you can see, a Party Wall Agreement is in place to resolve legal disputes that exist under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 between the building owner and adjoining owner. I would recommend looking at our website for more valuable information or if you wish to speak to one of our Surveyors, we would be more than happy to assist.
Secondly, the Party Wall Agreement will in all normal circumstances include a Schedule of Condition Report.
A Schedule of Condition Report acts as a record of proof of the adjoining owner’s property, the report is prepared by the building owner’s Surveyor before the notifiable works have taken place and are in place to protect the adjoining owner’s from damage caused to their property by the building owner’s proposed works.
I know you’re thinking “WHAT! Can my property be damaged?” Don’t panic! If the damage is caused by the building owner’s notifiable works, then under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 the building owner will be legally liable to make good the damage to the adjoining owner’s property. Phew! See image below which shows one of our Surveyors completing a Schedule of Condition report!
Lastly, the Party Wall Agreement will also contain the project drawings with the pack usually containing both the architectural and structural drawings.
Do I need a Party Wall Agreement for my extension, then?
The answer isn’t a simple yes or no… I would certainly advise speaking to one of the Party Wall team here at Berry Lodge Surveyors! However, let’s try and answer it.
Generally, one of the first steps would be to take a detailed look at the architect’s drawings to determine where the excavations for the proposed foundations and the location of the new walls forming the flank of the proposed extension will be placed.
Once the understanding is there, you can then research and refer to her Majesty’s Land Registry to determine any adjoining owners who may be affected by the works and who may require the service of a Party Wall Notice.
A Party Wall Notice is a legal document which serves to inform the adjoining owner’s of the proposed notifiable works by the building owner (owner proposing to carry out the notifiable works).
Very commonly, rear extensions involve excavations for foundations and this falls within the definition of notifiable works under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 (see below image of notifiable works).
Therefore, if you are excavating within six metres of the adjoining owner’s property then the building owner is duty-bound to serve a Party Wall Notice upon the adjoining owner, citing Section 6 of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
“a building owner proposes to excavate, or excavate for and erect a building or structure, within a distance of three metres measured horizontally from any part of a building or structure of an adjoining owner; and (b) any part of the proposed excavation, building or structure will within those three metres extend to a lower level than the level of the bottom of the foundations of the building or structure of the adjoining owner”
Another point to consider with extensions is that if you (the building owner) are proposing to build a new wall up to or astride the line junction, which is commonly known as the boundary line, then Section 1 of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 would be applicable and you must serve a Party Wall Notice on the adjoining owner indicating your intention for this type of work.
Now, once the Party Wall Surveyor has identified whether the proposed extension is notifiable under the Party Wall etc Act 1996, the next step would be to serve the Party Wall Notices.
Once Party Wall Notices have been served, the adjoining owners are given 3 response options, I will discuss these options in greater detail in another blog post, however, in short, they can:
- Consent to the Party Wall Notice and works
- Dissent to the Party Wall Notice and works and appoint an Agreed Surveyor
- Dissent to the Party Wall Notice and works and appoint their own Party Wall Surveyor.
The latter two options would mean a Party Wall Agreement will be agreed by the Party Wall Surveyor or Surveyors.
It isn’t uncommon for building owner’s to ignore or conveniently overlook their legal requirements as set out the Party Wall etc Act 1996 and fail to serve Party Wall Notices, owners who are doing so should be very cautious, case law is against them on this ‘Histed V Prosperity Development Ltd 2013’ confirms that a judge will not take lightly to building owners who commence construction works that are in breach of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
In this particular case, an injunction was sought by the adjoining owner and was granted by the courts.
As you can see, the consequences for this can quickly cost the building owner valuable time and can also have a huge financial penalty and consequence.
I would, therefore, recommend always speaking to an experienced Party Wall Surveyor well in advance of undertaking construction works on site. Why not give us a call to discuss how we can be of assistance to you.