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Property Surveying Blog

September 14, 2014

Glossary of Party Wall Terms

Written by Bradley Mackenzie

Building Owner

The Act defines a Building Owner as, ‘an owner of land who is desirous of exercising rights under this Act’. A building owner is the person undertaking the work, they will be the legal owner of the property.

Under the Act the Building Owner can be the leasehold or freehold owner.

Adjoining Owner

The Act defines an Adjoining Owner as, ‘any owner and any occupier of land, buildings, storeys or rooms adjoining those of the building owner’. An adjoining owner is the neighbour affected by the building owner’s proposed work.

Like a building owner, the adjoining owner can also be both a leaseholder and freeholder.

The Party Wall Surveyor

The Act defines a party wall surveyor as, ‘any person not being a party to the matter appointed or selected under section 10 to determine disputes’. A party wall surveyor is appointed to mediate the dispute that exists between the building owner and the adjoining owner.

You can read more about the role of a party wall surveyor here.

The Third Surveyor

The third surveyor is selected by the building owner’s surveyor and the adjoining owner’s surveyor. The third surveyor is only formerly ever called upon if the two surveyors are in dispute, the third surveyor would then determine the dispute in question.

The third surveyor’s fee will be paid by the party that looses the referral. You can read more about surveyor’s fees here.

Party Wall

There a number of different types of party walls, however these are generally split into two categories, the below drawings confirm these in further detail.

Type ‘A’ Party Wall

A wall which forms part of a building and stands on lands of different owners to a greater extent than the projection of any artificially formed support on which the wall rests.

 

Party Wall

Party Wall

 

Generally speaking these are walls separating houses (terraced or semi detached houses) they would have originally been built to be in shared ownership. You can see an example of a type A party wall here.

Type ‘B’ Party Wall

A wall that separates buildings belonging to different owners, essentially these are walls that may not originally have been built as a party wall, however through enclosure they have become party walls. You can see an example of a type B party wall here.

 

Party Wall

Party Wall

Party Fence Wall

A party fence wall is a solid wall, likely brick construction that separates the gardens of the building owner and the adjoining owner. The wall will be in shared ownership between the two owners.

 

 

Timber fences with concrete posts, modern brick walls are not party walls. You can see an example of a party fence wall here.

A Checking Engineer

A checking engineer is an independent engineer appointed by the surveyor to check the building owner’s proposals and ensure they pose the least amount of risk to the adjoining owner’s property. The appointment of a checking engineer is usually only ever made on work that involve a degree of structural complexity or added risk, for example basement work or underpinning. The checking engineer’s fee will be paid by the building owner. You can read more about surveyor’s fees here.

The Notifiable works

These are the works that are actually notifiable to the adjoining owner under the Act, for example if you are undertaking a loft conversion it will be the actually cutting of pockets for beams that are notifiable to the adjoining owner.

Under the Act the surveyors can only resolve a dispute that arrises as a result of the notifiable works. You can read more about notifiable works here.

Notices

The service of a notice will invoke the Act (commence the formal procedures as prescribed by the Act).

Commonly the building owner or their surveyor will serve a notice to the adjoining owner.

The notices must contain the minimum requirements of the Act in order to be deemed valid. You can read more about notices here.

Section 1 Notice

A section 1 notice is applicable when the building owner is undertaking the following two types of work:

  • Build a wall up to the line of junction, buy wholly on the building owner’s land.
  • Build a new party wall astride the line of junction.

A section 1 notice is commonly accompanied by a section 6 notice, as in effect both of the both types of work would require excavation.

Under the Act there is a 1 month statutory notice period that is applicable with this notice.

You can read more about Section 1 notices here.

Section 2 Notice

A section 2 notice is applicable when the building owner is undertaking work that directly affects a party wall or party fence wall. Section 2 of the Act is wide ranging, therefore if you are undertaking redevelopment work to your property it is very likely it wall be notifiable under this section.

Under the Act there is a 2 month statutory notice period that is applicable with this notice.

You can read more about Section 2 notices here.

Section 6 Notice

A section 6 notice is applicable when the building owner is excavating within 3m of the adjoining owner’s property and to a depth that is lower than their existing foundations.

Statutory Timeframes

Under the Act there are a number of statutory timeframes that must be followed in order to ensure that the process is correctly followed and the correct timescales are given to both the building owner and adjoining owner.

You can read more about these timeframes here.

Consent

A consent is a form of response from an adjoining owner to the notice served by the building owner.

If an adjoining owner consents to the notice they are effectively confirming that they do not want the formalities of the Act followed. If an adjoining owner consents it would still be highly advisable to undertake a schedule of condition of their property.

Once an adjoining owner consents, they can at a later date opt to dissent to the notice, however it has to be a result of a dispute, for example proposed access or damage.

Generally speaking unless the works are very straightforward consenting to the notice would not be advisable.

Dissent

A ‘dissent’ is a form of response from the adjoining to the notice served by the building owner. If an adjoining owner ‘dissents’ to the notice it will mean that they want to be afforded the protection of the Act, therefore the subsequent party wall procedure will have to be followed.

Once an adjoining owner dissents to the notice they have two options;

  • They will appoint their own surveyor (the adjoining owner’s surveyor) that surveyor will then agree an award with the building owner’s surveyor.
  • They can agree in the appointment of an agreed surveyor. This one surveyor will then act impartially agreeing an award on behalf of both the building owner and adjoining owner.

You can read more about the process that will be followed if an adjoining owner dissents here.

Dispute

A dispute is a term written within the Act, it refers to an adjoining owner dissenting to a notice served by the building owner. Once there is a ‘dispute’ under the Act the surveyors will be appointed to mediate and resolve the dispute.

You can read more about the types of matters surveyors deal with in resolving the dispute here. One of the most common responses we get from an adjoining owner is that they are not in fact in ‘dispute’ but just want to ensure their property is properly protected.

Party Wall Award 

A Party Wall Award is a legal document that will set out various provisions for the works that the building owner and his/her contractor’s must adhere to, for example, the time at which work can take place, the method in which the contractor is to undertake the work.

The Award will also fully protect the adjoining owner in the event that damage is caused to their property as a result of the notifiable works.

The award will be agreed by the surveyor or surveyors, it will also be signed by the surveyors, usually being witnessed. The award should be read by the building owner, their contractor and the adjoining owner and generally should be kept with the other legal documents in respect of the property.

The award will arrive in a report type format with drawings, the schedule of condition, photographs, method statements etc all being included within the document.

Once the award has been served both the building owner and adjoining owner have the right to appeal the award if there is an error within it that would deem it as having being improperly agreed.

Serving/Publishing the Award or Notice 

Serving or publishing the award or notice essentially means posting the document. The two words are interchangeable and mean the same thing. You will often hear a surveyor referring to the date of service. This is key as it will determine when the works can commence, or will act to trigger further notices. You can read more about notices here.

Surveyor’s Fees

The surveyor’s fees are all reasonable fees incurred in dealing with matters arising from the notifiable works.

Under all normal circumstances it is the building owner who is responsible for the adjoining owner’s surveyor’s reasonable fee. You can read more about surveyor’s fees here.

Schedule of Condition

A schedule of condition commonly referred to a ‘SOC’ by surveyors is the act of visiting the adjoining owner’s property in advance of the works commencing to record the current condition of the property.

The schedule of condition will involve taking detailed photos of the adjoining owner’s property and taking a detailed written record of the current condition of the property, noting any defects such as hairline cracks or de-bonding wall paper.

The schedule of condition will be in a report format and will form part of the award. The benefit of the schedule of condition is to set out a record of the current condition of the adjoining owner’s property, thereby allowing to the surveyors to determine if the building owner’s proposed notifiable works have caused any damage.

The schedule of condition will be checked of by surveyor upon completion of the works.

Making Good

Making good refers to the repair of damage caused by the building owner’s notifiable works to the adjoining owner’s property. When determining damage the surveyors will firstly review the original schedule of condition undertaken in advance of the notifiable works commencing.

They will then cross refer to the current condition making note of any deviation to the condition.

Finally once they have confirmed which areas of defect are new they will then arrive at a decision as to whether the defect or damage has been caused as a result of the building owner’s notifiable works.

If it is agreed that the damage has been caused by the notifiable works, the two surveyors will then proceed to agree for it to be made good. The adjoining owner has two options for making good:

  • The building owner’s contractor can repair the damage at the cost of the building owner.
  • The adjoining owner can request a ‘payment in lieu’ which is a cash settlement, they can then appoint their own contractor.

The adjoining owner’s choice of the above options should be made free from pressures of the surveyors, contractor or building owner.

Excavation 

Excavation refers to the Act of digging the trench that will facilitate the concrete foundations. Under the Act any excavations within 3m of the adjoining owner’s property and to a depth lower than their foundations will be deemed notifiable and therefore a notice must be served by the building owner.

Until the building owner has served the notice and sough the adjoining owner’s response, no notifiable work should take place on site.

Under Section 6 of the Act a valid notice must be accompanied by a drawing confirming the position and depth of the foundation.

Special Foundations 

The Act defines special foundations as, ‘foundations in which an assemblage of beams or rods is employed for the purpose of distributing any load’. Special foundations are commonly used in basement work.

Under the Act if the building owner intends to use special foundations they must obtain the express consent of the adjoining owner.

One of the issues of special foundations is that if an adjoining owner intend to undertake similar basement work in the future, they may have to find them self cutting back the building owner’s foundation, if this contains metal beams this can become a much slower and riskier process, this inevitably means it will cost more.

Generally speaking the use of special foundations will allow for a more streamline, narrow design it is therefore the foundation of choice for basement conversions.

Section Through of the foundations 

This is a drawing that is commonly requested the party wall surveyors the drawing will illustrate the proposed position of the building owner’s foundation in conjunction to the adjoining owner’s foundations. The importance of this drawing is that it will confirm the proposed design of the foundations thereby reassuring the surveyors that the detail has been considered by an architect or engineer as opposed to a laborer onsite.

This drawing becomes ever more important if the building owner’s proposed excavations are along side an existing structure owned by the adjoining owner.

Sequential ‘hit and miss’ bays

Sequential ‘hit and miss’ bays is the practice of excavating in bays, usually 1m in width, filling the exposed bay with concrete, waiting for the concrete to set and then commencing the next bay, again repeating the process. Sequential ‘hit and miss’ bays reduce the risk of structural movement to the adjoining owner’s property.

This method of excavation is usually only implemented when the  building owner’s proposed excavation is alongside the adjoining owner’s property, therefore excavating the entire trench in one go would be to risky with the risk of slippage or movement to the adjoining owner’s property being high.

Generally speaking contractors are not the biggest fans of sequential ‘hit and miss’ bays, not only do they take longer to undertake, but they will also cost the contractor more to do. You can see an example of Sequential ‘hit and miss’ bays here.

Underpinning

Underpinning takes place when the building owner builds directly along side the adjoining owner’s property and to a depth lower than their foundation. The soil conditions or the position of the adjoining owner’s foundations may require the building owner to underpin the adjoining owner’s structure in order to facilitate their proposed work.

Underpinning is a high risk and specialist form of construction, the risks are high as if incorrectly undertaken it is almost inevitable that the adjoining owner’s property will suffer some form of settlement and subsequent movement.

Any proposed  underpinning should be fully explained in a detailed and thorough method statement that should be reviewed by the surveyor(s) well in advance of the proposed work taking place. You can see an example of underpinning work here.

Security for Expenses

Security for expenses is a request from the adjoining owner to the building owners for a sum of money that will act as security in the event that the building owner commences the work, and for whatever reason, does not complete them leaving the adjoining owner’s property in a compromised state.

The adjoining owner could then request that the sum be released to pay for his property to be properly safeguarded. Under the Act, a request for security for expenses only becomes an issue to be dealt with by the two surveyors if the building owners refuse the request.