You arrive home to find a Party Wall Notice which is in the form of a Letter, under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. Your neighbour is intending to carry out some works. What are your Party Wall Notice Response options?
- You can ignore the Letter/Notice, but that will have consequences.
- You can sign the Acknowledgement Letter, enclosed together with the Party Wall Notice and possibly drawings attached, and agree to the works, but that will also have consequences.
- You can dissent to the Party Wall Notice and that then becomes a formal dispute between you and your neighbour.
Not all cases are same, in some cases the Building Owner who is undertaking the works may propose to construct an extension, cut in or away from the party wall (i.e. cut in to insert a beam for the purpose of an extension or conversion or cut away from the party wall to remove a chimney breast) or build very close to your building’s foundations.
Should I instruct a Solicitor?
You don’t usually need to instruct a Solicitor. There are qualified and experienced Party Wall Surveyors who are empowered to carry out the provisions afforded to them by the Act.
You won’t be able to act for yourself. There needs to be a degree of impartiality hence a Surveyor won’t even be able to act as a Party Wall Surveyor for their own property.
Agreeing to the proposed works
Agreeing to the proposed works is the simplest option. Signing and agreeing to the proposed works means that the Building Owner(s) may proceed within the set timescale to start works.
By selecting this option, there is no real check on your interest during the works. Hence, this option is best selected for simple very straightforward works such as demolishing and rebuilding a party fence wall as the impact to your property with regards to damage or disagreements will be minimal.
Agreeing with conditions
You can also agree to the proposed works but may want something additionally done, so you will serve a ‘Counter-notice’.
This is your legal right under the Party Wall etc. act 1996 to ask for some amendment to the proposals but you may have to contribute financially if you are benefitting as a result to this, for example, raising a party fence wall for security or privacy. The Building Owner must consider this request and seek advice.
Another condition would be for you to consent to the works subject to having a written and photographic schedule of Condition Report undertaken by an independent Surveyor before the Building Owner commences works.
Dissenting to the Party Wall Notice
If dissenting to the Party Wall Notice served, you won’t be able to stop the works from proceeding, however, you will certainly cause a delay if you sign the Acknowledgement Letter / Party Wall Notice.
In this case, there will need to be at least one Party Wall Surveyor appointed. The options then are either to agree of appointing the one ‘Agreed’ Surveyor to look at the party wall issues or each party to appoint their own separate Party Wall Surveyor.
If you appoint an ‘Agreed’ Surveyor, this will save costs for the Building Owner and you would not normally have to contribute for the Surveyor’s fees, as the Building Owners bares these costs.
Similarly, if you appoint your own Party Wall Surveyor you would not normally have to contribute for the Surveyor’s fees, as the Building Owners bares these costs too. In exceptional circumstances, you may have to contribute to the fees, but this is not the usual case. For example, if the works benefit both parties such as demolishing and rebuilding a defective party fence wall then the Surveyors fees are shared between the two respective owners.
Usually, a better option if works are simple in nature. This can include the cutting away of chimney breasts from the party wall or demolishing and rebuilding a defective party fence wall.
If works are more complex such as alteration of structural foundations (underpinning), major excavations, taking down and rebuilding large areas of the party wall, etc. it may be a better option to appoint your own Surveyor.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with appointing an Agreed Surveyor even in complex jobs as it is incumbent on the Agreed Surveyor to act impartially in the interests of both neighbours, it is just best practice to appoint another Surveyor as their time will solely be spent on your interests and may look and have a different view on the works and be able to implement this on the Party Wall Award.
Appointing your own Independent Party Wall Surveyor
This option is more commonly selected on complex jobs as mentioned above. Each party must formally appoint their own Party Wall Surveyor within a short timescale allowed and then the two surveyors work together to come up with an agreement and serve a Party Wall Award. This is a formal written agreement between the two surveyors that sets out all the key aspects of the approach to the works relevant to the Party Wall Act.
There have been cases where the Building Owner knocks on their neighbour(s) door and discusses the intending works they wish to carry out and give them a letter to sign consenting and allowing them to proceed. In no way does this by-pass the Party Wall Act provisions. Any letter or notice needs to be left with you to take your time in understanding what is intended by the Building Owner.
You may still have concerns and you are entitled to professional advice before agreeing to anything. No one can take away the legal rights afforded to you by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
We always advise that you speak to a Party Wall Surveyor when you have been served with a Party Wall Notice. It is possible that the Notice/Letter may have been incorrectly drafted. We regularly find that notices served by Building Owners or their Agents are invalid due to a technicality. You may not be able to establish this.
If the Acknowledgement Letter/Notice is signed and dated by you, and the original notice is incorrect thus invalid, then the works should not commence until the Notice is correctly redrafted and served again.
If you have been served with a Party Wall Notice or have any questions regarding the matter why not take advantage of the 30 minutes free consultation and speak with one of our experienced surveyors who will gladly help.