Party Wall Advice

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 is often overlooked by parties carrying out development work. For many, this piece of legislation is only learned of when they are just about to start work on site, or for many, when they have already begun. This can cause problems for both the person(s) undertaking the building works (known as the Building Owner) and also for the neighbour(s) to the person undertaking the work (known as the Adjoining Owner).

You will need to comply with the requirements of The Party Wall etc Act 1996 if you are intending to carry out certain building works to any part of a wall or floor separating different buildings regardless of whether the buildings are residential or commercial. Also if you intend to carry out excavations close to an adjoining owners property, then you may also need to comply with The Party Wall Act. Other works to external party ‘fence’ walls (typically shared garden/yard walls) may require notice, as will somebody wishing to build a new wall at the boundary line (otherwise termed at the ‘Line of Junction’. In such cases, you will need to give notice(s) to the ‘Adjoining Owner(s)’.

Following receipt of a party wall notice, Adjoining Owners are legally entitled to seek professional assistance from their own party wall surveyor, and the ‘Building Owner’ is usually required to meet any ‘reasonable fees’ of any such surveyor appointed . If you fail to give correct notice, the consequences can be huge and costly.

Unforeseen damage may occur to the neighbours property, the costs of remedying would fall upon the Building Owner to meet. Works may have to be halted, which would likely incur you considerable costs and delay. Solicitors may become involved. If you have not followed the legislation correctly, you could end up footing the bill. By appointing your own party wall surveyor, you can be advised on the correct course of action, and in doing so, possibly keep future costs and disputes to a minimum.

If you are a neighbour to a building project, you may be classed as an ‘Adjoining Owner’. You should therefore receive a formal notice or notices, advising you of the intended works, seeking your consent, from the Building Owner who is to carry out the work. If you have concerns, you are entitled to appoint your own surveyor to represent you and protect your interests.

The Building Owner carrying out the works should pay for the ‘reasonable fees’ of this surveyor. If you are unsure about whether the works will be party wall works, please give us a call. Each party can insist upon having their ‘own’ surveyor. Such a surveyor must act independently; they are not there to act as your agent, they are there to make sure the legislation is implemented correctly. This approach will involve the Building Owner usually having to meet the costs of both surveyors. The Act does allow for both neighbours to agree in the appointment of just one surveyor, see below.

If a dispute arises, then each party, if both in agreement, may appoint the same surveyor to act as an independent surveyor, known in the Act as the ‘Agreed Surveyor’. This allows the Surveyor to implement the legislation independently, to resolve a dispute, ensuring the legislation is followed. The Agreed Surveyor is not there to ‘take sides’. The appointment really is an independent one, and as such, is a valid option reinforced by the inclusion of this option in the legislation.

Why Choose Smith Marston?

Anybody can fulfil the role of a ‘Party Wall Surveyor’.

No formal training is necessary, indeed, party wall surveyors do not even need to be members of the The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). As such, there can be a large variance of knowledge, and the understanding of The Party Wall etc Act 1996.

At Smith Marston, all our surveyors are experienced Chartered Building Surveyors, regulated by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. In addition, one of our Directors, Adrian Marston, has also undergone additional training and assessment so as to become a Member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors.

We therefore pride ourselves on our level of knowledge, and our impartiality, in being able to advise you soundly on the complexities of this piece of legislation. We also are here to help you through the process, without charging you unnecessarily high fees; we never seek to ‘run up’ time related fees, which is particularly important when often it is one side who ends up paying for professional fees.