I am a building owner - what do I need to know?

Building Owners

How Building Owners Can Address Party Wall Disputes

As with most building projects, it is always

an extremely good idea to informally approach neighbours and other owners where possible to discuss the details of your planned work before serving your written notice. If a formal party wall notice is the first indication a neighbour receives about your project it can create a negative impression and lead to otherwise unnecessary trouble. You will always still need to follow up with a written notice. Remember that you cannot begin your construction project until either you have the necessary neighbours written agreement to the works that are the subject of the Act, or unless a dispute has arisen (or is deemed to have arisen) and your appointed surveyors

have prepared and issued a Party Wall Award, and followed the procedures set out in the party Wall etc Act.

What if Difficult Neighbours Dispute The Project?

First off, you should be reassured to know that the primary purpose of the Party Wall Act of 1996 is to facilitate responsible development. The Party Wall etc Act is arguably favourably disposed towards the interests of construction projects and the dissenting neighbours do need to establish substantive basis for not allowing the construction or excavation to proceed. It is the responsibility of the appointed Surveyors to decide matters, although the Adjoining Owner can refer decisions to the Third Surveyor. The Third Surveyor can determine who will be responsible for costs involved in such referrals, and this should be a deterrent to any malicious Adjoining Owner or Building Owner, since they could end up paying the costs. It is probably not likely that unnecessarily difficult neighbours will successfully prevent progress as long as your proposed work does not otherwise violate any other regulations or local authority approvals. Even if a neighbour refuses to respond at all, the Act provides a solution whereby you can appoint a Surveyor to act for them.

The Party Wall Surveyors will draft a document called a Party Wall Award after their assessments and research is complete. Amongst other issues, the Party Wall Award will usually include a detailed description of the current condition of the walls in question and relevant details of the work to be performed and any restrictions on method. In some cases this Award document may grant rights of access to both properties as necessary for the work to be properly conducted, although such rights of access must take into account inconvenience to Adjoining Owners and occupiers and, again, such issues should normally be addressed within the Award .When there is a party wall dispute the Award will also determine who will pay for the work, but usually the building owner initiating the work will be responsible for costs unless unusual or other circumstances have arisen.

During the course of the construction project the party wall surveyors often return to the property to inspect that the work is being conducted in compliance with the terms of the Award document. If you have an opportunity to settle a party wall dispute with neighbours before the Award document is served, both parties can agree in writing to settle outstanding grievances between them and avoid the need for a detailed and sometimes costly Award.