The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is very often misunderstood; more often than not people carrying out building works consider it to be an unnecessary and costly nuisance. It is however a legal requirement to serve the appropriate notices if you intend to carry out certain types of building works such as excavation for foundations, drainage, etc. near to a neighbouring property for an extension or if you wish to put structural beams into a party wall for a loft, extension or even to remove a chimney breast.
What to do If you are the Building Owner – the person carrying out the works
· Talk to the owners of buildings which may be affected by the works to let them know that you intend to carry out building works and that you plan to serve the appropriate Notices on them. A personal touch to start with is always likely to lead to a better experience for both parties.
· Ensure you serve the correct notices (incorrect Notices may lead to costs and delays) and that you do it plenty of time to avoid delaying the start of your build. Works to the Party Wall are subject to two-month Notice period; excavations require one-month.
· Make sure you serve Notice on the correct persons/organisations. You do not need to serve Notice on tenants, but must serve Notice on any leaseholders and freeholders who would be affected by the works
Building Owners – what’s in it for me?
· As a Building Owner The Act gives you certain rights such as access to work from an adjoining owners property in certain circumstances to build an extension for example or to carry out repairs
· If the Adjoining Owners will benefit from the works you are carrying out, then they are liable through the Act to pay their fair share. For example if they want to use a wall you have built to construct their extension they would be expected to share the cost of construction of that wall.
Adjoining Owners – how do I benefit and what should I do if I am served an Award?
· If you are served a Notice by someone intending to carry out works, you can either choose to Assent or Dissent.
· If you choose to Assent, you still have all the Rights that the Act provides and have the option to Dissent at a later date.
· If you choose to Dissent, then you and your
will either have to
- agree on the appointment of a surveyor to act for both parties; this person must be impartial and independent, or
- each party can choose to appoint their own surveyor
· Generally speaking, the parties carrying out the building work will be liable for all the surveyors reasonable fees unless the adjoining owner will derive some benefit from the works, in which case the fees will be shared according to how each of the owners will benefit
· As an adjoining owner you may receive letters from surveyors seeking an instruction from you, sometimes using phrases to make you anxious about works being carried out and offering you assurances that “all will be well” if you appoint them. Before you sign and return any documents, contact your neighbours in the first instance or us here at Create if you would like any advice about what you should do next
Myths and Facts
· If an Adjoining Owner Dissents, that doesn’t mean a Building Owner cannot carry out the proposed works providing the necessary Planning and other Consents are in place
· If an Adjoining Owner ignores the Notices that have been served or if it is not possible to contact adjoining owners, it does not prevent Building Owners carrying out their planned works. The Act makes provision for this and allows Building Owners to appoint a surveyor on behalf of an Adjoining Owner provided that the correct Notices and letters are served, correct procedures are carried out and the appropriate timescales are adhered to.