To begin the process, you will need to serve notice on any neighbours you share a party wall with. A Party Wall Notice will tell the adjoining owners about the work you’re planning to carry out and should be served between two months and a year in advance of the work starting, although the sooner, the better to avoid delays.
While the notice needs to be served in writing, it’s always worth speaking to your neighbour first to explain the project and reassure them that you’re following all the rules. Hopefully, this openness will help to reduce any concerns and lead to a swift agreement. If this is the case, your neighbours simply need to give their consent in writing within 14 days – in which case you’re ready to begin work.
Of course, it’s understandable that your neighbour may be concerned about any impact the work may have on their home, and so they may refuse consent, issue a counter-notice or simply fail to respond. While each of these may be frustrating when you want to get on with your improvements, none of them mean the end for your project.
How to reach an agreement if you’re in dispute
If your neighbour refuses consent or doesn’t respond within 14 days, you are judged to be ‘in dispute’. While this sounds quite serious, it doesn’t have to be. It may simply be that your neighbour has a couple of concerns that they want to be addressed, such as reduced working hours to minimise the disruption.
If an agreement is still proving elusive, however, it’s time to appoint a party wall surveyor who will be able to arrange a Party Wall Agreement, also called a Party Wall Awards. While this may be frustrating, try to keep dialogue open with your neighbour. It’ll be down to you to pay for the surveyor, and your neighbours, if they choose to appoint their own rather than use yours, so it’s worth keeping things friendly.
The Party Wall Award is a legal document that details the type of work to be carried out, how and when this should happen and who is responsible for the payment, including the surveyor’s fee. If your neighbour chooses their own surveyor, both surveyors must agree on the terms of the Party Wall Award.
While the award is considered conclusive, there is still the option to contest it, but this must be done within 14 days of receiving the document from the surveyor. In this case, an appeal must be lodged with the county court. The court can then overturn or make changes to the award or make an alternative decision concerning the dispute process to put a Party Wall Award in place.
It’s worth remembering that the adjoining owners cannot legally prevent the proposed building work from taking place because, for example, they don’t like the idea of you having an extension. The only scenarios in which they could actually prevent the work from starting is where an extension needs ‘special foundations’ such as piles or any foundations with metal reinforced bars, or if what would become a new party wall is located on their boundary.
Once the final Party Wall Award is in place, there are certain conditions you must abide by. For example, you must avoid causing ‘unnecessary inconvenience’ to your neighbour or any damage to their property. If this does happen, you will be responsible for paying to fix it. Your neighbour, meanwhile, may have to provide access to their property during acceptable hours if it’s required for the party wall works.
How to appoint a party wall surveyor
The party wall surveyor has a crucial role to play in helping to keep the process moving, especially when you’re in dispute, so it’s essential to choose them wisely. Ideally, you’ll want your adjoining owner to use the same surveyor as you, so they need to be impartial, transparent, honest and fair. Opting for a RICS certified surveyor is a sensible choice as they need to meet high standards of professionalism and competency and, if either party isn’t satisfied, there’s a clear complaints and dispute resolution process to follow.
It’s also important to choose a party wall surveyor who isn’t just experienced in party wall matters but also knowledgeable about the works taking place. Construction projects can be complex and involve multiple different parties, so the more experienced your surveyor is, the more confident you can bet that they’ll have a handle on every aspect.
Finally, choose a party wall surveyor who is responsive when you contact them. If you’re in dispute, it won’t help matters if your neighbour thinks you’re dragging your feet or not taking their concerns seriously, so you need a surveyor who keeps all parties informed and can help avoid delays.
The Novello Approach
At Novello Chartered Surveyors, we’re a team of highly experienced RICS qualified surveyors that can work on behalf of the building owner, the adjoining owner or as an agreed surveyor for both neighbours. However we’re employed, we guarantee to offer an impartial, punctual and professional service to help you navigate what can be a difficult and confusing time.
Communication is key to our offering. We work hard to make sure all parties are informed at all stages, helping to keep the process moving and avoid the legal and financial setbacks that can plague party wall matters.
We aim to simplify the party wall process, to guide you through each aspect so you and other affected parties can proceed with confidence, and to provide expert advice so everyone can reach an outcome they’re happy with, with the minimal amount of fuss.