Common Questions on Party Wall Awards or Agreement

What is the Party Wall Act etc. 1996?

The Party Wall Act etc. 1996 is a piece of legislation that sets out a framework for how proposed building works affect neighbouring properties. It is designed to prevent or resolve disputes between property owners. It covers three different areas of work:

– Works directly affecting an existing Party Wall or Party Structure
– Excavation work within 3 metres or 6 metres of a neighbouring property and to a depth deeper than the neighbouring foundations
– New walls built up to or astride the boundary line between properties

The above works are known as ‘notifiable’ works and Building Owners proposing such works should inform Adjoining Owners in writing by way of a Notice.

What is a Party Wall?

A ‘party wall’ is typically a wall that stands astride a boundary line between two separate properties. The dividing wall between two houses is a good example of this. However, a ‘party wall’ can also sit on one side of a boundary but still separate two properties. For example, if an owner builds a wall just inside their boundary and a neighbour then constructs something up against it at a later date, this wall then becomes a ‘party wall’.

The Act also refers to a ‘party structure’, which can be a dividing partition or ceiling between two properties. These are typically found in flats.

A garden wall built astride a boundary separating two properties is a ‘party fence wall’.

What is a not Party Wall?

A fence or a hedge dividing two properties and a garden wall built wholly on one owner’s land are not ‘party walls’.

What happens under the Act?

When a Building Owner wishes to have notifiable works carried out, they should inform the Adjoining Owner in writing by serving a Notice. The Notice will detail what the proposed works entail and reference any architectural or structural drawings. The Adjoining Owner then has three choices. They can either;

– Consent to the works.
– Dissent and agree to the appointment of an Agreed Surveyor to act for both owners.
– Dissent and appoint their own Party Wall Surveyor to act on their behalf.

Should an Adjoining Owner not respond to a Notice, they are deemed to have dissented and the Act allows for the Building Owner to appoint a surveyor on their behalf. This cannot be the surveyor who is already acting for the Building Owner.

If an Adjoining Owner dissents, a dispute is deemed to have arisen. An agreement is required in order to resolve the dispute, and this is achieved by the agreement of a Party Wall Award.

What is a Party Wall Award?

A Party Wall Award is a document that is prepared and agreed by the Party Wall Surveyors, or Agreed Surveyors, and details various elements relating to the proposed works. It will detail such things as agreed working hours, drawings detailing works proposed access arrangements, noise and dust control, etc.

The Award will also have a Schedule of Condition report attached which is an integral part of the Award.

What is a Schedule of Condition report?

The Schedule of Condition is an agreed factual record of the condition of the neighbouring property prior to works commencing. This identifies existing defects and is essential in assessing the condition of the property once works are complete to assess if any damage has been caused during the construction phase of the project.

What is a Counter Notice?

A Counter Notice is served by an adjoining owner in response to a Party Wall Notice they have received. It is served when the adjoining owner feels the proposed works should be carried out other than specified, or in a manner which mitigates potential adverse effect on their property.

Can works commence before a Party Wall Award is agreed?

Only non-notifiable works can commence before an Award is agreed. Notifiable works under the Act should only commence once a Party Wall Award has been agreed and signed by the Two Surveyors or Agreed Surveyor.

Who pays the surveyors costs?

Most of the time, the Building Owner will typically pay all costs associated with drawing up the Party Wall Award. This is when they are the beneficiaries of the proposed works.

In some cases, if works are required due to defects or repairs to a ‘party wall’, then the Adjoining Owner may have to pay costs also.

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