Overview of Process
What does a Party Wall Surveyor do and when may you require one?
A Party Wall Surveyor acts as a quasi-arbitrator in settling disputes between the Building Owner undertaking ‘notifiable works’ and the Adjoining Owner who is disputing them.
What are ‘notifiable works’?
These are works that fall under the remit of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 such as, works to a Party Wall, excavation works close to neighbouring structures and the construction of boundary walls.
What are the main requirements of the Party Wall Act?
The main requirement is to inform Adjoining Owners of the intended works and provide them with the opportunity to either consent or dissent to the works. Should the Adjoining Owner dissent, a Party Wall Surveyor must be appointed to resolve the dispute. The Surveyor produces an Award specifying what works are allowed to be carried out and how and when they may be undertaken to minimise disturbance and damage to the Adjoining Owner.
What is an Award?
The Surveyor’s determination is contained in the ‘Award’ which states which works the Building Owner may undertake and the manner in which they must be undertaken in order to minimise damage and disturbance to the Adjoining Owner.
If the Adjoining Owner dissents, does that have the effect of preventing the works going ahead?
No. The Party Wall Act gives a right for Building Owners to undertake works regardless of the Adjoining Owner consenting or dissenting. The Surveyor’s role is to advise what works are allowed and to ensure that the Adjoining Owner is protected as much as possible during the course of those works.
What protection does the Adjoining Owner have?
The Award itself is the first line of protection for the Adjoining Owner as it specifies how the works should be undertaken so as to minimise damage to neighbours.
Where damage has occurred to the Adjoining Owner the Surveyor will usually recommend that the Adjoining Owner give the contractor an opportunity to make good the damage. The Party Wall Act recognises that the Adjoining Owner may have justified reason for distrusting the contractor and hence it gives the Surveyor the right to Award monetary compensation instead.
The Surveyor can also make a monetary Award for certain other losses suffered by the Adjoining Owner as a result of the works.
The Award may occasionally specify that the Building Owner should submit a Security to an escrow account to be drawn upon in the event of any abortive works resulting in damage to the Adjoining Owner.
How does the Surveyor go about proving that damage has indeed occurred?
It is usual practice to undertake a Schedule of Condition of the Adjoining Owner’s property before the works commence, so that there is a record of its condition. The condition of the property during and after the works can then easily be compared to its condition before the commencement of the works.
Who appoints the Party Wall Surveyor?
Initially, it is the Building Owner who appoints the Surveyor. If the Adjoining Owner dissents he has the choice to either appoint the same Surveyor to act for both parties or to appoint his own Surveyor. Regardless of whether there is one Agreed Surveyor or two appointed Surveyors, the Surveyor’s role is always one of objective professional acting in the interest of both parties.
Who pays the Party Wall Surveyor?
The Building Owner generally pays for the whole cost of both the Building Owner’s Surveyor and the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor with rare exceptions.
What are those exceptions?
The Party Wall Act entitles the Adjoining Owner to request that the Building Owner undertake certain works on his behalf, at the cost of the Adjoining Owner. In this case, the cost of the extra Surveyor time involved would be covered by the Adjoining Owner.
Also, if the Adjoining Owner has been particularly vexatious the Surveyor has to consider the extra unnecessary cost suffered by the Building Owner and make a decision as to whether the Adjoining Owner is liable for some or all of it.