Party Walls – “ Plain Sailing…. (Stormy Waters!!)”

I have recently spend some time researching the advice that is available and easy to find on the internet with regards to Party Walls and how they affect both building and adjoining owners. To my surprise the information now available is in excess of my expectations and much of the information available is straight forward and helpful, however some of the advice I came across was quite simply, wrong.

As a Party Wall Surveyor myself, I knew what information was right and where the main misconceptions lie and so it was easy for me to sieve through the articles and guides, however as a lay man, having done the same exercise I would probably have a rather bad headache and feel all the more confused than when I started.

At Party Wall Services we strive to make the whole process as straightforward and cost effective as possible. It is true there are often complication or..hu? Shall I say challenging neighbour to contend with but all in all, provided all the parties involved correspond well with one another there is no reason why all matters cannot be resolved amicably under the act. This leads me to an article I read which detailed the specifics of a party wall issue that had arisen where appointments had been made by each affected party and all matters were handled efficiently and effectively under the Act. No much to write about you may think, but the case was made more complicated by the disgruntled neighbours, who had been promised the EARTH and where given none.

In this case the adjoining owners had received a letter from a firm when an application for planning had been approved. The surveyor had written to them and confirmed they could look into all Building Surveying issues and that they would be protected by the act from incurring any fees…. Sounding familiar?? Well, in this case the nameless firm/ surveyor were successful and where duly appointed following the Building owners service of notice.

The adjoining owners were concerned as the works including excavating within close vicinity of their property and also building close to the boundary line (note, closely and not on or astride) They were also concerned that due to the location and access issues with the site that they would be forced to give access and that this would lead to their garden becoming an extension to the site and their vegetable patch being destroyed along with creating a mud pool and reducing their ability to let their dog into the garden without escaping. Obviously all matters that the party wall surveyor felt he could resolve for them within the award.

Rightly so the notice served was a notice of adjacent excavation and an award was drawn up dealing with this element of works and satisfactorily included method statements, protection and insurances. However, the award made no reference to access or to the vegetable patch, or the ensuring that the garden remained dog safe to the astonishment of the adjoining owner how immediately complained to their appointed surveyor and were told that these matters fell outside of the party wall surveyors remit. This resulted in the adjoining owners refusing access until an official agreement was in place and caused the building owner several delays, not to mention additional expense.

The adjoining owners stated that they would have been happy to be neighbourly and to agree a sensible solution to their concerns but felt let down by their surveyor who, on several occasions in writing, had confirmed these matters would be specifically detailed and agreed within the award.

I found this an interesting article as it brought home the importance of not only acting within your remit as a party wall surveyor but also of ensuring that you communicate the limitations of your role. A failure to act accordingly or to mislead an appointing owner could lead to complicated issues and will certainly affect your status with the RICS if you have neglected to maintain professional and ethical standards. Whilst the RICS recognises that writing to individuals following planning application searches in itself is not a breach of their rules they have made the importance of ensuring information provided within any such correspondence is accurate and not misleading.

If you need advice about Party Walls or would like to discuss a current case please do not hesitate to contact us for guidance. We provide 1 hour free advice and are happy to review any documents you may have. Our aim is to increase awareness of the Act and to ensure that all matters are handled in accordance with its provisions.

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Party Wall Services Surveyor
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