All too often Party Wall Surveyors find themselves drawn towards matters that fall outside of the remit if the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and it is often difficult for neighbours to accept that surveyors cannot determine or agree ALL matters that arise. Particularly common issues include Rights of Light and Boundary Disputes as well as other easements.
Whilst it can often be difficult to explain the limits of our duties as Party Wall Surveyors, it is important that we do not enter into negotiations on these matters as it can invalidate the process to which we are party.
Under Section 9 of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 it is made clear that any Award or Agreement made shall not be seen to override any existing easements relating to the party wall or any structures within the scope of the Act. This therefore explicitly confirms that should a Party Wall Surveyor agree any particulars with the regards to any easements the Award itself would be contradictory in terms and therefore would be likely to be overrun.
In practical terms however, provided that there is no ‘Dispute’ over the boundary line, it is helpful for the surveyor/s to agree what is deemed to be the boundary and if any wall thereon are party or solely on the land of either owner.
With regards to Rights of light, it is best to advise any owner to seek proper independent advice of a specialist surveyor.
If an existing easement or covenant affects the proposals in may way, legal advice from a solicitor would be the best approach.
Remaining within ones own remit ensures that the process if focused entirely on the Party Wall Act and also ensures that, whilst neighbours may initially be put out, everyone is aware of the purpose of the Award and there are no areas of doubt or confusion. On that note it is also important that the correct advise on what steps should be taken with such matters and any concerns raised should be addressed timely so as not to further frustrate the situation. If the neighbours then choose not to instruct or progress matters with further parties, you can rest assured that you have given the best advise possible and clearly demonstrated your role.
It is also worthy of note that if you have historically been appointed to resolve a boundary dispute, right of light or other matter, provided that there are no on-going concerns, you can of course act as the current Party Wall Surveyor.