Party Wall Guidance – An update

As a homeowner it can be daunting when you are faced with the prospect of having to serve Party Wall Notices, especially if you were not previously aware that notices were required and are now facing delays in getting a project started or loosing your chosen contractor.

Whilst we encourage people to research all elements of the build well in advance we do realise, particularly with Rural projects, some people have never come across the act and the first they hear of it is by the contractor or neighbours right before the works are to commence.  In these situations, we will do all we can to support Building Owners and Adjoining Owners through the process to make the process as swift as possible and to minimise delays, provided that the information required for notices and awards (if required) is made available to us and neighbours are happy to waiver notice periods.

For additional information and support the government also provide a guidance leaflet which has recently been updated.  Please see the link below for some general information.  Should you require any further assistance, clarification or a quotation please do not hesitate to call Party Wall Services free on 0800 311 2077.

https://www.gov.uk/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance

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Know Your Limits

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.

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To appoint or not appoint…that is the question

To appoint or not appoint…that is the question

After receiving a Party Wall Notice, many adjoining owners contact Party Wall Services to ask for our advice on how to proceed. Often their main question is if they dissent to the said Notice should they appoint their own Party Wall surveyor or go with the building owner’s surveyor as an agreed surveyor. As always, there are positive and negative aspects when considering which option to choose.

If the adjoining owner has an amicable relationship with the building owner and does not want to do anything that might jeopardise that relationship, then choosing an agreed surveyor will definitely save the building owner some additional professional fees and possibly time in getting an award issued. However, the adjoining owner should also note that if they do choose an agreed surveyor and are unhappy with them then the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 does not make provision for complaint. The only recourse is if the adjoining owner has an issue with the award. Then the adjoining owner can take the award to the county court within 14 days of receiving it to contest it. This may seem to some a little too late.

On the other hand the adjoining owner is well within his rights to appoint their own surveyor, who works in conjunction with the building owner’s surveyor, to resolve the Party Wall dispute. The negative side is the additional surveyors fees that the building owner is responsible for under section 10(13) of the Act. But this option does give the adjoining owner another route to resolve any issue they might have with their surveyor. Under Section 10(1)(b) the two appointed surveyors have to select a third surveyor. Should you have any issues with your surveyors you may inform the third surveyor whose role it is to resolve the matter.

Which ever option you decide on, at Party Wall Services, we will be happy to offer friendly advice and can act as your agreed surveyor, building owner’s surveyor or adjoining owner’s surveyor.

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Down Under or Up Over?

I was reading an article recently on the job opportunities in Australia and never has the topic of relocation been a more appealing opportunity than now given the rather miserable summer we have been having. There are an abundance of jobs, particularly in the construction industry and the RICS is very respected and recognised over there, my only real issue is that there is no ‘Party Wall Legislation’ and I’ve kind of become accustomed to my role… which got me thinking…. Down Under, i.e. Basements, or Up Over, i.e Roof extensions…

Ok, so that was hardly the best way on introducing this blog, but it got your attention.. right?

We all know in recent years we have become less inclined to move and more inclined to improve our homes but if we are looking for additional living space, which way do we go? It has always been common to convert loft spaces into habitable rooms and is often one of the easiest to obtain planning for and cheapest to undertake, however now that many of us have converted our loft spaces, where do we go?

OK, so basements are not going to be as cheap or simple to procure but in many cases a basement is the real alternative to moving and more and more people are investing in extending downwards.

From a Party Wall prospective, this is great as it keeps us on our toes and up to speed with the latest pathologies and building techniques. I have recently run a seminar on Compensation issues surrounding Party Wall matters and raised the question over basement extensions during the seminar, as a result of which I will be arranging a Basements Vs Party Wall Seminar in October of this year which should prove to be a interesting and education debate. If you are interested in attending this seminar please contact me with your details and I will keep posted on details of the upcoming event. You may also like to follow us on Linked in.

One thing that has got me thinking is this, if a number of properties in a line of terraces have all created mansard roof extensions, at what point will the party walls be so overloaded that the next cannot undertake the same works without considering underpinning? And if underpinning is required, would it perhaps be more sensible for this owner to investigate the possibility of extending downwards instead?

In the future we may see a trend developing whereby one goes up and one goes down, and if this is possible or a real alternative, which property would sell best or be most appealing? Would the type of extension you have effect the value of your property or is space space when it comes to additional usable space?

It seems to me that there is a trend with Basements that is unlikely to shift and due to the extraordinary ways in which we can make an underground room a fantastic workable area, I’m intrigued to learn more, Perhaps a trip down under would help? If you like me, are fasinated in making the ordinary extraodrinary connect with me on Linked in and I will keep you posted on upcoming events.

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Starting a fresh in light of the Olympic Games

I had a recent call from a building owner who owns a property close to the new Olympic Games site who is looking to sell his property prior to the Olympics games and benefit from the increases in house prices in that area. His issue is that he is currently progressing through Party Wall negotiations and wanted to know where he stands if he sells the property.

Would any damages be his responsibility once he sold the property? If the Building Owner sells his property during the works can the Award be passed on to benefit the new owner?

At present there is no legal guidance on this matter. So any recommendations I gave him are from common sense in applying the Party Wall etc, Act 1996.

When applying the Act, it is very personal. An award does not bind land or sites, it binds owners and a firm is not appointed whereas a surveyor is. There is no mention in the Act for transferring the rights of a Building Owner to the new owner. Therefore if the Building owner sold his property during the course of works either before or after the Award was drawn up he would not be able to pass the benefit of an award to an incoming owner and the whole proceedings would have to start a fresh for the new owner.

However, if the works are complete, a Building Owner cannot be rid of the consequences of serving the original notice by disposing of the property. Any fees incurred or damage done will be his liability, although the new owner can if they so choose draw up an agreement and relieve the original building owner of his liabilities.

On the other hand, what if the Adjoining Owner decides to move half way through the proceedings? Should the Building owner have to start a fresh and serve notice on the new owners?

Considering the Act is an ‘enabling’ Act, to force the Building Owner to start afresh would not enable the works to continue but in fact delay them.

In the first instance, the new purchasing Adjoining Owner should be made aware of any party wall negotiations from the out set so no new notices would be required and the appointed Adjoining Owner surveyor can continue acting on behalf of the new owner. If an Award has been made then the new owner would be bound by that award. The property should be conveyed to the new owner with the full benefit and burden of the party wall proceedings.

So transferring the benefits and burdens is not possible for Building Owners but it is for Adjoining Owners.

 

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Don’t Get Done Get Dom!! BBC1 Today at 11am

 

One of our biggest challenges as Party Wall Surveyors is public awareness and understanding. We all strive to do our bit in making the Act something of a point of conversation and so when I was approached by the BBC to take part in a programme for consumer awareness I saw it as a chance to be doing my bit!!

It was somewhat a daunting experience and I really could not tell you very much about the process as I was a little shell shocked and star stricken (A number of celebs where walking around the studios during filming!) But I am hopeful I have done us surveyors’ justice and bought about a little more awareness so that the general public are a little more conscious of their rights and obligations…

Watch this space and any feedback on the show would be great…

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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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