Party Wall Agreements
If you are planning some building work, you'll need to adhere to a party wall agreement. A competent professional will not only read out the rules in the party wall act but also explain how they might affect your plans for the building work. This article will shed more light on party wall agreements when it comes to building and property surveys.
This is technically referred to an award. It is a critical document produced by party wall surveyors on behalf of respective owners. The document primarily aims at setting guidelines of the proposed work.
Components of a Party Wall Agreement
It has three primary parts as discussed below:
I. The award itself- it sets the guidelines that govern how the processed work will have to progress.
II. Condition schedule- it is on the adjoining property and supported by a set of photographs.
III.Drawing- it shows all the details of the processed work
This document is always based on a draft document but can be amended depending on the details of specific works. It should have full details of both surveyors and a third party surveyor. Below are some other items covered by the "Award" document.
- A brief description of the works proposed
- The time of work (when the working will start and when it will be stopped)
- An assurance regarding the insurance of contractor's public liability
- The indemnity of the building owners in favour of the adjourning owner
- The access arrangements for the two surveyors
- The time limit for work commencement which is usually 12 months
- The surveyor's fee
Once the document has been agreed on and approved, it is published. This is meant to give the go-ahead to start the work.
When undertaking building work that is likely to affect adjacent properties, particularly in built up areas, in order to protect the interests of your neighbours you are required to serve notice informing them of your intentions. Works which require notice are covered by the Act include;
- The construction of a new wall along a shared boundary;
- Excavations which exceed the depth of the foundations of the neighbouring property, usually taken as 800mm below ground level.
- Any works to the party wall itself.
The Act details the rights and responsibilities of both parties and covers items such as repairing any damage caused during the works, timescales and apportionment of costs.
The party wall Act requires that if any work proposed to be undertaken fall within the scope of the Act, notice must be served to the adjoining owner/s within a specified period prior to the commencement of the work. The notice must be correctly drawn up with all the required detail and is to be accompanied with drawings showing the depth of any excavations planned. This would include excavations for new foundations, underpinning and drainage works, where they exceed the depth of the Adjoining Owners foundations.
Party Wall Agreements
Once notice has been served, the adjoining owner/s have 14 days to consent to or dissent from the works. If they consent to the works and agree that the works can go ahead, nothing further is needed under the Act. However, if you proceed with the works on that basis, neither you nor your adjoining owner/s will benefit from the rights or the protections conferred by the Act.
If your adjoining owner/s dissent from the works or fail to respond within 14 days of the date notice is served, you must appoint a party wall surveyor to Act on your behalf and to prepare a party wall agreement (party wall award) between the parties. The Award will also cover items like excessive noise, access on to the adjoining owner/s land, the erection of scaffolding and expenses.
It's usual under the Act that the party wishing to undertake the works, the Building Owner, pays the Adjoining Owner/s reasonable fees in dealing with the matter. As a budget figure we would suggest making an allowance of £850.00 plus VAT per Party Wall Award, remembering there could be at least two properties affected by the proposed works.
The following pages contain Frequently Asked Questions which normally arise, otherwise please feel free to contact us, either using the details below or the Contact page.
What happens if damaged is caused to my property? Under the Act you have a choice, either you can allow the Building Owner to fix the damage caused, using their builders, or receive a cash settlement in order for you to arrange for the repairs to be undertaken. To help prevent disputes as to whether an item of damage is a result of the works, a Schedule of Condition is usually prepared detailing any defects, however small, in the Adjoining Owner/s property prior to any work commencing.
What about the noise and dust caused by the building works next door? Under normal circumstances there's not much that can be done about that, the Building Owner/s have the right to cause what is deemed to be 'reasonable level of disturbance'. However if the Adjoining Owner has been caused a serious inconvenience, say the closure of a music room due to the level of noise created, compensation is usually paid, but it would have to be a demonstrated and measurable loss.
Can the builder come over to my side of the wall? If the work cannot be undertaken any other way, then yes the Act allows for the Building Owner, his workmen and Agents on your side of the wall. The key here is whether if the work can be done in a different manner? An example would be the construction of a new wall, while it could be argued it could be built entirely from the Building Owner/s side of the wall; however the standard of workmanship would suffer.
Likewise if the wall is to have a rendered finish, this would be nearly impossible to apply from the Building Owners side of the wall. What the Building Owner is not allowed to do is use your side of the wall as an extension to his building site just because it makes life more convenient for them. That means materials, spoil from excavations and rubbish must be kept on their side of the wall.
It is common under these circumstances that scaffolding is required to facilitate the works, which will usually have to remain in place until the majority of the external works are complete. Again compensation can be sought where a demonstrated and measurable loss occurs to the Adjoining Owner.
Can the works commence before the Award is in place? In short no, if the Building Owner commences work that is covered by the Act prior to the Award being in place they are acting unlawfully. However, other work that falls outside of the Act can proceed. An example of this would be the internal strip out of a property prior to the main structural works being undertaken.
How many people do I serve Notice to? The Act requires Building Owners to serve notice to all affected Adjoining Owners and defines an Owner as someone with an interest in the property of greater than 12 months. This would, therefore, include any Leaseholders as well as any Owners. In some circumstances it may be justified not to serve notice to all parties where the works are relatively minor, an example of this might be the insertion of a lead flashing at roof level, which would not affect the Owners two stories below, but this should be looked at on a case by case basis.
My neighbour has started work without serving notice? If the work being undertaken falls within the scope of the Act, i.e. works to the Party Structure (which can be a wall, floor or fence wall, excavations within 3 meters of your property to a depth that is equal to or greater than your foundations) you can apply to the Courts for Interlocutory Relief. This will stop the works until the proper procedures have been followed, however, should you be found to be in error, you would be liable for any costs incurred by the Building Owner, so always seek professional advice before embarking on this route. If you receive an Injunction you must stop work and seek professional advice, failure to do so could place you in Contempt of Court, which can result in imprisonment.
So when is the best time to serve a Notice? Usually as early as possible, although the greater level of information you provide with the Notice, less questions will be asked by the Adjoining Owner/s Surveyor, thus minimising their fees. We would suggest the best time is when you have prepared the necessary drawings and information needed for Building Control Approval as a similar level of detail required for both activities.
What do I do if I receive a Notice? Firstly don't panic, the Act is there to protect your rights while allowing your neighbour to exercise their rights to undertake some building works. The fact you have received a Notice means your neighbour wishes to follow the Act. Of course the first thing we would suggest is to contact us. However, it's possible your neighbour will have appointed their own Surveyor and it is perfectly reasonable for you to use the same Surveyor or you may appoint your own.
I have started work and realise the Party Wall Act applies, what should I do? Any works which have already been undertaken are deemed to be unlawful and therefore you should try and amend this as soon as possible. To do this you will need to contact the Adjoining Owner and ensure they have no objections with the proposed works. As you cannot serve a Notice retrospectively, a simple letter explaining what works are being undertaken and when should suffice. If there is more work required, which is yet to start, which falls under the Act you will need to postpone these items until Notice has been served.
How long do I have to wait before I can start work? This depends upon the type of work being undertaken. For excavations, including foundations and drainage works, Notice should be served at least one month prior to the planned commencement. For work to the actual Party Structure or Party Fence Wall, a minimum of two months notice is required, however in both cases you can start sooner by mutual consent.
What is a Party Wall? There are two principle types of Party Wall, in its simplest form it is a wall which separates two properties with the boundary falling somewhere within the thickness of the wall. This is known as a Type 'A' Party Wall. The Second type Party Wall is where the wall separates two properties, but the boundary lays beyond the width of the wall, this is known as a Type 'B' Party Wall.
A Party Fence wall is principally the same as a Type 'A' wall, however it separates two pieces of land in lieu of buildings.
And finally, a Party Structure is any horizontal division of a property with separate owners, e.g. the floor in a block of leasehold flats.
If the above hasn't answered your questions, or you seek further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us, either using the details below or by using the Contact page.