In order to help prevent and resolve disputes relating to construction work near neighbouring buildings, the Party Wall etc Act 1996 was introduced, meaning that any building owner looking to start work covered under the Act must give their adjoining owners notice of their intentions.

This is separate from having to sort out planning permission and building regulations approval, and it’s important that you know what your responsibilities are. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions relating to party wall matters.

Why do I need a property surveyor?

A surveyor is necessary because they will need to put together a schedule of condition for parts of the neighbouring building that may be at risk before any building work can begin. This will protect both parties from unfair or misleading claims if damage occurs during the project.

You should appoint a surveyor at least three months before the building work is due to start. This will give you enough time to make sure that all necessary procedures have been carried out before the work begins.

What will a party wall surveyor do?

Once instructed, your surveyor will offer advice on the process, as well as your responsibilities and obligations. They may carry out a site inspection if the complexity of the project demands it and they will prepare and serve the required notices in line with the Party Wall Act.

If a dispute arises between the building owner and the adjacent owner, they will also take action, meeting with the adjoining owner’s surveyor if necessary.

What costs will I need to cover?

As the building owner, you will need to cover the costs of the appointment of your surveyor and the costs of your neighbours’ surveyor – if they need one. Also make sure that you budget for the cost of potential damage to the neighbouring building.

What kind of works are covered under the Party Wall Act?

You will need to consider the Party Wall Act if you’re carrying out work on a shared structure or existing party wall (including your own chimney), if you’re planning on building on or close to the boundary and if you’re excavating within three metres of a structure or building.

The likes of plastering, drilling to install cabinets or shelves and replacing socking or electrical wiring aren’t included.

How are party wall disputes resolved?

Under the Act, if an adjoining owner doesn’t consent within 14 days of receiving notice, the parties are then deemed to be in dispute (even if it’s not much of a dispute). Generally, these are resolved by the two surveyors agreeing the terms of a party wall award.

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