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The Party Wall Act 11 - 19

11. What if I cannot reach agreement with my neighbour on the work to be done to the party wall?

The best way of settling any point of difference is by friendly discussion with your neighbour. Agreements should always be put in writing.

If you cannot reach agreement with your neighbour, the next best thing is to appoint, jointly, what the Act calls an "agreed surveyor" to draw up an "award". The agreed surveyor should preferably not be the same person that you intend to employ to supervise your building work - see paragraph 12.

Alternatively, each neighbour can appoint a surveyor to draw up the award together. The two surveyors will nominate a third surveyor who would be called in only if the two surveyors cannot agree.

In all cases, the surveyors appointed under the dispute resolution procedure of the Act to draw up an award must behave impartially and consider the interests of both neighbours. They do not act as advocates for each side.

12. Who can I appoint as a surveyor in the event of a dispute?

The term "surveyor" is defined in the Act as any person not being a party to the matter. This means you can appoint almost anyone you like to act in this capacity. However, some people are obviously more suitable than other. You may wish to look for a qualified professional with knowledge of party wall matters.

It is recommended that you and your neighbour do not choose, as the "agreed surveyor", a person that you (as the building owner) have already engaged to design or supervise your building works.

13. What does the surveyor do?

The surveyor (or surveyors) will prepare an 'award'. This is a document which:

  • Sets out the work that will be carried out
  • Says when and how the work is to be carried out (for example, not at weekends if the buildings are domestic properties)
  • Records the condition of next door before the work begins (so that any damage can be properly attributed and made good)
  • Allows access for the surveyors to inspect the works while they're going on (to see that they are in accordance with the award)

It is a good idea to keep a copy of the award with your property deeds.

14. Who pays the surveyor's fees?

The surveyor (or surveyors) will decide who pays the fees for drawing up the award and for checking that the work has been done in accordance with the award. Usually the owner who first planned the work will pay all these costs.

15. Is the surveyor's award final?

Either side has 14 days to appeal to the county court against an award. An appeal should only be made to the county court if an owner believes that the surveyors have acted beyond their powers.

16. Who pays for the building works?

Your agreement with the neighbouring owner, or the award in the event of a dispute, will set this out.

The general principle in the Act is that the building owner who initiated the work pays for it. However, there are cases where the adjoining owner may pay part of the cost, for example:

  • Where work to a party wall is needed because of defects or lack of repair for which the adjoining owner may be responsible
  • Where an adjoining owner requests that additional work should be done

Where the dispute resolution procedure is called upon, the award may deal with apportionment of the costs of the work. The dispute procedure may be used specifically to resolve the question of costs.

17. What happens if the neighbours won't cooperate?

If a dispute has arisen and the neighbouring owner refuses to appoint a surveyor under the dispute resolution procedure, you can appoint a surveyor on his behalf, so that the procedure can go ahead - see paragraph 11.

18. What about access to neighbouring property?

Under the Act, an adjoining owner must, when necessary, let in your workmen, your own surveyor or architect etc., and any surveyors appointed as part of the dispute resolution procedure. You must give the adjoining owner and occupier notice of your intention to exercise these rights of entry. The Act says that 14 days' notice must usually be given.

It is an offence, which can be prosecuted in the magistrates' court, to refuse entry or to obstruct someone who is entitled to enter premises under the Act, if the offender knows that the person is entitled to be there.

If the adjoining property is empty, your workmen and your own surveyor or architect etc. may enter the premises if they are accompanied by a police officer.

19. As a neighbouring owner, what can I do to guard against the risk that the building owner may leave work on the party wall unfinished?

If there is a risk that you will be left in difficulties if the owner stops work at an inconvenient stage, you can ask him, before he starts work, to make available an amount of money that would allow you to restore the status quo if he fails to do so. The money remains his throughout, but if, for example, you need to have a wall rebuilt, you can draw on that security to pay for the rebuilding.

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