Party wall disputes? Here are several tips: What is not covered by the Act? The Act relates only to certain specific types of work and is permissive in nature. It should not be seen as a method of objecting to or preventing works and it is not intended to be applied to minor jobs that do not affect the structural integrity or loading of a party wall. It is generally agreed that works such as fixing plug sockets, screwing in shelving or replastering walls are minor works and do not require a notice. Notices: The workings of the Act are always instigated by the of issuing notices. This is the first stage of the process and, without the issue of valid notices, no further action can be taken under the provision of the Act. Written notice must be served on adjoining owners at least two months before starting any party wall works (one month for works to the line of junction or excavations). All adjoining owners must be served a notice and there are likely to be instances where there is more than one adjoining property and more than one owner of each property (ie: if the adjoining property is split into flats and owned on a leasehold basis, notices will be required to both leaseholder and freeholder of all flats affected by the works). Works to a party wall, or those affecting a ceiling or floor, will also require a notice to adjoining owners living above or below.
Party wall matters can cause a delay to the project, so this should be considered reasonably early in the design stage. Depending on the notice required you may need to inform your neighbours up to 2 months prior to your proposed start date. If the project is complex it may take some time for the surveyors to come to an agreement, or several awards may be required. The act does provide various mechanisms for non cooperation including non communication of adjoining owners and their surveyors, however there are also rights of appeal and referral to a third surveyor if necessary.
Unfortunately some fee orientated surveyors have learnt to work the system and pitch their fee as high as they can without causing the adjoining owner to challenge it for fear of delaying the works and incurring a further fee. Although the Party Wall Agreement covers many aspects of the work including access, contractor’s insurance and resolving damage one of the clauses which is most contentious relates to working hours. The Award will state the permissible working hours and they may appear quite restrictive at first glance; normally 8.30am to 5pm with no allowance for week-ends or bank holidays. Bear in mind that this clause only relates to the works which are the subject of the award and not the associated works which can carry on outside of these hours.
These types of work all require notices to be served as required by the act, once notice has been served, if there is dissent then it is deemed there is a dispute and the Act allows for this, this would be the dispute or resolution stage. Most disputes arrives when the Adjoining Owner has worries or concerns with the proposed work or simply fails to respond in the statutory time to the building owner, for which there could be many reasons. Where a dispute arises either due to non-consent or no response then the Act lays down the steps required to resolve the dispute this is where the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owner will each appoint there Surveyor this could be one each or even the same surveyor with agreement for all parties working as the Agreed Surveyor. Read more details at Party wall surveyor cost.