The Act defines a Building Owner as, ‘an owner of land who is desirous of exercising rights under this Act.’
This is the person or company that is proposing to undertake the works and is either the freeholder or has a lease for longer than one year.
The Act defines an Adjoining Owner as, ‘any owner and any occupier of land, buildings, storeys or rooms adjoining those of the building owner’. An adjoining owner is the neighbour affected by the building owner’s proposed work.
Like a building owner, the adjoining owner can also be both a leaseholder and freeholder.
The Party Wall Surveyor
The Act defines a party wall surveyor as, ‘any person not being a party to the matter appointed or selected under section 10 to determine disputes’.
Surveyor’s key roles: “The first is to advise the client on their rights, the necessary facts and a recommended course of action. The second is to negotiate with the other party’s surveyor to resolve that dispute.”
A notice is simply the Building Owner informing the Adjoining Owner the works they propose to undertake. When a Notice is served the Adjoining Owner is expected to reply within 14 days, and if does not do so then it is taken that they dissent to the work and Party Wall Surveyors are appointed to resolve the dispute.
However, it must be noted that the Building Owner and Adjoining Owner may come to any agreement they so choose at any stage and this is to be accepted by the surveyors.
A consent is a form of response from an adjoining owner to the notice served by the building owner.
If an adjoining owner consents to the notice they are effectively confirming that they do not want the formalities of the Act followed. If an adjoining owner consents it would still be highly advisable to undertake a schedule of condition of their property.
Once an adjoining consents, they can at a later date opt to dissent to the notice, however it has to be a result of a dispute, for example proposed access or damage.
A ‘dissent’ is a form of response from the adjoining to the notice served by the building owner. If an adjoining owner ‘dissents’ to the notice it will mean that they want to be afforded the protection of the Act, therefore the subsequent party wall procedure will have to be followed.
Once an adjoining owner dissents to the notice they have two options;
A dispute is a term written within the Act, it refers to an adjoining owner dissenting to a notice served by the building owner. Once there is a ‘dispute’ under the Act the surveyors will be appointed to mediate and resolve the dispute.
One of the most common responses we get from an adjoining owner is that they are not in fact in ‘dispute’ but just want to ensure their property is properly protected.
Party Wall Award
A Party Wall Award is a legal document that will set out various provisions for the works that the building owner and his/her contractor’s must adhere to, for example, the time at which work can take place, the method in which the contractor is to undertake the work.
The Award will also fully protect the adjoining owner in the event that damage is caused to their property as a result of the notifiable works.
The award will be agreed by the surveyor or surveyors, it will also be signed by the surveyors, usually being witnessed. The award should be read by the building owner, their contractor and the adjoining owner and generally should be kept with the other legal documents in respect of the property.
The award will arrive in a report type format with drawings, the schedule of condition, photographs, method statements etc all being included within the document.
Once the award has been served both the building owner and adjoining owner have the right to appeal the award if there is an error within it that would deem it as having being improperly agreed.
Schedule of Condition
A schedule of condition is the act of visiting the adjoining owner’s property in advance of the works commencing to record the current condition of the property.
The schedule of condition will involve taking detailed photos of the adjoining owner’s property and taking a detailed written record of the current condition of the property, noting any defects such as hairline cracks or de-bonding wall paper.
The schedule of condition will be in a report format and will form part of the award. The benefit of the schedule of condition is to set out a record of the current condition of the adjoining owner’s property, thereby allowing to the surveyors to determine if the building owner’s proposed notifiable works have caused any damage.
The schedule of condition will be checked of by surveyor upon completion of the works.
A schedule of condition is a useful reference document beneficial to both owners and is quite often sufficient enough to satisfy an adjoining owner rather than having a full party wall award which is a more cost effective and quicker process.