Party Wall Service

The Party Wall Etc. Act 1996 provides rights for building owners to undertake certain types of work and rights to protection for the adjoining owners. This page gives an overview of the process under the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996, and the services we can offer. Also see our page Party Wall Questions & Answers.

Dorian Burt can be your party wall surveyor to resolve party wall matters where appointed by the building owner carrying out the work or by the adjoining owner next door or for both parties as the agreed surveyor.

Before undertaking certain types of work relating to, or near to, a party wall or party structure a building owner (the person doing the work) should serve the appropriate party wall notice to the adjoining owner (the neighbour to the works). They may appoint a surveyor to do this for them.

Determining what is and isn’t a party wall or party structure and what is and isn’t work that falls within the provisions of the Act can be complex.  Broadly, the kinds of work included are:

  • new building on or at the boundary of two properties
  • work to an existing party wall or party structure
  • excavation near to and below the foundation level of neighbouring buildings or structures

Similarly it can be complex to identify who the adjoining owners actually are; there could be more than one – they could be all of the freeholder, their tenants and another freeholder whose property overlaps by only a small amount.

The building owner should ask an experienced party wall surveyor for their advice on all these points.

If the building owner carries out the work without serving the notice required and before an agreement to the works (or an award, see below) is made, they may face an injunction to stop work or perhaps be sued for damages.

The adjoining owner may agree to the works or ‘dissent’ (disagree) or perhaps be silent. If simply agreeing to the works, in writing, they may proceed. If they choose to dissent or are silent for 14 days it is termed that a ‘dispute’ has arisen.

In reality a dissent or silence may not really be a strong dispute, only that the adjoining owner wishes to invoke the party wall procedure to protect their interests prior to the work being done. However as long as the development is lawful, the Party Wall Act cannot be used to prevent the work or object to the development completely – those are issues for planning authorities and the respective process.

Once a dispute has arisen, the procedure laid down in the Party Wall Act is followed:

  1. Each side appoints a surveyor to act for them, or can appoint one independent surveyor to act jointly, called the agreed surveyor. The building owner usually pays for both the surveyors, though there may be exceptional circumstances where the surveyors agree that the adjoining owner should pay for some aspects (e.g. if demanding additional professional services above and beyond those reasonably required under the Act). Once appointed, the surveyors have to serve the Act itself equitably, not the owners they work for. The Act is their ‘client’.
  2. The surveyors first duty is to nominate and agree on a third surveyor. This is the person who will adjudicate should the two surveyors fail to agree. This should always be done first while relations are good and the matter straightforward.
  3. Details of the proposed works are shared between the surveyors and reviewed by the adjoining owner’s surveyor to protect the interest of the adjoining owner. There may be some negotiation about sequence, methods, technical details etc. but as above, the Party Wall Act cannot be used to prevent the work or object to the development completely – those are issues for planning authorities and the respective process.
  4. A schedule of condition is taken; this is a descriptive and photographic record of the adjoining owner’s property at a point in time before the work starts. It can be used later to confirm or reject any claim that damage or defect has arisen in the adjoining owner’s property as a result of the works.
  5. An ‘award’ is made by the surveyors. This is simply a legal document which binds the owners to certain undertakings; i.e. the adjoining owner to consent to the works and the building owner to make good any damage to the adjoining owner’s building and ensure their contractor sticks to certain rules agreed.
  6. The award is signed by the surveyors and copies given to each owner and usually the contractor doing the work.
  7. From the time the award is signed, there is a statutory 14 day appeal period during which either owner can challenge the award in court; they have to have good grounds to be successful. The building owner should not start work during this time or if they do, it’s at their own risk of the award being overturned which could result in work having to be undone or damages being payable to the adjoining owner(s).
  8. The surveyors should monitor the works to ensure the award is complied with, to completion.

This Government web-page has a detailed booklet on party walls at the foot of the page for downloading:

Also see our page Party Wall Questions & Answers.

We can be consulted for initial advice, appointed as either the building owner’s surveyor, the adjoining owner’s surveyor, or appointed as a joint agreed surveyor.

Contact us for help.

Where we act for building owners we apply the Party Wall Act to enable them to carry out building work in accordance with their rights.

Where we act for adjoining owners we apply the Party Wall Act to protect their interests, allowing the work for which there are rights, but with controls and undertakings to make good damage in place.

Where we act as the agreed surveyor, we apply the Party Wall Act to both enable the building owner’s work and put in place controls and undertakings to protect the adjoining owner’s interests.

We also provide a schedule of condition as a separate service if required.

Dorian Burt is a Member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors (FPWS). They have produced an advice leaflet available here.