Leo Horsfield Surveying

Leo Horsfield Surveying Building Surveyors & Engineers
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FAQs Common questions on the Act

Some common questions about the Act

Can the Act be used to resolve a boundary dispute?

No. The Act does not contain any provision that could be used to settle a boundary line dispute.
Such disputes can be resolved through the courts or through alternative dispute resolution procedures (which may be simpler, quicker and cheaper), for example mediation, decision by an independent expert or arbitration.

Does the Act supercede Common law rights?

Yes, but only in relation to works covered by the Act.

Does the building owner have to wait for the full one or two months after serving a notice before starting work?

No, so long as the adjoining owner agrees, in writing, to the work starting earlier than as stated in the notice.

What happens if an owner wants to build up to an existing boundary wall which does not currently form part of a building and which is wholly on their own land?

Under the Act the existing wall is not a party fence wall because it does not stand astride the boundary line between different properties. Nor is it a party wall because it does not separate buildings of different owners. If a building owner wants to build a new wall to replace the existing one, this work would be covered by the Act; and he would have to serve a notice. If a building owner wants to extend a building up to the existing wall, then this will not come under the Act (unless any proposed excavations will go deeper than neighbouring foundations). In either event, the building owner will not have created a new party wall.

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

We recommend you appoint a suitably qualified surveyor who has experience in dealing with party wall matters. This will ensure each party is suitably protected

It is recommended that you and your neighbour do not choose the person you have engaged to supervise the building works to be the “agreed surveyor” – it is difficult to be the person responsible for ensuring the completion of the work at the same time as giving full regard to the rights of the neighbours.

What does the surveyor do?

The surveyor (or surveyors) will prepare an “award” (also known as a “party wall 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.

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 carried out in accordance with the award. Usually the owner who first planned the work will pay all costs associated with drawing up the award.

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.

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.

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 second surveyor on his behalf, so that the procedure can go ahead.

What about access to neighbouring property?

Under the Act, an adjoining occupier 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 to or 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.

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 building 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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