This blog is not an authoritative interpretation of the law; it is intended as a general guide.
In this blog Icon Surveyors will be considering what a ‘Party Wall Agreement’ is, when under the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996, one will be needed and finally whether a party to the agreement is able to write it.
What is a Party Wall Agreement?
A ‘Party Wall Agreement’ is a creature of section 10 of the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996. It is termed as a ‘Party Wall Award’. It should be noted that any proposed building works that may affect the owner of a party wall cannot be commenced until such time as a building owner has notified their adjoining neighbour (s) in writing of works that are intended to be carried out and obtained the written consent of all those who have been served with a ‘Party Wall Notice’. This is a mandatory obligation under the provisions of the 1996 Act. Once the notice is received the adjoining owner may consent in writing, object to certain works being carried out, object to any of the proposed works being carried out, or, in some case choose to ignore the Notice. The adjoining owner also has a legal obligation under the Act to respond within a specified time limit, failure of which will deem the parties to have entered into a dispute. Therefore, failure to respond in a timely manner or a partial or outright refusal to consent to the works being carried out will, in accordance with the Act trigger a dispute that must be resolved pursuant to section 10 of the 1996 Act.
In accordance with certain sections of the Act, once a dispute relating to party wall matters arises or is deemed to have arisen between neighbours a surveyor or perhaps two must be appointed to resolve the dispute. In so doing, a surveyor is required to draw up an agreement between the disputing parties in order to enable a building owner to exercise their rights under the Act whilst at the same time providing protection for any adjoining neighbours that may be affected by the proposed works being carried out.
What is in a ‘Party Wall Agreement’?
The ‘Party Wall Agreement’ is determinative of certain permissions and usually covers a multitude of foreseeable events. For example, in allowing a building owner to build their proposed extension, a surveyor may insist that the works can only be carried out if the foundations will be underpinned, or an insurance policy is taken out or an escrow account containing a specified sum of money for any damage that may occur in the future is set up. The surveyor will also determine whether an adjoining owner has been or will in the future be inconvenienced by the works being proposed and whether or not the affected party is entitled to any compensation. The agreement must stipulate whether or not certain works are permitted to be carried out and if so, the time and manner in which the work are to be done. ‘Party Wall Agreements’ can be quite complex and full of terms and conditions that a lay-person would not consider if they were to draw up the agreement themselves.
Can I write my own Party Wall Agreement?
A party to an agreement is entitled to draw up an agreement. However, if the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996 has been engaged, the provisions do not allow for a Party to adjudicate and/or write their own ‘Party Wall Agreement’. For the provisions of the Act to be engaged a valid ‘Party Wall Notice’ must have been served by the building owner on an adjoining owner.
Failure to serve a valid ‘Party Wall Notice’ would enable the parties to reach an agreement between themselves thus either one could draw up an agreement together with the terms and conditions. Unless a building owner is fully au fiat with the complexities that may arise prior to, during or after a building project, Icon Surveyors would always recommend that the parties seek the help of professional ‘Party Wall Surveyors’ so as to avoid any pit falls that may have been unintentionally missed. This will save time, money and in many cases neighbourly friendships too! Icon Surveyors are happy to provide a free consultation to any building or adjoining owners who may be affected by the subject matter raised in this blog.