In the UK, party walls are defined as walls shared by two or more properties, whether residential or commercial. These walls are often found in semi-detached or terraced houses but can also be present in flats or apartments. Party walls are designed to provide structural support to the properties they separate, and they are usually owned jointly by the owners of the adjoining properties. However, party walls can sometimes cause disputes between homeowners. The most common reason for this is when one owner wants to work on their property that affects the party wall, such as adding an extension or digging foundations. This is where party wall surveyors come in.
Party wall surveyors are professionals who help resolve disputes between adjoining property owners. They are typically chartered surveyors with specialist knowledge of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is the legislation governing party wall matters in the UK. However, not all of them work the same way, such as agreed surveyors appointed to act for the building owner (the person carrying out the work) and the adjoining owner (the person who shares the party wall). The purpose of agreed surveyors is to facilitate the resolution of party wall disputes and to ensure that works are carried out safely and legally. Few people know how this process works, so we will discuss the details in this article.
How Are Agreed Surveyors Appointed?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 sets out the process for appointing agreed surveyors. Before any work can be carried out on a party wall, the building owner must serve notice to the adjoining owners (their neighbours). The notice must include a description of the proposed works, the date on which the works will start, and the name of the agreed surveyor appointed to act on behalf of both parties.
The adjoining owner then has 14 days to either consent to the works or dissent. If they dissent, they can either appoint their own surveyor or agree to the appointment of an agreed surveyor. It's worth noting that if the adjoining owner chooses to appoint their own surveyor, both surveyors must then appoint a third surveyor to act as an impartial adjudicator if necessary.
If both parties agree to the appointment of an agreed surveyor, the surveyor must be impartial and not have any conflicts of interest. They will then prepare a party wall award, a legal document that outlines the proposed works' details, any precautions that need to be taken, and any compensation due to the adjoining owner.
What Happens Next?
If the adjoining owner consents to the works, the agreed surveyor will prepare a schedule of conditions, which is a record of the current state of the party wall. This ensures that any damage during the work can be appropriately attributed.
If the adjoining owner dissents, there are two options:
Consent with a Schedule of Condition
If the adjoining owner dissents but agrees to a schedule of conditions, then the agreed surveyor will prepare the schedule of conditions and work can proceed. The schedule of conditions will protect both parties by ensuring that any damage caused during the work can be properly attributed and rectified.
Dissent and Appoint a Chosen Surveyor
If the adjoining owner dissents and does not agree to a schedule of conditions, they can appoint their own surveyor. The two surveyors will then work together to agree on a party wall award which will set out the rights and responsibilities of both parties. The award will also include details of any necessary works, how they should be carried out, and provisions for resolving any disputes arising during the work.
What If the Adjoining Owner Insists on Using a Separate Surveyor?
Sometimes, an adjoining owner may insist on using a separate surveyor because they have concerns about impartiality or simply want a second opinion. In this case, it is possible to insist on two separate surveyors, but the adjoining owner may be liable for their surveyor's costs if they insist on this option.
Additionally, the two surveyors must agree on a third surveyor to act as an independent adjudicator in case of any disputes. The third surveyor's decision is final and binding, so both parties try to agree on a single surveyor at the outset to avoid unnecessary costs or delays.
Agreed surveyors are essential for resolving disputes between adjoining property owners, especially regarding party wall matters. Because they provide a fair and impartial assessment of the situation and help protect both parties' rights and interests, choosing an n experienced surveyor is crucial. This way, the process can be completed efficiently, effectively, and with minimal disruption and cost to all parties involved.
If you’re looking for party wall surveyors in London, Icon Surveyors can help! Our professional surveyors will ensure all matters and disputes related to your party wall are resolved for the benefit of both parties. Call us today at 020 7493 9087 to get a quote!