Croyland Building Surveyors are pleased to provide these introductory guides to specific surveying topics. We find that they give our clients a good understanding of the potential issues that may arise in properties of all descriptions. These guides also serve as an introduction to the work which we are able to undertake.
Stout fences make good neighbours, so the saying goes. Every so often, a horror story appears in the media about ordinary sane reasonable people who have been at loggerheads over some worthless bit of boundary. It starts with some almost forgotten infringement, and ends up in court with a bill of thousands...
Perhaps they should have seen the Laurel & Hardy film where they start pulling little bits off each other’s car, tit for tat, until they are both surrounded by a pile of scrap.
In our crowded island, it is worth keeping good neighbours and this means observing the proper courtesies while showing a degree of tolerance. The occasional party should not be difficult to manage. Lengthy building works, on the other hand, can try anyone’s patience. Because of this, there has been “Party Wall” legislation in London since 1939. This was repealed and extended in the “Party Wall etc Act 1996” to cover the whole country (more or less) so it’s fairly recent to most of us.
There is also some helpful guidance available at:
But, put simply, if someone wants to do work to a party structure, or excavate within certain distances of a neighbour, they have to serve a notice in advance, giving details. Failure to serve a notice is a breach of the Act and could result in an injunction to halt the work while things are sorted out. Once the neighbours (or “adjoining owners”) have a valid notice they can consent within 14 days to the work going ahead. If they do not consent, a dispute is deemed to have arisen. Disputes have to be resolved by the appointment of surveyors. The surveyor can be anyone other than the owners, but we think Building Surveyors are best suited. Both owners may appoint a single “Agreed Surveyor” but it is more usual for each to appoint their own.
It is worth stressing that appointments of surveyors are statutory. The surveyors should act impartially under the terms of the Act, and it is not a client-agent relationship.
A Third Surveyor is agreed between the first two, to be called upon to arbitrate should the other surveyors disagree. Once appointed, the surveyors agree a document, known as an Award, to settle the dispute, agree methods of working, protection, insurance, access, and any other matters within the scope of the Act. The surveyors will monitor the project as it proceeds and agree any supplementary awards if needed. They will then check for damage after completion and agree how it should be made good.
All this is clearly helpful to a neighbour faced with the threat of damage or disturbance. It is also helpful to the people doing the work. It establishes working arrangements, a formal and impartial means of communication, and settles technical details. Under certain circumstances, it can provide rights of access onto the neighbour’s land. It is much more efficient than using lawyers, and considerably cheaper. At the end of the day, there will be a better chance that everyone will still be on speaking terms.