When it comes to making adjustments and alterations to your home, if you have a shared wall with another building, this is known as the party wall.
To help settle disputes between property owners regarding any notifiable building works being carried out near to or upon the party wall itself, the Party Wall Act 1996 was implemented.
This act means that you are required to serve applicable Party Wall Noticies prior to works commencing. Your neighbour will then have options to either consent to the works or to dissent.
This article explains in more detail what happens when your neighbour dissents to a party wall notice and will advise you of the fees you will likely incur in obtaining a Party Wall Agreement.
Obviously, all cases are different – and in situations where the neighbours simply don’t get along then this can become niggly and time consuming for the Party Wall surveyors.
This is not such a problem if your surveyor is working for you on a fixed fee basis such as ourselves but when one or more surveyors are working on the industry average hourly rate of £150 per hour its not difficult to see how the fees can sky rocket.
For the purpose of this article we will assume we are working our way through a pretty run of the mill Party Wall dispute.
In doing so we hope it will give you a better understanding what a party wall agreement is likely to cost you – And assist with budgeting your upcoming home improvement project.
Let’s jump straight in then and take a look at what a party wall agreement can cost, and the circumstances that will emerge during your attempt to get one.
Before you can begin to get a party wall agreement, you have to serve notice to the neighbouring property.
Notice, in this case, refers to the intention on your part to make alterations to your property close to or on the party wall itself, You can prepare and serve party wall notice(s) yourself or you can have them drafted and sent by a professional.
If for any reason you are not 100% certain which notice(s) you need to serve or which information should be on the notices or which drawings or other information need to accompany the notices to make them valid then we would always recommend you go with a professional such as ourselves.
We carry out the land registry checks, prepare and serve all relevant notices for just £25.00 per neighbour.
If your neighbour simply consents to the works going ahead then there is generally not an issue even if the notices served show up in the future as being invalid.
The problem we encounter when people serve incorrect or invalid notices is if a dispute happens then the first thing the party wall surveyors need to address is rectifying the mistakes made with the notices.
Going back to the industry standard of £150.00 per hour and assuming both surveyors are billing by the hour, even a small mistake in serving the notices can add significant volume to your overall costs.
So whether you decide to create the notices for free by yourself, or whether you appoint a surveyor to do them for you – these forms should contain a page that the neighbouring property owner has tick a selection, sign and return.
The options given to your adjoining owner are generally as follows:
So now we’ve seen the options open to your neighbour, lets see what each one actually means.
If your neighbour has ticked this box then this is a great outcome. It means that you have no need to involve party wall surveyors and you can begin your build.
Of all the options, this is probably the most common box ticked and in all honesty it is still a very good outcome even if it does mean you will need to pay for a schedule of condition report.
Basically, your neighbour is happy for works to go ahead however they want the security of having a schedule of condition carried out prior to building works taking place.
What this involves is us or your chosen party wall surveyor attending your neighbours property and carrying and a written and photographic schedule of their property.
In the event that damages are incurred you can simply cross reference the damage against the schedule photos to ascertain if damage was there prior to works being undertaken.
This is a good option for all parties as it also protects you/your contractor from any fraudulent claims for damages that were present before building works took place.
So they have dissented however they have agreed to use the same surveyor as you. This allows you to keep your costs down. Party Wall awards are often faster in general when using an agreed surveyor
This is perhaps the longest and costliest option that your neighbour could have chosen. If you have chosen wisely and chosen your surveyor on a fixed fee basis then thankfully you can keep these costs under control however the bill from our neighbours Party Wall
Surveyor may increase your overall costs above the three options above.
Your neighbour is then given 14 days in which to respond. If after 14 days they have not responded then a dissent is automatically triggered under the act.
This is to prevent your neighbour from unnecessarily delay or trying to prevent your build altogether by refusing to respond.
Once the 14 days have passed, your neighbour will need to be issued with a 10 day notice. This will advise them that they are now in dispute and that they have 10 days to advise us of their surveyor.
If after 10 days your neighbour still refuses to cooperate then it is up to you to appoint a surveyor on their behalf and you or your surveyor will correspond with them instead.
Even if your neighbour refuses to communicate with the surveyor you have appointed the surveyor will do their best to protect the interests of your neighbour, carry out inspections as best as they can and the party wall award will be agreed.
By following this protocol, should your neighbour try to stop your works by means of an injunction you will be able to demonstrate that you/the two surveyors all acted in the best interests of your neighbour and took every reasonable step to keep this from entering the courts.
It would then be likely that the request for an injunction will be rejected.
When you serve notice to a neighbouring building owner, there are two outcomes which can occur.
The first option, and the easiest one, is for the neighbouring building owner to give permission and confirmation that they are happy for the planned changes to take place. The other option, which is the one that will require the party wall award, is where the neighbouring building owner disputes the planned alterations and hires a party wall surveyor.
It is important to note when hiring a party wall surveyor, the neighbour is also given the option of working with the same surveyor as you – this is known as an agreed surveyor.
The benefit to you is that it keeps the overall fees down considerable, especially if your surveyor is working on a fixed fee basis such as us – If they aren’t, then you could be saving hundreds of pounds with us (Thousands, if you are dealing with 2 or more neighbours)
The objective of the Party Wall Surveyor(s) is to create a party wall agreement.
This is a concession by the all parties the work can continue, once they are satisfied that any queries and disputes have adequately been seen through.
Obtaining a party wall agreement will cost money. The exact amount will vary according to two different types of costs.
First of all, you will have the hourly fees of the party wall surveyor.
If your party wall surveyor is charging on an hourly rate this will vary between £100 and £300 per hour, and In general 8-10 hours is the average time spent on a run of the mill party wall project.
This would include time spent on site carrying out a schedule of condition and then office hours spent communicating with the other surveyor(s), checking drawings and documentation etc.
There is a huge gulf in the hourly rates of surveyors, however in our experience the average bill we see is £800-£1500 per surveyor. So averaging £1,600 – £3,000.00
In comparison to this, we work on a flat fixed fee rate of £750 to act either as building owners surveyor or as an adjoining owners surveyor.
If your neighbour is happy for us to act for both parties as an agreed surveyor then our fees for this are only £1,000.00 for both neighbours – now that’s a monumental saving!
Unfortunately, the party wall surveyor award costs will be charged directly to the homeowner planning to make the alterations. The neighbouring building owner will not need to pay any of the costs, although they may do so as a gesture of good faith.
Typically, you will find that the party wall agreement is only necessary when communications between the homeowner and the neighbouring building owner have broken down.
If you have a good relationship with your neighbour, you may be able to avoid this issue altogether.
It is recommended that you take time to talk to your neighbour before you serve notice. Have a chat with them in a peaceful setting, perhaps over a cup of tea, and discuss all of the processes that will take place.
It helps to maintain a good relationship with your neighbours during this period, as they are well within their rights to dispute the planned alterations for any reason they so desire.
It is worth noting that a party wall award is only something that has to happen if there is a dispute, so trying to resolve this without incurring the wrath of a neighbour is a good idea.
Ultimately, the party wall agreement has to be a necessary part of the process sometimes, as there are many situations where one party is not happy about the state of affairs when it comes to the alterations.
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