Tim Hollingsworth, managing director of leading surveying & estate agency firm Rumball Sedgwick, explains how the Party Wall Act could affect you and why it pays to take professional advice.
“Despite its name, the Party Wall Act does not allow neighbours to party into the small hours. Neither does it give them permission to stage a mini Glastonbury. (If you were at Glastonbury this summer, you will have witnessed the worst mud in the history of the festival. What a mess!).
Getting in a mess is exactly what can happen if you are carrying out building works on, or within, certain perimeters of the party wall you share with your neighbour and believe me, you could lose more than just your wellies if you contravene the Act.
Quite simply, the Party Wall Act was designed to protect the party carrying out works on, or within, certain perimeters of the boundary line between two properties. It is the responsibility of the person carrying out works to serve a notice on the affected adjoining owner, so that both parties are protected from any unfortunate event that may occur.
A qualified party wall surveyor will be appointed to act for the building owner, who will serve the required notices. A second surveyor may be appointed to act on behalf of the adjoining owner, or the same surveyor can act for both. Don’t worry if this is the case; the surveyor acts in accordance with legislation and as such, is impartial.
Normally, your surveyor will prepare a schedule of condition of the affected property in order to capture a snapshot of its condition before works commence. He or she will usually take photos and prepare a written report. In most cases, the works will be carried out and completed with no great excitement – but sometimes problems can arise, which is where a surveyor is worth every penny.
I remember one case where a small block of flats was being constructed next to a client’s property. When they were laying the foundations, my client’s property suffered from minor movement, which required underpinning, some interior redecoration and adjustments to windows and doors to put right.
Fortunately for everyone, a schedule of condition had been prepared, which meant that the owner of the flats had to restore his neighbour’s property back to its original state. Had he acted without the Party Wall Award, the only winner would have been the solicitor sorting out the mess.
Fortunately, there was no mud or rave party. Thanks to his surveyor’s advice, my client was satisfied and his property was safeguarded, before, during and after the event.”