The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 in the United Kingdom outlines the legal framework for party wall matters, including the issuance of Party Wall Awards. A Party Wall Award is a document prepared by surveyors to resolve disputes between property owners regarding proposed building works that may affect a shared party wall, boundary, or structure.
Ideally, the Party Wall Award process should be initiated before any work commences. However, there are provisions for obtaining a Party Wall Award after work have started. It is crucial to adhere to the timelines and procedures outlined in the Act to avoid complications or legal issues.
Key Points Regarding Party Wall Awards and Commencement of Works
Serve Notice in Advance
The property owner planning the construction works (the "building owner") is required to serve formal notice to the affected neighboring property owner (the "adjoining owner") before the works commence. This notice provides details of the proposed works and triggers the Party Wall Award process.
Agreement or Dissent
The adjoining owner has the option to either agree to the proposed works or dissent. If they agree, there may not be a need for a Party Wall Award, although a record of the agreement is advisable. If they dissent, a Party Wall Award becomes necessary.
Appointment of Surveyors
If there is dissent, each party typically appoints their surveyor, or a single "agreed surveyor" may be appointed by both parties. The surveyors will then prepare a Party Wall Award outlining the rights and responsibilities of each party.
Commencement of Works Before an Award
While it is generally recommended to obtain a Party Wall Award before works commence, the Act allows the building owner to start certain works at their own risk before the award is in place. These are typically minor works that do not involve excavations near the adjoining owner's property.
Obtaining an Award After Commencement
If the building owner starts works without serving notice or obtaining an agreement or dissent, the adjoining owner can request the appointment of a surveyor to assess the impact of the works. The surveyor can then prepare a retrospective Party Wall Award.
Commencing works without following the proper procedures outlined in the Act can have legal implications. The adjoining owner may seek an injunction to stop the works, and the building owner may be liable for any resulting damages.
It is generally more challenging to obtain a retrospective Party Wall Award, and the process may involve additional complexities. However, it is possible to regularize the situation by following the statutory procedures and involving appointed surveyors.
While it is not ideal to commence works without serving notice or obtaining a Party Wall Award, it is still possible to rectify the situation by following the procedures outlined in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. It is crucial to act promptly, involve the necessary surveyors, and ensure compliance with the statutory timelines to minimize legal risks and potential complications. However, seeking professional advice from a qualified party wall surveyor or legal professional is highly recommended to navigate the process effectively and in accordance with the law.