Party Wall Frequently asked Questions
Do I need a party wall surveyor to serve notice or can I serve notice myself?
What if I do not know who owns the adjoining property?
How do I 'serve' notice?
What will happen if the person to whom it is addressed does not receive it?
If there is a deemed dispute because the adjoining owner has not responded, can I appoint an agreed surveyor?
What if there is a freeholder and also leaseholders of the adjoining property?
If they all dissent to the notice, can they appoint different surveyors?
If the adjoining owner decides not to respond to the notice what can I do?
How much will the surveyors cost?
Is there a set hourly charge for surveyors?
I have heard about a 'third surveyor'. What is the third surveyor?
What is his role?
Who pays the third surveyor?
Are there any other costs I am responsible for as building owner?
Is the system open to abuse?
How can I protect myself from this abuse?
What if my surveyor agrees that the fees are reasonable but I disagree?
Have you ever questioned adjoining owner's surveyor's fees?
I have heard of 'line of junction'. What is line of junction?
How do I know if I have to serve an excavation notice when I do not know how deep my neighbours foundations are?
My house used to be a mid terraced property and the end terraced was removed. What was the party wall is now an external gable wall. How does this affect my property?
If I start work without serving notice, what are the implications?
I did not serve notice as I was not aware of the Act. The work is now complete. What should I do?
My neighbour has taken down the fence between our gardens. Can a party wall surveyor sort this out?
You can serve notice yourself but it may be prudent to engage a party wall surveyor to do it for you as many self-served notices are invalid for one reason or another and mainly because of a misunderstanding of how the Act operates.
You must make reasonable enquiries such as searching the Land Registry to find out ownership. Failing that you can address your notice to 'the owner' and fixing it to a conspicuous part of the premises. It is wise to secure evidence that you have done that.
Delivering it in person, sending it by post or in the case of a body corporate, delivering it to the secretary or clerk of the body corporate at its registered or principal office or by sending it by post to the same person/address. You can also address it to 'the owner' of the premises and delivering it in person or fixing it to a conspicuous part of the premises.
If you serve it correctly then that is all you can do. It is best if using the postal service to get proof of postage. After 14 days, there will be a deemed dispute if no consent is received in response to the notice.
No. You must appoint a surveyor on behalf of the adjoining owner and a different surveyor for yourself. An Agreed surveyor has to be 'agreed' between the parties.
Both a freeholders and leaseholders are adjoining owners under the Act and you may well have to serve notice on both however, if they are the same person, you would serve on the freeholder.
Yes. Each adjoining owner has the right to appoint a surveyor of their choice and often there are multiple surveyors involved. However, if the adjoining owner refuses to let their surveyor be the agreed surveyor then they could be deemed to be unreasonable and possibly have to pay some of the costs themselves.
After 14 days have passed from serving the initial notice there is a deemed dispute. You should then send a 10-day notice informing the adjoining owner that they should appoint a surveyor within 10 days or you will appoint one for them.
Your own surveyor may be able to provide you with a fixed cost at the start of the work. The adjoining owner's surveyor is unlikely to do this and will charge by the hour.
No. Hourly rates vary from £90-£350/hour in London. The only proviso is that the adjoining owner's costs must be 'reasonable' and agreed by the two surveyors. In other words, your own surveyor must agree the adjoining owner's costs.
The third surveyor is selected and agreed by the two appointed surveyors immediately after they are appointed. He takes no part unless called upon by either one of the surveyors or one of the parties.
He acts as overall 'judge' if the two appointed surveyors cannot agree on a matter.
If called upon to act he will make an award and determine who is responsible for his costs. This will be either the building owner, adjoining owner or both.
Sometimes it may be necessary for one surveyor to appoint a consultant such as a structural engineer. If it is necessary to do so then those are also part of the adjoining owner's costs. Advising engineers are only usually needed in more complicated cases such as basement constructions.
It can be. There are certainly a few well known surveyors in and around London who are equally well known for racking up fees when acting as adjoining owner's surveyor.
Choose your own surveyor very carefully. It is your surveyor who will initially have to agree the adjoining owner's surveyors fees. A good surveyor will know what is reasonable or not.
If the fees are agreed and form part of an award, then you 14 days to appeal the award in the County Court. However, you should always take legal advice before you embark on this course.
Frequently. I am aware like everyone else who the surveyors are who try to charge unreasonable fees.
The Act does not define this but it means the point at which both owners land meet. Essentially it is the boundary line, which most people understand the meaning of.
If you live in semi-detached or terrace, the adjoining owners foundations are likely to be the same depth as your foundations. You can therefore excavate a trial hole on your land. However, the older the property generally the shallower the foundations. So on a pre-war building you should assume a foundation depth of 400mm and post war, 600mm. Typically modern foundation will be to a depth of at least 900mm.
The party wall will continue to be a party wall and does not lose its status as a party wall because the adjoining property was demolished. The owner of the adjoining property still has full rights over the wall (unless he transfers ownership of the wall and the land and it sits on by deed).
The immediate implications are that the adjoining owner could apply for an interim injunction at court to stop you proceeding with notifiable works. You would have to comply with the injunction and stop work. Failing to comply with an injunction could result in a fine or even committal to prison.
Realistically, nothing. Once the work is complete there is no retrospective action that can be taken unless you have caused damage to the adjoining property whilst doing the work. If that is the case, the adjoining owner can appoint a surveyor and request that you do the same to resolve the problem. However, not all surveyors agree that a dispute can be raised without a notice being served first in any circumstances, so always best to serve prior to the work.
No. Fences are not covered by the Party Wall Act.