What is Party Wall Dispute?

What is Party Wall Dispute?


A dispute in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 sense of the title could be very little in the absolute terms of a dispute.

The Act states if an Adjoining Owner does not consent within 14 days of receiving notice of the proposed works then the parties are deemed to be “in dispute”.


The way that disputes under the Act are resolved is by each of the Owners appointing a Surveyor, this can be as a joint or individual Surveyor, and those Surveyors agreeing the terms of a Party Wall Award; sometimes known as a Party wall Agreement. This is a legal document.


Party Wall Surveyors have a duty to be impartial so any disagreement which arises will usually stem from one of the parties (Building Owners) not understanding the Act.


Even if the Adjoining Owner decides to concur with their neighbour’s choice of Surveyor as “Agreed Surveyor” (normally a good decision for minor works) there is still a “dispute” to be resolved so an award must be drawn up and served on the Owners.


In effect, what an adjoining owner is saying when they instigate a dispute is that they would like to have their interests protected by a person who understands construction matters and is familiar with the processes of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. This is the function of a Party Wall Surveyor and no actual qualifications are required at all in fact anyone with knowledge of construction and the Act that fill the roll.


It could not be easier for an adjoining owner to instigate a dispute; they need do nothing at all. If party structure Notices and Notices of adjacent excavation are not consented to within 14 days a dispute is deemed to have arisen.


The Adjoining Owner may appoint a Surveyor (or concur in the appointment of an Agreed Surveyor) within the 14 day period but they needn’t rush their decision.


Once the 14 days have elapsed they must be sent a Section 10 follow-up letter asking them to appoint a Party Wall Surveyor within 10 days or risk one being appointed on their behalf by the Building Owner (the party planning the work).


If a Building Owner does gain the right to appoint a Surveyor on behalf of their neighbour that cannot be the same Surveyor that they are using.


The Agreed Surveyor cannot be appointed unless both owners confirm that appointment in writing.

Once a dispute has arisen both the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owner change from being “clients” to the “appointing owners” - the terminology re-enforces the Surveyor’s duty to be impartial.


A Surveyor can serve notice on behalf of their client because at that stage it is not known whether the Adjoining Owner will consent or not. If they consent there will be no Award and no need for a Party Wall Surveyor.


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