The risk of a building owner attempting to serve notice without enlisting the services of a party wall Surveyor could result in a deficiency in service which may render the whole procedure invalid. The resulting delay to the project, with consequent increase in costs, may be considerable.
Section 2 of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 grants rights to undertake particular work to a boundary structure of certain types. The boundary structure will generally be jointly owned by the building owner and adjoining owner (party walls, party fence walls and party structures). Importantly, there is no right to place ‘’special foundations’’ on the adjoining owner’s land without the adjoining owner’s written permission. The building owner must therefore serve a party structure notice on the adjoining owner.
Instructing a Party Wall Surveyor in the first instance ensures that they are responsible for the preparation and service of notices. They will also be aware of related professional liability issues and will adhere to the strict time limits stated in the Act for service of notices.
Another pitfall of going-it-alone, without the expertise of a competent party wall surveyor, is the level of detail and description required in the notice for the adjoining owner to assess the impact of the proposals on the relevant building. Failure to provide this may invalidate the notice.
A building owner is required to serve the notice, however, with written authority, they can authorise surveyors, acting as their agents, to sign and serve notice on their behalf. The instructed surveyor will ensure that the notice is correctly prepared in accordance with the Act and served by one of the methods specified in section 15 of the Act.
Following notice received, the surveyor will then advise the building owner on the ensuing process according to the adjoining owner’s response, which will be one of three things:
- consent to the works as proposed or
- dissent from the works as proposed.
These choices have an impact on whether a Party Wall Award is required.