If your project is affected by a party wall matter, you might have heard the term ‘party wall surveyor’ batted about. But how can this professional help your home and do you even need one?
Let’s find out…
What is a party wall?
A party wall is a wall, boundary, or outbuilding that you share with another household. These are common between terraced and semi-detached houses but can also affect detached properties if you share a garden wall or invisible boundary line.
While it can be quite easy to spot a shared party structure, such as a wall between two terrace properties, it can be difficult to spot shared boundaries. For this reason, we always recommend having an architect on board, who will be able to spot these issues ahead of time and advise you when to act.
Work you must tell your neighbour about
A party wall notice is required if you’re building anywhere within 3ms of a party wall, including shared boundaries.
The notice must be served at least two months before any construction takes place and be given to all legal owners of any building affected by your proposed build. Under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, neighbours have 14 days to respond.
If they give written consent during this time, your works can go on ahead. However, if they fail to reply or dissent, then you’ll need to commission a party wall agreement.
Do I need a party wall surveyor?
Whether you’ll legally need a party wall surveyor will depend on where you’re at in the process.
When it comes to serving notice, having a party wall surveyor is up to you. Your notice can either be drafted by a surveyor or yourself. However, getting a professional to handle this initial stage can provide big project benefits - more on this below.
If you’ve failed to get consent for the build and need a party wall agreement, then you will need to hire a party wall surveyor (maybe even two). These professionals will be able to assess which areas of your home and your neighbours are at risk before construction begins. If any property damage does occur, their documentation will protect both parties from unfair or misleading claims. And because their work provides proof of the property’s condition prior to construction, anything damaged can be properly restored.
Surveyors also manage the party wall award and set out the time and manner in which works should be carried out, such as working hours, access, and safeguards to reduce the risk of property damage.
Traditionally, you and your neighbour will share the same party wall surveyor. However, it is within their rights to demand their own, and (we’re sorry to say) in both cases you’ll have to foot the bill.
Benefits of getting a party wall surveyor from the start
While having a party wall surveyor is optional for serving notice, we highly recommend you consider getting their expertise involved.
Appointing a party wall surveyor at the start of the process is the best thing you can do to ensure all the correct procedures are being followed. This matters because if the original notice isn’t valid then any response (positive or negative) received will consequently no longer be legally valid too. Potentially opening you up for objections, as well as potentially losing your neighbour’s good faith.
Having a surveyor at the start can also be useful in helping you manage the relationship you have with your neighbour, alleviating any of their concerns and assuring them their property will be protected.
All of this is vital as you want to give yourself the best chance for securing written consent off the bat. Failure to do so leads to a lengthy legal process, which can last 3 or more months, plus a much heftier bill. You’ll not only have to cover your costs but those of your neighbour too. This can run into the thousands, especially if they choose to appoint a separate party wall surveyor of their own. By investing in a party wall surveyor at the start, you could save yourself both a lot of time and money going forward.
Want to know more about party wall surveyors and how to find a good one? At Resi, our complimentary Connect service introduces you to the vetted experts in your area - including surveyors. To find out how we benefit your project, why not book a consultation with our team? You’ll get expert advice for your home, free of charge!