What is a party wall agreement?

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A party wall agreement is referred to as an Award under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. The Award is prepared by building owner’s (person carrying out the works) surveyor in conjunction with the adjoining owner’s (the neighbour) surveyor or by the Agreed Surveyor if the parties have agreed to have one surveyor administering matters.

 

The Award

An Award is a determination that the works can proceed under the Act by the surveyor(s) having considered the proposals put forward by the building owner via the notices served, drawings and any relevant findings from inspections.

The Award is a form of agreement prepared and determined by the surveyor(s) which sets out the rights and obligations of the owners  under the Act in relation to the specific works taking place that are notifiable. The Award is a legally binding agreement and therefore the parties are legally bound to follow the contents therein. If either party would like to formally challenge the contents of the Award they are required to appeal the Award in the county court within 14 days of its service.

 

 

The Contents

The contents and complexity of an Award really depends on the nature of the works and the impact on the adjoining owners. There is no legal requirement to set out the Award in a particular way but there are typical formats that surveyors use that deal with a number of common aspects.

These typically include:

The names and addresses of the owners and the surveyor(s) appointed. This also includes naming a third surveyor when there are two  appointed surveyors. The two surveyors are required to select a third surveyor, who can have matters in dispute referred to him by the surveyors or owners for determination if the parties cannot resolve matters themselves.

Many Awards will include a brief introduction that describes matters that can be addressed by the surveyors under the Act and matters that cannot or  that they are not responsible for, such as determining the position of the boundary for example.

A key part of the Award is to determine if the structures involved are party structures or not. This helps to establish the legal relationship between the  properties, better understand the likely impact of the works and the rights and obligations that may arise.

The Award would also typically confirm whether access has been granted for a Schedule of Condition to have been undertaken or not and if so, it would be typically appended to the Award. Other documents such as drawings, method statements, etc. may also be referred to here as confirmation that they are appended to the Award and their content forms part of it.

Most importantly the Award will state the notifiable works that are authorised under the Award, these are typically the works described in the notices and shown on the drawings. There should not be any deviation from these works without the express agreement of the owners or the surveyors acting on their behalf.

The Award sets out various clauses on how the works should be carried out and matters that fall within the procedural framework such as methodology, costs, liability for damage and compensation, safeguarding measures, protection requirements, access conditions, timings of works, security provisions, etc.

Where building works are more complicated there may be more detailed provisions relating to engineering matters, movement monitoring, security of expenses, involvement of advising engineers, scaffolding arrangements, temporary support works, defrayment of costs and many other requirements specific to the works in question.

 

When it is needed

The service of a party wall notice is a legal requirement when carrying out certain building works. Please make contact with us if you are unsure if the proposed works are notifiable. If on service of a notice an adjoining owners dissents then a party wall agreement (Award) is required.

A party wall agreement provides both sets of owners with certainty on how notifiable works will be carried out in relation to the neighbouring property. This helps prevent issues arising between owners during the works and can also assist in maintaining neighbourly relationships as matters are put into the hands of professionals to deal with rather than neighbours engaging personally.

A party wall agreement or Award most commonly lasts for 12 months from the date of service however in some circumstances the surveyors do have the right to determine how long it may be valid for. For example, during the Covid 19 pandemic Awards were agreed with a longer validity period due to possible lockdowns.

 

Please feel free to make contact with our team at MSA to discuss your party wall requirements, we would be happy to assist you.