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The Benefits of a Party Wall Award - Why You Need One

by Sara Louisa Bryant on May 26, 2016

Last year, my husband and I decided that we were going to extend our house. We obtained all the planning permission from our local council and had the plans drawn up by an architect and were ready to go. But there was one last thing we needed to do. We informed our neighbors of our intentions, and we agreed to get in a local surveyor to create a party wall award.

In instances where properties are semi-detached or attached, one or more rooms in your house are likely to be attached to a ‘party wall’ in some form or other. This means that, while the wall still remains a part of your property, it is also a part of your neighbor’s property and should be treated as such. If there are any amendments, reparations or constructions made that may affect the party wall, it is important that your neighbors are made aware of these and that they give express permission for the works to go ahead.

A Party Wall Award – A Brief Guide

A party wall is one that sets the boundary between two properties. Our home is semi-detached, so we informed the neighbors on the side our house was attached to. A party wall award is created to determine the condition of both properties either side of the party wall and to set out the planned work explicitly, along with determining who is responsible for any damage that occurs and the fees for the initial work.

Between ourselves and our neighbors, we established that we wanted a local surveyor to come and figure out the party wall award. We live in Dorking, so we called a chartered surveyor in Dorking to come and help us out. This is because local surveyors tend to know what sort of problems are likely to arise in the same sort of property in the same area. Local surveyors will then be able to give more relevant advice instead of having to rely on a surveyor who may not have the experience. It is always recommended to go with a local surveyor if you are able, to avoid repercussions later on.

Checking Things through with an Experienced Eye

As luck would have it, the surveyor we chose to conduct the report had been given the same task further down our road the year before, so they knew exactly what they were looking for. They determined that the wall – and both properties in general – were structurally sound and safe enough for the extension to proceed. If this hadn’t been the case, we would have had to undertake structural reinforcement work or ditch the project entirely, which would have been very frustrating. By having an experienced surveyor with first-hand local knowledge check through everything and give us the all-clear, this worked to allay any worries we would have about proceeding with the extension in the first place.

Who Should Pay?

It was decided between us that, as we had planned the initial extension and wanted to improve upon the property ourselves, we should be the ones to pay for the work, though this isn’t always the case. It can depend a lot on the intentions of each property owner as in many cases the party wall award will come about as a result of one party attempting to improve upon their property.

One such example of both parties paying for the works to be done could be as a result of structural work which is needed and essential for the safety of both houses. It might then be decided that the cost is split equally between the two, or that one set of owners will pay more if the weakness is primarily on their side or caused by their neglect. A lot of it is simply down to common sense but it is worth bearing in mind if you enter into negotiations expecting to pay a certain amount and then having to pay in excess because the party wall in and of itself may be in danger.

In the Event of Damages Occurred

The party wall award also established that we would be responsible for any damage which occurred as a result of our extension, which, again, was fair enough. As it happened, the entire project went smoothly and our extension looks great, and we didn’t need to pay for any extra damage at all, so it worked out very well for us and our neighbors!

It is always best to be safe rather than sorry in these situations, as if we had not agreed to pay damages, this may have led to complications further down the line and even animosity between us and our neighbors. At the end of the day, it is often not worth the trouble of making a Party Wall Award a more difficult affair, just for the sake of saving a little bit of money. By making sure that everything is done to the book, you can help to avoid potential lawsuits and property defects occurring as a result. Best of luck with your property endeavors, whether you are getting the party wall inspected as a part of routine maintenance, or attempting to make extensions and renovations on your existing property.

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