Party Wall Disputes and Neighbours
Friday 26th July 2019
Carl O'Boyle BSc MRICS FCIOB MFPWS
At Tayross Associates we have an enviable record as acting as the Agreed Surveyor for parties engaging in building works and handling Party Wall disputes with neighbours. We regularly save Building Owners thousands of pounds when carrying out building works by convincing Adjoining Owners that we are transparent and without conflict of interest when carrying out our duties as Party Wall Surveyors.
One question we are commonly asked by Adjoining Owners is why it would not be perceived as a conflict of interest to have one Agreed Surveyor acting for all parties? There are many obvious answers that Party Wall Surveyors will give to questions such as this, the main replies being :-
"The role of the Party Wall Surveyor is performed as a statutory duty. It is not a client appointed role. As such there is no obligation for the surveyor to do the clients bidding, as simply they can apply to the county court if the building owner refuses to pay their invoice."
"That as a member of a professional institute they have to abide by a code of practice, which includes acting transparently and without a conflict-of-interest."
We at Tayross Associates have a more valid point to add and it is a huge part of the reason that we are very successful in working for all parties as the Agreed Surveyor under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and ensuring that Party Wall disputes are handled carefully. This lies in the fact that I sit on the panel of the Investigative Panel Committee (IPC) of the largest professional building faculty, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) which has over 40,000 members worldwide. With such a large membership, the IPC was set up by the CIOB to investigate standards of consultants and surveyors which fall below those set out in their code of practice.
Reducing the chances of Party Wall disputes with neighbours
When Building Owners ring me to discuss how best to proceed with issuing notices to their Adjoining Owners and avoiding Party Wall disputes, I always advise that they involve the neighbours as early as possible in the process. If you are on reasonable terms with your neighbours there is nothing better than inviting your neighbours around to discuss your proposals and to get them on side. This is a neighbourly thing to do and is a lot better than sending a Party Wall Notice through the post, which in my experience always gets things off to a bad start and makes Party Wall disputes more likely.
It never ceases to amaze me how neighbours that got on perfectly well together before building works were planned then turn into arch enemy rivals. In my opinion, this can be avoided and needs to be avoided as no one wants to live in an environment where there is hostility only inches and yards away from your family and home.
I find most neighbours are more concerned about the nuisance of the building works, rather than the change to the Building Owners property. Your neighbour may have objected to your building proposals and may have caused you a lot of angst and anxiety through the planning process but it's important to bear in mind that it is your neighbours' democratic right to object to planning proposals. One should not feel aggrieved when your neighbour objects to these proposals.
As human beings we can be self-focused and only take on board what we want out of life rather than our neighbours concerns, which most Building Owners interpret as just shear awkwardness, envy or even jealously. This may be true in some instances but I find that it's actually in the minority rather than the majority of neighbours. Again, one should not feel aggrieved when your neighbour objects to your planning proposals and necessarily feel that they are going to be hostile towards you during the building works again.This type of psychology often leads to the process getting off to the wrong start.
With all of this in mind, even if there have been lengthy disputes over your planning it is still not too late to rebuild relationships with neighbours.
How to mitigate disruption and the potential for disputes
When the building works are in full swing, the chances of disruption and disputes are greatly increased. For example, builders courteously parking across driveways can be a enough to start all out war. Equally, builders cutting timber or angle grinding on the scaffold with sawdust and grit falling onto the conservatory or newly cleaned car or the siting of noisy plant, storage of materials up against the boundary fence, are just a few of the factors likely to lead to a major dispute and falling out with neighbours.
A lot of these confrontations can all be avoided by proper planning, coordination and implementation of your project.
Such items as getting the builder to prepare a Method Statement, which details how the building works are going to be carried out with minimal disruption to your neighbours, is a big plus point to discuss at any meeting with your neighbour. It shows that your mind is not just focused on your building project but you're also focused on minimal disruption and impact to your neighbours, which is what you would really want to see if you were on the other side of the fence.
We at Tayross Associates can provide guidance in the preparation of these Method Statements and offer helpful advice. Also we find that Method Statement actually help make the project run more smoothly with less anxiety for all.
Party Wall legislation is beneficial here in that it controls the working hours for the notifiable elements of the building works, such as excavation and actual work on the Party Wall. It's worth noting however, that it does not control works not related to the notifiable works such as plastering, joinery, building of brickwork etc that are not been carried out on the line of junction.
As a Building Owner, you can can offer at an early stage not to carry out works at unsociable hours such as weekends and bank holidays and not too early in the morning as no one wants to hear a KANGO hammer at 7:30 in the morning or at 6:00 in the evening! Works can be carried out during sociable hours which are not excessively noisy. It also helps if the builder does not have a noisy radio blaring out to the other neighbours again this is a complaint I often hear.
This article was written by Carl O'Boyle BSc MRICS FCIOB MFPWS. Carl is a full professional member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building for which he currently sits on the CIOB professional conduct committee and adjudications panel.
If you have any Party Wall enquiries then please call us at our Pinner office on 0208 426 1448. We cover all of London and the surrounding areas.