“Why do I need a Party Wall Award?”
It’s an obvious question, and certainly one that I would no doubt be asking if I didn’t work in the industry. It can be a big expense, and often people don’t get why it’s necessary at all. Fortunately, most projects go to plan, nothing majorly bad happens, and the matters covered by the Party Wall Act don’t need to be applied, but it’s when things go wrong that the Party Wall Act can be a real saving grace
What I always say to clients when they ask me why they need a party wall award is that it protects them! Not only does it protect them, it looks out for the interests of their neighbours too. Nine times out of ten, nothing goes wrong and no damage is caused to neighbouring properties and everything is fine, but when it does, the expense can be huge.
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Let’s take an example. Imagine you are building an extension and you decide not to get a party wall award put together. You save a few a thousand or so pounds and just ignore it. The works go to plan and there’ve been no issues, and then one day shortly after you’ve completed the job you get a message from your neighbour that there is a crack in their house, and they are saying that it wasn’t there before you started the works. They say they are engaging a surveyor to report on the likelihood of the crack having been caused as a result of your works. The surveyor visits site and determines that there is a possibility that your works caused the damage. What do you do now? You can’t prove that it wasn’t caused by the works because you didn’t get a schedule of condition done, and things begin to get messy as they are demanding you repair the damage.
Here’s another example. Imagine you’ve started work on your extension and avoided getting a party wall award. Half way through the works your neighbour decides to get a court injunction to prevent you from proceeding with the works. As the works are notifiable under the Party Wall Act and you have not followed the procedure set out by the Act, they will immediately be granted the injunction. You will then need to stop work, the contractor will need to cancel labour, and pull off site. The result? Potentially months of delay, and the risk of thousands of pounds of additional costs incurred due to the delay from your contractor, and you now have to pay for the party wall surveyor, as you would have done to start.
Not only that, but a lot of contractors will not start work unless you have all of your party wall matters complete and there is a signed party wall award.
An important final point to make in answering why you need to get a party wall award is simply: because it is illegal not to. By ignoring the Party Wall Act you are failing to comply with the law.
Ultimately, it is a risk that you take. It is up to you, but the cost of being caught, or for making good damage to your neighbour’s property that you cannot prove were not as a result of the work almost always exceeds the cost of getting a party wall award in the first place.
The Act is designed to protect both your neighbour and YOU.
It doesn’t matter how well you think you know your neighbour, people can, and do, change when construction work starts next door. It’s a big inconvenience, people get stressed, and things turn nasty all too often.
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