Is There Any Value in The Building Owner Getting a Party Wall Award After The Work Has Been Completed

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

Back in July last year we served notice (via our surveyor) to our neighbour with regards to the rebuilding & extension of a party wall.  They immediately dissented and appointed their own surveyor.  Various meetings, discussions and communications were had, primarily concerning insuring our neighbour against loss of business (he works from home) should our contractors put a spade through his internet cable which partly runs along the boundary of our two properties.  Finally a compromise was reached, and an agreement separate from the standard Party Wall Award was produced and signed.  This agreement was signed up just in time before our contractors started work on March 1st this year.

All the other details regarding the main Party Wall Award – e.g. the schedule of condition, the works schedule, etc. – were also all agreed in principle via email.  However, for reasons that remain unknown to me, the main Award itself was not issued in time for us to start work.  At the time our surveyor advised us that since it had all been agreed in principle there was no reason for us not to start work which we duly did.  We’re now more than half-way through the building work, our contractors have a very cordial relationship with our neighbour, and there has been not the slightest indication that a complaint or an injunction is imminent.

Despite repeated chasing I have had heard nothing from our surveyor for more than 4 weeks now, save for a copy letter he sent to the AO’s surveyor giving him 10 days notice before serving the Award ex parte.

We’re getting close to the situation where all the party wall work has been completed with no issue from the neighbour.  Once the party wall is complete, assuming no Award has been issued, I intend writing to our surveyor telling him not to bother.  We would therefore be saving ourselves a couple of grand in fees.

But, before I write this letter, I want to go back to the original short question above.  Is there any value in having the Party Wall Award drawn up after the building work has been completed?

Answer

Technically, you should not have commenced work until the awards had been served on the owners although as the contents had been agreed it is highly unlikely that the Adjoining Owner could obtain an injunction in such circumstances. If a surveyor neglects to act for more then 10 days following a request from the other surveyor then the Party Wall Act allows the other surveyor to proceed ex-parte (section 10(7)). From what you say that is what appears to have happened.

Delays in serving the award are normally caused by arguments over fees so it may be that your surveyor could not agree the fee put forward by the Adjoining owner’s surveyor. Presumably your surveyor will follow through his intention to serve the award ex-parte at which point both surveyors’ fees will become due. I don’t see that a delay in serving the award gets you out of paying the surveyors’ fees.

For the reasons set out above I think your initial question is irrelevant – whether you receive the document before, during or after the work both you and the Adjoining Owner can still rely upon it if necessary. Most owners also like the schedule to be checked off at the end of the works and to receive a letter from the surveyor confirming that there has been no damage.

Follow-up

Our surveyor’s notice of issuing the award ex-parte seemed to have spurred everyone back into action.  He tells me they are ready to make the award.  However now my concern is the AO’s fees – he’s looking to charge £1,800 + vat which I consider to be highly excessive.  I guess my next course of action would be to contact the 3rd surveyor appointed at the beginning of the process to see how much he would charge to adjudicate on the AO’s fees.

Answer

Initially, it is up to your appointed surveyor to agree the AO’s surveyor’s fee – If the 2 surveyors cannot agree it can be referred to the Third Surveyor.

As an owner you can also make a referral to the Third Surveyor although it may weaken you case if the person in the best position to make a judgment (your surveyor) thinks that the fee is fair. I would start by suggesting to your surveyor that he request a copy of the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor’s time sheet.