I am about to Serve Notice and My Neighbour says he will do all he can to Delay my Works and Maximise the Cost.

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

I am about to serve a Party Wall Notice on my neighbour before beginning work on a rear extension which is within the permitted development rules and does not require planning permission.
 
I have already discussed this with my neighbour who tells me that he will do everything possible to delay the building work and if possible stop it altogether, including insisting on 3 surveyors being involved and instigating court action wherever possible in order to push my costs up.

I believe he is taking this approach because he is a property developer who owns the other two houses in the terrace, mine being the third, and would like mine also so that he can demolish the existing properties and build flats.  I have lived in my house for over 20 years and have no intention of moving.
 
Is it possible for my neighbour to do what he has threatened?  I know we each have to appoint a surveyor at my cost but don’t know what circumstances could lead to the need for a third surveyor or court action.  My builder, architect and surveyor are very diligent professional people who will comply to the letter of the law so I can’t foresee any actions on any of their parts which could possibly result in litigation. 
 
I would like to start the building work within the next 3 months, is this a reasonable amount of time to expect any disputes to be resolved?

Answer

An Adjoining Owner can certainly slow party wall procedures down to a certain extent but as long as your surveyor and designer are competent it should not add to your costs.
 
The Third Surveyor is selected at the start of the process but is only required if one of the parties refers a matter to him – this would normally happen when the surveyors cannot agree one of the matters in dispute but either owner can also make a referral. If the Adjoining Owner were to make what appeared to be a frivolous referral I would expect the two appointed surveyors to continue with their work and serve the agreed awards. It is up to the Third Surveyor to award on which party should pay his fees so if the referral had no basis the party that made that referral would receive the bill.
 
Following the serving of the Award the Adjoining Owner will have 14 days in which to appeal it in the County Court. If the appeal is dismissed then the Adjoining Owner will have to pay the associated costs – the Act does not say that you must wait until the appeal period has run to commence work.
 
It will be essential that the paperwork is correct – your surveyor should prepare the notice carefully and get proof of postage, the surveyors should get their appointments and the selection of the Third Surveyor confirmed in writing. If any of the initial paperwork is invalid then you may find yourself having to start over at a later stage.
 
Regarding the time scale – the Adjoining Owner will have 14 days to consider the notice, assuming that he does nothing you (or your surveyor) must then write to him confirming that he is deemed to have dissented and must appoint a surveyors within 10 days. He will either wait until the end of this period to do that or again ignore the letter – if it is the latter then you can appoint a surveyor on his behalf.

Once surveyors are appointed I would expect it to take 2-4 weeks to agree the award assuming that all the details of the works are available. Allowing a few more days to get the fair copies of the Awards signed and some postage time on the original notice/letter you should allow around 2 months. If your neighbour manages to find a surveyor that he can manipulate then it could take a bit longer than that but it will be up to your surveyor to keep the process moving.