My Garden Wall is to be Re-Built and I’m Worried About the Consequences

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

My neighbours have permission not only to build onto, but also to increase the height of, the wall at the end of my garden.  Neither their builder or surveyor was aware that the level of our garden is higher than the plot and that the walls they are building onto will be effectively below ground or that they also bordered another garden.  I have no building experience and so I am not sure whether their construction method is correct.  Do I just have to accept their opinion that the wall will be fine with more weight added and holes dug nearby?  2 years ago the adjoining garden wall collapsed – it had no foundations.  It was ridiculously expensive and disruptive.  Can I ask to see who has insurance in case someone makes a mistake?   

The surveyor has emailed to say a Party Wall Notice is coming in the post and done some updated plans.  I think we need advice about the Party Wall Notice but also the boundary generally.  If we enter into a Party Wall Agreement are we conceding that we do not own the wall without any further investigation? 

Finally over the summer the owner was with the surveyor as I passed and they mentioned that they would like access to my garden to erect scaffolding.  I asked at the time and subsequently in writing that they let me have details in good time for me to consider but I have no further information.  Were we to agree to scaffolding I guess we would need an agreement in place for that.

Were we to instruct a surveyor would we be responsible for fees relating to advice on construction method etc?

Answer

Assuming that the wall at the end of the garden is built astride the boundary it will be a party fence wall. That being the case, any works that directly affect that wall or any adjacent excavation will be notifiable to you under the Party Wall Act. Upon receipt of those notices you will have the right to dissent and appoint a surveyor of your choice and, in all normal circumstances, that surveyor’s reasonable fee will be paid by the building owner (being the party benefiting from the works). The building owner will also need to appoint a surveyor although you can both concur in the appointment of a single surveyor (known as the ‘Agreed Surveyor’).

Section 2(2)(a) of the Act confirms an owner’s right to increase the height of a party fence wall so you can’t prevent the building owners from doing that.  However, the appointed surveyor(s) will determine the time and manner of executing any work and that would include the method of construction insofar as it effects the party fence wall. 

If there are significant engineering issues to be agreed, such as the design of a retaining wall, your surveyor can argue that he/requires input from an advising engineer (at the expense of the building owner) and that would normally be considered reasonable.

The Act provides a right of access where it is necessary to undertake notified works and where that is the case the details will be agreed by the surveyor(s) and confirmed in the document that they serve on the owners (known as a ‘party wall award’)

Insurance is not a matter for the appointed surveyors but the building owner is responsible for any damage caused by the notified works and you have the right to request security for expenses.

Party wall surveyors do not determine boundaries but nothing that they agree will affect the current status of the wall.