Our Neighbour’s Surveyor is Demanding that We Replace their Weak Roof

by The Party Wall Surveyor

Question

I’m trying to get a loft conversion sorted as I’ve got a growing family and am looking to put in place a Party Wall Agreement with the neighbour as I need to put scaffolding up from the back yard of their attached property onto a shared wall (they’ve inherited the house, don’t live there, but will be looking to put it on the market soon).

The two surveyors have got what I understand is all the usual stuff in the draft party wall agreement, like the undertaking to put right any damage, for the builders to have proper insurance etc, but the neighbour via their surveyor is demanding that we agree to pay to fully replace the weak roof (rotting wood) of the annex on the shared wall that the scaffolding will go over, regardless of whether there is any damage and won’t agree to sign without that included.

Just to sweeten the demand their surveyor has now also said he will require us to pay to have our garden dug up to have the foundations checked (despite the fact we have been using an architect and structural surveyor because its a listed building, albeit the work is not particularly complex other than putting in a gable to allow headroom for the stairs).

It seems to me like a straightforward case of extortion. Can they really do that? and is there anything I can do about it to avoid them delaying etc, this has been spun out since December and their surveyor is charging by the hour.  Any advice would be really welcome.

Answer

It would be difficult for me to know whether the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor’s demands are reasonable or not. What he should not do is allow his appointing owner to influence his professional judgment.

If there is a high risk of damage occurring and the Adjoining Owner’s property being left in a compromised state then there is provision within the Act for them to request some security for expenses (section 12 of the Act). If that point cannot be agreed between the owners it is settled in accordance with section 10 i.e. by the appointed surveyors.

Your surveyor should not agree to any unreasonable demands. If you believe that the surveyors are acting beyond their jurisdiction you may refer any particular matter to the selected Third Surveyor. You should have been told who that was at the outset but if you were not just ask you surveyor who was selected.

Follow-up

Thank you for that.  I keep trying to get to the bottom of this, it seems to be hinge around the argument that the neighbour won’t let us put up the scaffolding on their land (only real route of access) to do the works on the party wall (putting in the gable) that will be subject to the Award, unless we agree to replace the roof of the annex, regardless of whether there is any damage.

The official guidance on the Act is a bit vague about rights of access, but what I was told this morning was that the Award only allows that the work on the party wall can go ahead, it does not create a right to put up the scaffolding on their land to do it.

Answer

The Act would give you a right to place scaffolding on the Adjoining Owners land if it is ‘necessary’ to carry out work ‘in pursuance of the Act’ – that is the important point. For a loft the only notifiable work which would normally require access is if you were doing something at the boundary at roof level – say raising the party wall or laying open a neighbour’s dormer.

Where access is shown to be necessary the Act gives you significant rights of access although it is subject to 14 days written notice. Your surveyor should be arguing the case for you if access is really necessary.