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  • Clio Domenech

Can a Neighbour Refuse a Party Wall Agreement?

When a Party Wall Notice is served on the Adjoining Owner, there are ultimately three ways in which they can respond; consent*, dissent, and no reply. Receiving an immediate consent is ideal, however this does not happen to everybody. Today, we will focus on the possible latter two responses and how these situations are resolved.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 does not provide an authorised mechanism for explicitly "refusing" or "declining" a Party Wall Agreement, as per its stipulations. However, Adjoining Owners can choose to dissent or not reply to a Party Wall Notice, which signifies being "not in favour" of the works and must both of which are resolved by a Party Wall Award. Moreover, if the issue of "refusal" pertains to the Adjoining Owner's reluctance to receive a Party Wall Notice, it is not subject to negotiation, as the Party Wall Notice is served upon the Adjoining Owner, not presented for acceptance. The legal responsibility lies with the Building Owner, who is obligated to duly serve the necessary Party Wall Notice(s) upon the Adjoining Owner.

No Response to a Party Wall Notice

Counting from the day the Adjoining Owner receives the Party Wall Notice, they have 14 days to give their written reply. If they are unsuccessful to do so within 14 days, the project is deemed to go into an automatic dispute. In order to increase the chance of a guaranteed response, we advise Building Owners to have open communication with the Adjoining Owner, making them aware of the works verbally before serving the official Party Wall Notice.

This way, the Adjoining Owner is made aware that their response holds significance and must take care when choosing the way to respond. However, even with all the preemptive actions that the Building Owner can take to avoid a no response scenario, it can still occur. After the 14 days, the Building Owner is obliged to serve a second Notice to which the Adjoining Owner has 10 days to respond upon receipt of the Notice. Although the proposed works has already gone into a deemed dispute, the Adjoining Owner can still choose consent at any point within these 10 days. If no response is given from the Adjoining Owner after the total period of 24 days, the Building Owner must appoint a separate surveyor to Act on behalf of the Adjoining Owner to resolve the dispute through producing a Party Wall Award. The Building Owner cannot appoint one Party Wall Surveyor to act on behalf of both parties (act as the Agreed Surveyor) in this situation, as the Adjoining Owner has not "agreed' to anything if they are unresponsive.

Dissent to a Party Wall Notice

As soon as the Adjoining Owner dissents to the Party Wall Notice, a dispute is triggered. The Adjoining Owner can agree to appoint the same Party Wall Surveyor as the Building Owner (one surveyor acts impartially and produces the Party Wall Award) or they can choose to appoint their own separate surveyor (the Building Owner Surveyor and Adjoining Owner Surveyor work together to produce the Party Wall Award).

Once the surveyor(s) are appointed, they will begin to work on the Party Wall Award. The Building Owner should bear in mind that producing a Party Wall Award will add time onto the Party Wall Process as there are extra steps that must be carried out. To name the major two steps; a site visit will be carried out at the Adjoining Owner's property and the Party Wall Surveyors must come to an agreement of the terms and conditions that will be included in the Award. During the making of the Award, Party Wall Surveyors may ask for extra details from the Design Team and Contractors if there are areas that need to be taken extra care for. A Party Wall Award typically contains; information on how the contractors should carry out the works, the Schedule of Condition survey report and structural drawings from the structural engineer. Upon completion, the Award is served immediately on both parties and the Building Owner is permitted to begin their work. A Party Wall Award is generally valid for a year. Meaning, the Building Owner has year from the date receiving the Award to start their work (the work does not have to be completed within the year). As such, the Adjoining Owner cannot stop the works from going ahead. The Party Wall Award enables the Building Owner to do their works.

In conclusion, navigating the responses of Adjoining Owners to Party Wall Notices involves a meticulous process to ensure a smooth progression of construction projects. Whether faced with a dissent or a no response scenario, Building Owners must adhere to the guidelines set forth in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. The absence of a timely response triggers a deemed dispute, prompting further actions such as the issuance of a second Notice. In cases of dissent, the engagement of Party Wall Surveyors becomes essential, leading to the development of a comprehensive Party Wall Award that outlines the terms and conditions for the proposed works. Despite the complexities, open communication between Building Owners and Adjoining Owners remains pivotal in fostering understanding and cooperation throughout the Party Wall process. Ultimately, a well-executed Party Wall Agreement ensures legal compliance and sets the foundation for successful construction endeavours.

*This often comes with a request of a Schedule of Condition survey to be carried out on their property.

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