Watson Woods Partnership
If you believe that an Award has been made improperly the Act (Section 10(17)) provides that you may appeal it in the County Court within 14 days. After 14 days the Award becomes "conclusive" and unless it it legally flawed it cannot be "questioned in any Court".
Appealing an Award is a 'last resort' and can be very expensive even if you succeed. If you loose an appeal you may be liable for the other party's legal costs and associated losses in addition to your own costs. Before making an appeal you should obtain advice from a Party Wall Surveyor and also seek specialist legal advice.
Where basements are involved or other jobs involving significant engineering, Adjoining Owners Surveyor’s may require advice from a independent engineer - if this is agreed you would be liable for these additional costs.
If an appointed Party Wall Surveyor incurs abortive costs which may be entirely outside of your control for example an Adjoining Owner fails to provide access to their property after a pre-arranged appointment then you may be liable for your Surveyor's additional costs even though the cause was not your fault.
Where basements are involved and especially where party wall is underpinned, Adjoining Owners Surveyors may require monitoring of the Adjoining Owner's property. This is a system of measuring fixed points using optical or electronic equipment to detect slight movement. The installation and monitoring of this equipment can be expensive. (We would resist thi sunless we considered it to be necessary).
A neighbouring owner can, under the provisions of Section 12 of the Act, request that a person undertaking works provides Security for Expenses which is normally a sum of money agreed by the owner's or determined by the Surveyor or Surveyors which is then held in a escrow account for the duration of the work and used to cover any expenses which are legitimately incurred or released in whole or part to the person undertaking the work when the risk has passed. Persons or organisations that hold sums of money in escrow will normally charge a fee for doing so. Agreeing and administering Security for Expenses would also incur additional Surveyor's fees.
You and not your contractor will be responsible for any damage caused by your works. Inspecting and determining damage would also incur additional Surveyors fees.
You may have engaged an Architect and an Engineer but it is likely that no Temporary Works Design/Methodolgy has been included. This is commonly left to the contractor. The temporary works design and construction methodology is very important if the work includes critical structure i.e. Deep excavation in close proximity of neighbour’s building, a basement that includes underpinning a Party Wall or works to remove and replace support to a flat above (this can include many side infill or ‘wrap-round’ extensions). A contractor may not undertake this work in the safest way as this is not likely to be the most ‘cost effective’ method. Party Wall Surveyors may require that a Temporary Works Design/Method Statement is produced by an engineer and this would attract additional costs if it was not originally allowed for.
A Party Wall Award may restrict the timing of noisy works that fall under the provisions of the Act. This may have a cost or program implication.
If two appointed Party Wall Surveyors have a disagreement which they cannot resolve, matters may be referred to a Third Surveyor for adjudication. If the third decides against your appointed surveyor you may be liable for all or part of the third Surveyors fee and the fees of the referring surveyors.
Payment for use of a wall or structure previously built by a neighbour is covered by Section 11(11) of the Act.
If a neighbour has previously built or raised a Party Wall, for example, to build a loft or rear extension or if a neighbour has underpinned a Party Wall to form a basement then you may have to pay a contribution to use the section of wall in question. This is covered by Section 11(11) of the Act.
Measuring, calculating and agreeing a Section 11(11) payment would also incur additional Surveyors fees.
If you are doing work you will probably have obtained quotes from surveyors so you will be paying a fair market rate. This does not apply to Adjoining Owner’s surveyors who often charge higher fees than the Building Owner’s surveyor for arguably doing much less work. An Adjoining Owner’s surveyor will not normally propose a fixed fee and he or she will commonly charge a very high hourly rate. Adjoining Owner’s surveyors ‘get away with this because:
a) It is hard to challenge a fee because there is no independent regulation. The only channel to appeal a fee is either to a third surveyor who a cynic might say is part of the same gravy train, or by appeal to a Court which prohibitively expensive.
b) Challenging surveyors fees can cause delays to a project which are often disproportionate to the sum at stake.
c) The Building Owner’s surveyor does not have much incentive to argue over fees because it is time consuming and he or she is probably on a fixed fee.
Adjoining Owner’s surveyors are aware of the above and this has created an artificial economy where grossly inflated fees are almost the norm.
If we need to spend excessive time challenging unreasonable fees we may need to charge for the time spent.
If there are breaches of the terms of an Award, for example unauthorised works or damage caused to an adjoining property, Surveyors may make additional inspections which would incur additional fees.
The Party Wall Act Section 7 provides that an Adjoining Owner be compensated for any loss arising from the notified works. The validity of any claim in this respect would be determined by the Party Wall Surveyor or Surveyors and it is not possible to briefly summarise here what losses would be compensatable.
If damage is caused to an adjoining property the Adjoining Owner has a right to request a payment in lieu of making good the damage. The neighbour who has caused the damage does not have a right to insist that making good damage be undertaken by his or her contractors. A claim for loss in this context might, if justifiable, include alternative accommodation and associated expenses.
Determining compensations would also incur additional Surveyors fees.
A Party Wall Award may require additional specialist surveys which may not have been envisaged or budgeted for. For example surveys of underground drains or chimney/gas flues before or after the Works.
The above list is not exhaustive but covers some of the most common 'unforeseen expenses'. Call us to discuss potential costs in more detail. We can advise on which of the above might affect your project and give you estimates of the likely costs or effects.
A Party Wall Award may require additional professional inspections in addition to those which may have been allowed for or anticipated. An Award may require an Engineer to make additional inspections to ensure that the works are being executed in accordance with design and defined methodology. These additional inspections will incur additional fees.
If your contractor builds concrete foundations or commonly, reinforced concrete basement retaining walls, which project excessively onto neighbour's land then the neighbour can reclaim the costs of removing the trespassing projections from you. This work can be surprisingly expensive.