A commonly asked question is when to serve notice, and how long it takes to discharge your duties under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. In this article we’ll be trying to answer that question, as well as others relating to timing when dealing with a party wall matter.
When should I appoint a surveyor?
You should appoint a surveyor if you believe that the Party Wall Act may apply to your works. If you are unsure whether your works are covered by The Act you can read our overview to the Party Wall Act guide. The ideal time to contact a surveyor about your project is as soon as you become aware that the Act might apply to the works. He will be able to advise you about how best to proceed.
Therefore, we would recommend that you contact a surveyor to confirm whether your works require Party Wall matters as soon as you are certain that you intend to carry out the works.
If you are looking for a party wall surveyor, you can find one by searching our directory of party wall surveyors.
When should I serve party wall notices?
You must serve party wall notices at least 1 or 2 months before the works start, depending on which notices you serve and what works you are carrying out.
If you intend to carry out works directly to a party structure, for example to insert a steel beam, to underpin a wall, or to remove a chimney breast you must serve the Party Structure Notice at least 2 months before you intend to carry out the works.
If you intend to excavate close to your neighbour’s property, or build on the boundary line, then you must serve notice at least 1 month before the works / excavations start.
Can I serve notices before I have planning permission?
Yes. You can serve notices before you have planning. In fact if you feel confident that planning will be approved and you are in a hurry to start works then it is often advisable to do so.
Serving party wall notices is a reasonably inexpensive process. We charge £85 +VAT per adjoining property to which notices need to be sent.
Do party wall notices expire?
Yes. A party wall notice is valid for 12 months from the date on which is was served.
What information is needed to prepare the notices?
Your surveyor will want a copy of the project drawings, as well as a section drawing of the proposed foundations if you intend on excavating near another property. He will likely also have some questions about your project that can usually be provided verbally, and he will ask you about these when he is appointed. Contact information for your neighbours is useful, however your surveyor should carry out all the necessary checks on the Government’s Land Registry.
Your surveyor must be formally appointed in writing, and before he can do anything he will issue you with an appointment letter which you should sign and return to him.
How long does each stage of the party wall process take?
After you appoint a surveyor he will typically review the drawings and confirm which notices need to be sent. For a simple project where the information is provided promptly, and there are no complications in obtaining contact details for your neighbours, the notices can be served within a few days, but that is dependent on the availability of information and can take up to 2 or more weeks if information isn’t forthcoming. This is particularly true with drawings showing the proposed foundations which must be provided when a notice of adjacent excavation is being issued.
The notices will then be with your neighbour for up to 14 days. In the event that your neighbour does not respond, they are deemed to have dissented to the works, and your surveyor will issue a 10-day notice letter which gives them ten days to appoint their own surveyor otherwise one will be appointed to act on their behalf under section 10(4) of the Act.
So the longest the notification period should take is 24 days adding a couple of days for postage, and this is set out in the Act and should be followed by your surveyor.
If a dispute arises the surveyor(s) will need to arrange to carry out a schedule of condition of you neighbour’s property. This on average takes about 1/2 weeks to arrange, but can be longer.
Once the schedule of condition has been carried out, the surveyor working for the person carrying out the works will prepare the draft award. This will then be reviewed and agreed, and any amendments made. Following this, the final Award will be signed and issued to the adjoining owner’s surveyor for signing. Once this is complete, the signed Awards will be sent to the relevant owners and the works can commence.
For the preparation of the Award and the signing by all surveyors, you should typically allow 1-3 weeks.
So on an average job you can expect:
- Prepare notices: 1 – 2 weeks
- Notice period: 3 weeks
- Arrange Schedule of Condition: 1/2 weeks
- Prepare Award: 1-3 weeks
- Total time from issue of notices to service of Award(s): 4 – 8 weeks, on average.
Bear in mind that these are just indicative and can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the project, and can run on for months if the surveyors can’t agree, so it is always advised to consult a party wall surveyor as soon as possible.