- Talk to your neighbours first!
We often get calls from neighbours, known as ‘adjoining owners’, who receive a Party Wall Notice and are often confused and worried to receive a formal document that has come as a complete surprise, saying, “Our neighbours haven’t even discussed their plans with us.”
As the building owner, if you haven’t given your neighbour the courtesy of speaking to them personally before any documentation is issued, you could automatically be increasing the chances of your neighbour feeling disgruntled, making them more likely to dissent to your Party Wall Notices.
At Harrison Clarke, when we are working with building owners, the first questions we ask are whether you have discussed your plans with your neighbours and what is your relationship like with them?
This knowledge can help us to strategically plan how Party Wall Notices are served, to ensure they receive an appropriate response and maximise the chance of your neighbour giving their consent.
We recommend that you speak to your neighbours as early on in the process of designing your plans as possible, as including your neighbours has more benefits than disadvantages.
In most cases, we also recommend that you deliver the Party Wall Notices by hand. This gives you the opportunity to explain everything in person, which builds trust and rapport.
You can talk them through the works, update them on the contractor you will be using, and actively listen to any concerns they may have.
We are also happy to speak with your neighbours directly, to discuss your proposals with them, answering their questions and giving them peace of mind before they return the Acknowledgement form.
These thoughtful touches can really help to improve your chances of your neighbour consenting to your Party Wall Notices, and to mitigate the cost of a potential Party Wall Award.
- Reassure your neighbour that giving consent will not leave them unprotected
Many neighbours believe that consenting to a Party Wall Notice means that they are waiving their right to having any remedial repairs done at the cost of the building owner, if any damage to their property occurs during the building work.
This is absolutely not the case. When you meet with your neighbour to discuss your plans, you should assure them that they are fully protected; that you, the building owner, will be responsible for paying for any damage that has been caused by your building works. It is also worth mentioning that, should they consent to a Party Wall Notice and there is a future dispute in relation to the party wall works, they will still be able to appoint a surveyor to resolve the dispute. Many surveyors are unaware of this, but it is crucial that adjoining owners understand that, by consenting, they are not foregoing their rights under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
- Offer your neighbours a Photographic Schedule of Condition
It may sound counter-intuitive to suggest spending money to save money, by offering this additional service. However, even if your neighbour consents to your Party Wall Notice, this could save you money in the long run.
The most common reason for neighbours dissenting to Party Wall Notices is because they are worried about damage occurring to their property, and they want to ensure they are protected.
You can make sure that your neighbour understands that they are still protected from damage to their property if they consent to the Party Wall Notice, and you can give them further reassurance by offering to pay for a surveyor to carry out a Photographic Schedule of Condition.
Documenting the condition of their property before the building work starts, can sometimes help to encourage a neighbour to consent to the Party Wall Notices, as you are building trust by proving that you care about protecting their interests, and are happy to invest in that protection.
It’s a win win – not only will the Photographic Schedule of Condition protect your neighbours from any damage caused by your works, but it will also protect you from any spurious claims of damage.
The cost you incur by commissioning a Photographic Schedule of Condition would be significantly lower than potentially paying two surveyors to carry out a Party Wall Award if your neighbour doesn’t feel secure and protected and instead decides to dissent to your Party Wall Notice.
- Ask a surveyor experienced in party wall works to draw up your Party Wall Notices
Some building owners choose to prepare their own Party Wall Notices, using online templates. This might sound like a great way to save money, but we have seen many completed incorrectly, and we have often found that, when neighbours realise that you have used an online template, they don’t trust the content. This often leads to them appointing a professional surveyor to review it, at your cost.
When Party Wall Notices are professionally and accurately drafted, adjoining owners are more likely to consent as they will trust that you have sought advice from a professional. Also, should they dissent, they are more likely to accept the use of an agreed surveyor, which will reduce your costs.