Scaremongering and the Party Wall Act.
I’ve taken quite a few calls this week from worried building owners that have been approached by there neighbours the “adjoining owner” to discuss their obligations under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. In most cases, this is after planning has been approved for development be that a new dwelling, extension or dormer, the reason for this is a particular scourge on the Party Wall Surveyor community the so-called “ambulance chaser”.
So What’s an Ambulance Chaser Party Wall Surveyor?
These are companies who use local authority planning lists to mass mailshot anyone living next door to anywhere planning has been granted for development. These unsolicited letters come through the unexpected neighbour’s door and start to list terrible consequences when development goes wrong, which it can but it is rare, and most building owners don’t intentionally not follow the Party Wall Act. Thus the ambulance chaser name.
The purpose of these letters is to drive there appointment, this appointment is usually on an open hourly rate bases sometimes as much as £300 per hour on a junior basis and they travel all over the UK to undertake there work so there is travel to be taken on top of that and appointments like this are always more lucrative than appointments negotiated with the building owner as there is very little commercial negotiation if any after all their literature has scared the neighbour into appointing a Party Wall Surveyor.
So What can I do if my neighbour receives one of these?
This is where a good relationship with your neighbours and open channels of communication are key, discuss the work with them even if they were not happy from a planning perspective to spend the time to explain what you’re going to do how it’s going to happen to ask if they need anything else to help them, serve your notice and discuss methods to put there mind at risk this all helps offer a schedule of condition to record the current condition of there home.
I’ve received one what do I do?
Ultimately its a marketing decision and there are benefits to this we right to building owners, architects and developers sometimes offering our services as a party wall surveyor so I don’t deplore the good ones, but they really shouldn’t be scaring you.
The first bit of advice is to speak to your neighbour explain to them that you have concerns ask them there plans for the party wall act, speak to a surveyor but don’t appoint yet a) you shouldn’t be appointing before you’ve received a notice and b) you may want to agree an agreed surveyor which is always our recommendation given the results of Amir-Siddique-v-Kowaliw
The Building Owner pays the fees so what does it matter?
This isn’t always the case, and they won’t pay any fees before a dispute arises and for a dispute to arise in our opinion either a notice will need to have been served or notifiable work has started, simply starting and for minor domestic work defence of not appointing an agreed surveyor will become more common, so you really need to keep this in mind.
It’s ok I will just revoke or cancel them?
This is a common answer but it is almost impossible without a court order, as the act requires the party wall surveyor to rescind the appointment themselves this is to protect all parties but it also creates issues around such appointments.
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