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party wall agreement problems - please help

(11 Posts)
Lola11 Tue 11-Feb-14 11:10:41

We are planning to build a new extension and our neighbour had appointed a surveyor who was their personal friend and who had done some work on the party wall agreement 6 months ago, charging very high fee. We did ask them to change to someone else as the fees seem to be very high and demands excessive (in comparison with the neighbour on the other side) but they insisted that that we work with this person. We have changed our plans slightly since and have recently send the requested outstanding documents to the company hoping to continue where we left off (the end of it just requiring signature) but the company ignored all our attempts to talk to them as this surveyor is no longer working for them. Our neighbours have now appointed a new surveyor who will have to start from scratch duplicating all the work (and the coast). Worst of all this would delaying our work by several weeks and our builder is not going to be available any more. Do you think that we should pay for all the work again or do we have any choice? Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

LondonGirl83 Tue 11-Feb-14 11:24:42

Your neighbours don't have the right to appoint another partywall surveyor automatically I don't think. What is your relationship like with your neighbours? Minor ammendments to your plans don't impact a partywall agreement as the role of the surveyor is to do a conditions report of the property before work starts and agree access arrangements and working hours. As long as you aren't doing work that falls into a new notification category, I would insist upon using the existing report and if necessary, bringing in someone just to finish it off.

People get confused about what party wall surveyors do. They don't check that work is safe and to code-- that is building control-- and they don't check that work is permitted-- that is the planning department. The work they are doing is very limmitted in scope and to be honest a real rip off.

We notified both of our neighbours under the Partywall Act before work began. The neighbour on the right just consented to the party wall notification so we didn't need surveyor. Instead we agreed to do the conditions report ourselves-- ie. took detailed photos of the inside and outside of her property before we started etc-- and verbally agreed access and working hours.

The other neighbour's house is owned by a housing association so they automatically refuse to consent to the notifications they receive as policy and we had to go down the surveyor route. At least we agreed to a shared surveyor to keep costs down though.

Good luck-- sounds like your neighbours are being very unreasonable.

Lola11 Tue 11-Feb-14 11:44:43

Thanks very much Londongirl. The problem is that the work has not been completed the first time and the surveyor wanted method statements from our builder however by the time they were produced (once we changed our plans and appointed a new architect & new builder - 6 months on) he was no longer working and the company ignored our emails. In fact at first insisting we pay the outstanding balance and then nothing. They never allocated the job to a different person. When we spoke to our neighbours saying that we are starting to build in couple of weeks and that we still haven't a signature even though we provided everything their surveyor asked for they appointed someone different (I am not sure why maybe they didn't get any reply from this company either or the company didn't have another suitable person to work on this)

LondonGirl83 Tue 11-Feb-14 12:03:06

Asking for a method's statement is outrageous. Its not their job to assess plans that building control have already approved.

If you haven't paid the first surveyor then simply don't. They can't charge you for unfinished work.

It sounds like you are more concerned about the timing of things. Not all work strictly involves the partywall. Your builder can start on other work in the interim. However, you best bet would be to see if you can't agree access, working hours and a condition report directly with your neighbours. A party wall award is not a legal requirement.

Lola11 Tue 11-Feb-14 12:34:02

unfortunately we have already paid (more than enough for it to have been completed let alone nothing done) thinking that once we pay and provide method statement they will just sign and that would be the end of it. they don't want to know now and looks like we have to pay all over again - different surveyor! We were waiting for them to get back to us for weeks but nothing. They were just ignoring us until we complained to our neighbour who then appointed a different company! Do you think we should start without it otherwise our builder will have to go (It took us months to find someone) Sorry what do you mean when you say it is no legal requirement? Somebody told us that method statements are standard?! Thanks so much for your help!

LondonGirl83 Tue 11-Feb-14 14:08:40

I mean that if you make the notification under the act, and your neighbor consents, then you don�t legally need a party wall award. Did you serve a notice or just move straight to appointing surveyors? In most cases, the neighbor consents to the notification and that�s the end of it.

If your neighbor does not consent, you are required by civil law to get a partywall award. However, this only concerns work that is notifiable under the party wall act. Your builder can lawfully get on when many aspects of the extension / build you are doing�just not foundation work or cutting into the partywall (broad generalization).

If you were to start work that is notifiable under the party wall act without your neighbor consenting or without an award, you would be in breach of civil law (rather than criminal). They could therefore take you to court and sue you but they would have to prove they have suffered damages to be given a cash settlement.

If you weren�t aware that as a first step, you can simply serve a notice, perhaps, go to your neighbor and explain. It will probably give them a lot of comfort to understand that the surveyor isn�t responsible for the safety of the build and if you bring over proof that building control and planning have already approved your engineering drawings / plans, most reasonable people are happy with that. You can then agree between yourselves hours of work / access etc.

Getting a surveyor involved is really designed to get involved when two neighbors can�t agree about how to deal with their shared wall. It�s really designed as a neutral form of arbitration. The main thing of value the Party Wall award does is the condition report as your neighbor can�t claim that pre-existing issues were caused by your work and equally they have a totally irrefutable basis on which to sue you for damages should your builder damage their property. However, if you can agree to take lots of detailed pictures before the work starts and your builder has insurance (which they should) then I wouldn�t get a Party Wall Award just for that.

Lola11 Tue 11-Feb-14 20:21:47

Hi, Sorry I didn't explain myself properly. We have served a notice 8 months ago, they appointed a surveyor (their personal friend) who demanded one thing after another. We then changed our plans and applied for a new building permission while the thing with the surveyor was ongoing. He asked for method statement which we only provided 6 months later and once we found new architect, finalised our plans (small changes) and signed up with the builder. The surveyor's no loner working but the company who insisted we pay for his work so far and after we did and also provided method statement thinking that was the last outstanding thing they ignored all our attempts to talk to them. According to our neighbour they haven't got anyone else who is qualified to work on this and so our neighbour appointed a new surveyor to start from scratch and want us to start the whole process and pay for it again! It is another friend of theirs working for a different company by the sounds of it. Our neighbours are elderly and this is not necessarily their fault they are just following someone else's advice who obviously trying to extract as much money out of us as possible. They are also saying they haven't appointed a company but that surveyor personally which is why we have to start again!?

soberton Wed 12-Feb-14 09:35:19

So sorry to hear all about the problems you're having with party wall agreement Lola. Sorry I can't help, but I can envisage having the same trouble with one neighbour (we're mid terraced) if and when our building work goes ahead. I'm just worried about how bad (and expensive) these things can get, and trying to get quotes from party wall experts on a 'worst case scenario'.
Hope some more 'voices of experience' come on here soon and you get some peace of mind.
Keep us updated.

LondonGirl83 Wed 12-Feb-14 10:59:40

I understand what has happened. I suppose the question is, who is advising your neighbours that a surveyor needs to be appointed at all and why?

You don't need to appoint any surveyor whatsoever unless you are in dispute. A surveyor is not an automatic part of the process and is in no way required by law unless the parties decide this is the only way forward.

Perhpas explaining to your neighbours (if they are in fact being reasonable) that a surveyor does not need to be appointed would resolve the entire thing and allow you to get on with the job.

Good luck!

Lola11 Wed 12-Feb-14 11:45:12

Thank you very much. I think the problem is that people feel they will be more protected if they appoint someone and they know they have the right to do so (plus it costs them nothing). I assume they called their friend after we gave them notice and he probably said that he was happy to get involved and sort it all out for them..
This is exactly the problem with party wall Act. Unfortunately there are too many surveyors/architects (I haven't told you our experience with our first architect :-) who are not professional but see this as an opportunity to get as much moneyas possible - that is out of people that they know have got a large pot of money as they are about to do a building project!
I just can't believe that this is not regulated better and that the firm can charge you for job 90% done (that is worthless to us) and when we need only a signature they don't want to continue but we have to pay again to somebody else.

As I said my neighbours are in their 80's and I don't think they will listen to us as they will be worried we are only trying to save our own money or do something dodgy behind their back - they seem to trust the third party more especially as my neighbour is a retired architect and still seems to know some people in this line of work!

Just to keep you updated we are planning to start without the signature - we have a proof tat we send everything to the first firm that was appointed and that they never got back to us- we paid them too.

Will let you know how it al goes, I know there are other people with similar problems. Thanks!

LondonGirl83 Wed 12-Feb-14 12:30:47

You are right, that is a huge flaw in the Act. Good luck and I am sure it will work out just fine.

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