Know the Facts: What is a party wall award and how much will it cost?

One of the most commonly asked questions when clients are completing works is how much they should budget for a party wall award, and if one is really needed. The simple answer is this: if you are carrying out works to a shared, party wall, then you are legally obliged to serve notice on your neighbour. Notice is also required to be served if excavations are taking place within 3m or 6m (depending on the depth of the new foundations) of the neighbouring property.

Before we move on, to clarify, a party wall is the shared wall between two neighbouring properties and also includes garden walls (not fences) built astride a boundary. Notice is therefore typically required for works including loft conversions, new foundations (for rear/side additions) and/or the insertion of a damp proof course. If notice is not correctly served, then you could be served with an injunction or be forced pay for damages to your neighbour’s property.

The party wall process can be split into two stages: notification of works and service of the Award. These stages are described below:

Stage 1: Notification of Works

A homeowner is required to give two months written notice of building works which affect a party wall or boundary, or one month's notice for excavations. Planning permission is not needed to serve a Party Wall notice, and once notice has been served, the homeowner has up to a year to start work. It should be noted that the person drafting a notice/or Award, does not need to be a construction professional, however, due to the nature of the works, and the associated risks, we would strongly recommend that such documents are drafted by a surveyor (or architect) that has a good and thorough understanding of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

When notice has been served, the neighbour has 14 days to respond.  The neighbour may either consent to the notice in writing, dissent to the notice or not respond (the latter of which is also assumed as a dissent after 14 days of the notice having been served).

If a neighbour is satisfied that the works will cause no threat or inconvenience, then they can consent to the notice(s). In this instance, they only need to provide written consent to the proposed works and no further action needs to be taken. That said, we would still recommend in this instance that a signed and dated photographic schedule of condition of the neighbour’s side of the wall and adjoining areas be taken. This will provide evidence of the condition of the party wall pre-works and is an important document should any claims for damage be submitted on completion.

The costs for a schedule of condition drafted by a chartered surveyor are in the region of £250.00 for each neighbour.

It may be that a homeowner and/or neighbour may still wish to appoint a party wall surveyor to issue notices. As professionals, we would strongly recommend this course of action as an Award serves to protect both parties through throughout the building process. As a guide, a party wall surveyor will typically charge about £250 to prepare and issue notices to each neighbour. They will also usually answer any questions that your neighbours have and talk them through the intended works. Party wall surveyors can often provide valuable reassurance to all parties and help mediate before, during and after works.

Stage 2: Service of an Award

If a neighbour dissents, or indeed does not respond within 14 days, the homeowner and neighbour can appoint a surveyor to act for both of them. The agreed surveyor will serve an Award impartially and should carry out a photographic schedule of condition. The Award details what works are going to take place and the requirements for these to be enabled. The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 comprises 22 sections and the Award that will be served for works will reference a number of these sections. It will consider items such as building along a line of junction, methods of construction, rights of entry, disputes, easements and compensation. It is important to note that an Award serves to benefit both parties. Not only will it serve to enable the development (for example, allowing the homeowner access to the neighbouring property, if required) but it also protects the adjoining owner from any damage caused by the works.

In the case of a dissent, both neighbours also have the option to appoint their own surveyor, although this can prove costly for the homeowner who is required to pay the fees of both surveyors. If a neighbour has not responded to the notice, the homeowner is at liberty to appoint a surveyor on their behalf.

Party Wall Awards Costs and Scenarios:

To provide an indication of costs in the case of a dissent, a Party Wall Surveyor can be expected to charge between £800 - £1200 per Award, with the schedules of condition often charged as an extra. Therefore, if you are looking at 2 neighbours, either side of the property, using the same ‘agreed’ surveyor, the homeowner can expected to be invoiced for around £1500 + VAT (to include the serving of an Award and 2 x schedules of condition). However, if these 2 neighbours dissent and appoint 2 different surveyors themselves, the homeowner could be looking at fees of double or more.

Below are some estimated costings for party wall fees based on scenarios where the homeowner (referred to the Building Owner in the Act) has 2 neighbours (referred to as Adjoining Owners in the Act) either side. The below is also based on the homeowner following the correct legislation and using the Act correctly:

Party wall fees calculator:

1 – Consent of both adjoining owners with no schedule of condition

·       Notices issued by a surveyor (2 x £250) – consented to by neighbours

·       Total cost £500 + VAT

2 – Consent of both adjoining owners with schedules of condition

·       Notices issued by a surveyor (2 x £250)

·       Consent with a schedule of condition (2 x £250)

·       Total cost £1000 + VAT

3 – Dissent to notices but adjoining owners agree to use the same surveyor as the building owner (the agreed surveyor)

·       Notices issued by a surveyor (2 X £250)

·       Award cost (2 x £750)

·       Schedules of condition (2 x £250)

·       Total cost £2,500 + VAT

4 –Dissent to notices and adjoining owners appointing their own surveyors

·       Notices issued by a surveyor (2 X £250)

·       Award cost (2 x £750)

·       Schedules of condition (2 x £250) – building owner’s surveyor

·       Award cost (2 x £1,250) – adjoining owner’s surveyor

·       Total cost £5,000 + VAT

Note: As you can see from the above, scenario 4, where both neighbours dissent, is 10 x more expensive than scenario 1! Bearing this in mind, it is important to keep those neighbours on side…

For further tips on how to save money, see our Blog: 8 Ways to Save Money on Party Wall Awards