What is a Party Wall Award?
A Party Wall Award is a legally-binding document made either by a single Party Wall Surveyor (an 'Agreed Surveyor') or two party-appointed Party Wall Surveyors acting as part of a three-surveyor tribunal appointed in accordance with section 10(1) of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 ("the Act"). An Award may also be made by a 'Third Surveyor' in cases of a three-surveyor tribunal. The Award effectively settles the 'dispute' arising from the notice and defines the time and manner of executing the notified works. The Award may also determine which party is to pay the costs of the Party Wall Surveyor(s).
Is a Party Wall 'Award' the same as a Party Wall 'Agreement'
There is no such thing as a 'Party Wall Agreement'. The Act refers only to 'Awards'. A purported 'Party Wall Agreement', especially one made between the parties, will not be valid or legally-binding as far as the Act is concerned.
When is a Party Wall Award required?
A Party Wall Award is required to resolve a 'dispute' arising from a notice served in the pursuit of works falling within the ambit of sections 1, 2 and 6 of the Act. The production of an Award by the appointed Party Wall Surveyor(s) is the only means of resolving the dispute, unless the parties agree to contract out of the Act, or reach agreement in order to dispose of the dispute.
Who prepares the Party Wall Award?
A valid and legally-binding Award can only be prepared by a Party Wall Surveyor appointed in accordance with section 10(1) of the Act. This may either be as a single 'Agreed Surveyor' jointly appointed by the parties in accordance with section 10(1)(a) of the Act, or as a party-appointed Party Wall Surveyor in accordance with section 10(1)(b) of the Act. Where more than one Party Wall Surveyor is appointed, then a 'Third Surveyor' is selected to act as a neutral arbiter and may be called upon to make an Award in respect of a 'disputed matter' upon referral by the two party-appointed Party Wall Surveyors, or the parties themselves.
Can I prepare my own Party Wall Award?
No. The Act expressly prohibits the parties acting as a Party Wall Surveyor in their own dispute.
Who pays for the Party Wall Award?
The costs of the Party Wall Surveyors (i.e. professional fees and disbursements) shall be paid as determined by the Party Wall Surveyor(s) in the Award. In instances where the notified works are solely for the benefit of the Building Owner to enhance the Building Owner's property, then it is unlikely any costs will be awarded against the Adjoining Owner. However, where the notified works are for the mutual benefit of both parties, then the costs of the Party Wall Surveyor(s) will be allocated accordingly within the Award.
Is a Party Wall Award legally-binding?
Assuming valid notice has been served and the Party Wall Surveyors have been validly appointed in writing by the respective 'owners', as defined by section 20 of the Act, then the Award will be legally-binding.
How long does a Party Wall Award last?
The Award will usually specify that the authorised works must be executed within twelve months of the Award being served. However, the obligations of the parties to the Award run in perpetuity and are not subject to the Statute of Limitations. An action for failure to comply with the provisions of the Act or an Award would arise under the tort of 'breach of statutory duty', which would be subject to the Statute of Limitations.
Can a Party Wall Award be appealed?
Yes. The parties to an Award have an absolute right of appeal pursuant to section 10(17) of the Act. Such an appeal must be made in the County Court within 14 days of the Award being served. If an Award is not appealed in accordance with section 10(17) of the Act then it cannot be later questioned in any court.
Can I start the notifiable works before the Party Wall Award is served?
In the event of a dispute arising from notice, the notified works may not commence until the notice period has expired and the Award has been served. However, if the Adjoining Owner agrees to waive the unexpired notice period, then the notified works may commence once the Award is served. An Adjoining Owner may agree to allow the Building Owner to commence the notified works before the Award has been served, but they do so at their own risk.
Can I start the notifiable works whilst the Party Wall Award is being appealed?
Yes, on the basis that until a court orders otherwise, the Award stands. However, where the works are of a controversial nature, or there is a point of law to be resolved, it may be prudent to await the outcome of any appeal before commencing the awarded works. If there is any doubt as to the validity of the Award, this should also be resolved before any notifiable works are commenced.
What happens if I change my design after the Party Wall Award is served?
This is known as a 'deviation'. On the basis the change in design does not affect the notifiable works being the subject of the Award, then the Award remains unaffected. Alternatively, if there is a fundamental change in the nature of the notifiable works, then the Party Wall Surveyor(s) may need to issue a further Award, often known as an 'Addendum Award', unless the parties are able to reach a separate agreement on the design change and any associated implications.