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Reform the Party Wall Act to streamline building projects and protect consumers from huge bills

2 Comments 6th July 2010

Reform the Party Wall Act.  It is damaging to building and puts consumers into a position where they can end up paying thousands of pounds in bills over which they have no control.   My idea is this:  The Party Wall Act is simply not necessary, and could be replaced by a simple insurance scheme which could be invoked if your building work damages your neighbour's property. If it was felt this was insufficient, there could be a simplifed Party Wall notification scheme where neighbours were given 14 days to comment (not delay) a building scheme (opt in, not opt out).  Where building work already falls under permitted development, party wall notices could be scrapped altogether as the quality of these works is already subject to insp)ection by Building Control (who of course like the Party Wall Act because it covers their backs!

Why does this matter?

the Party Wall Act is a clumsy piece of legislation which is not fit for purpose. It comes into play for a multitude of straightforward building projects such as loft conversions or putting in a damp proof course, and is the unspoken elephant in the room when it comes to building costs. Few people know how it works until they are caught up in the middle of it.   It causes untold stress to consumers who are trying to do straightforward building work and many people have ended up paying many thousands of pounds to surveyors who can eke the process out over many weeks – costs over which they have no control   It holds up the building trade and actually is such a disincentive to anyone who wants to do work that it encourages people to undertake work illegally – without party wall agreements – on the basis that few individuals would bother (or could afford) to sue their neighbours unless serious damage had been done to their building. 

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2 Responses to Reform the Party Wall Act to streamline building projects and protect consumers from huge bills

  1. David says:

    I would like to make a number of comments:

    1. I am interested as to how the PWeA is “damaging to building” Used in the way intended, PWeA is an enabling piece of legislation which encourages development without adversarial disputes arising.

    2. An insurance scheme as an alternative is naive, how would claims be administered and validated?

    3. There is little overlap between Building Regulations and the PWeA. Building Regulations are concerned with the fabric of construction, PWeA is concerned with the process.

    4. PWeA definately does not “cover the backs” of BCO’s, they hold resposibility for ensuring that construction standards are maintained, PWeA is concerned principally with how works are done and with a framework for compensation when Adjoining property owners are unecessarily inconvenienced.

    5. Partywalldirect de-mystifies the requirements of the PWeA. Watch our video!

    6. Stress related to party wall matters is frequently connected with unethical firms encouraging disputes by approaching Adjoining Owners (who are not liable for fees) and encouraging unecessary Party Wall Awards to be prepared at the Building Owner’s expense.

    When used as intended by Building Owners who wish to develop their property in ways which may affect neighbours, the PWeA is a helpful framework to avoid adversarial disputes between neighbours. It is not in our view the legislation which is wrong but rather a few individuals who abuse the opportunites for profit which can be engineered.

  2. Tom Kaneko says:

    The party wall act does need to be reformed. It causes the absurd situation where an adjoining neighbour insists on using a surveyor that they don’t have to pay for.

    There is no incentive for an adjoining neighbour to avoid using a surveyor, as these costs are borne entirely by the neighbour intending to carry out work. It results in surveyors spinning out their work and fees to an unnecessary degree. All these fees go into creating very little value for anyone, other than a misplaced sense that it protects the neighbour.

    I am an architectural designer, and I have had situations where surveyors register a dispute under the act, where there was none – just questions about the work!

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