Once notices have been served your next­door neighbours have 14 days in which to respond to them. Under the previous 1935 act if you did not hear back from them they were deemed to have consented to the works and you could proceed.

However, under the 1996 act this situation has reversed with the effect that if you now do not hear within the statutory time period they are deemed to have dissented. The effect of dissenting under the act means that there is a dispute which must be resolved by external surveyors as the act says you are not allowed to do this yourself. The two disputing parties would either then appoint their own individual surveyors or they would consent in the appointment of a joint agreed surveyor who would act for both parties. The Building Owner need to be aware that he/she is responsible for the surveyors costs being the party that is undertaking the works.

The duty of the surveyors is to resolve the dispute by producing a Party Wall award which would deal with such matters as how the works are carried out, access arrangements and for example timing.

Building Owners are warned to watch out for surveying companies who trawl the planning register and write to the next­door neighbours seeking appointment at an early stage before you have even had a chance to discuss the proposals with your neighbours. For this reason it is always beneficial to make the neighbours aware that you are putting a planning application in and it may be wise to serve the appropriate notice before this time in the hope that keeping them involved will procure a consent. There are on occasions ways to design works to avoid the Party Wall etc act.

Although this is not always possible sometimes the beams can be run in the opposite directions to avoid the party walls or the foundations can be constructed at such a level so as to avoid undermining those of the next­door neighbours.

At Quatrefoils Chartered Surveyors we would normally consider such matters during the design stage of any project.