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Reserving Issues in a Party Wall Award

Wednesday, 30th September 2020 | by: Justin Burns

In an ideal world the appointed surveyors would have all the information they require available and be in a position to cover all aspects of the work in detail in the award but there are situations where that is either not possible or pragmatic. We refer to these as ‘reserved matters’ i.e. a matter where some additional information is required but it has been agreed that it can be provided after the works have commenced.

Let’s start with a simple example, when scheduling an adjoining property prior to a loft conversion it’s not always possible to see all parts of the roof covering either from ground level or a regular surveyor’s ladder. Where this situation arises, it’s common for the surveyors to ask the building owner’s contractor to take a set of photographs once the scaffolding goes up which can be held on their files. Often, the scaffolding would go up literally the day before work is due to commence so if the requirement to provide photographs was not reserved there would inevitably be a delay while the surveyors finalised, signed and served the award after receiving the photographs. It is therefore pragmatic to include the following clause under the building owner’s obligation s in the award:

[The building owner shall] Require their contractor to take a set of photographs showing the roof covering to the adjoining owners’ back addition prior to any works commencing, forward them to the two surveyors and repeat the exercise upon completion of the works.   

Occasionally, the design cannot be finalised until part of the existing structure is exposed and it would be unreasonable to ask for that to be done prior to the main works commencing because the building owner is still living at the property.

A classic example would be where a building owner wishes to construct a rear extension up to the boundary but the adjoining owner already has an extension with its flank wall on their side of the boundary. The adjoining owner may have constructed their flank wall on an eccentric foundation, and that would undoubtedly have been the case if experienced party wall surveyors were involved, but equally the foundations may project over the boundary and present a headache for the building owner. The contractor could be asked to visit site in advance of the main works and excavate a trial pit but as the surveyors will likely be asking for the foundation parallel to the adjoining owner’s extension to be excavated sequentially anyway (hit and miss casting) it could be dealt with by inserting the following clause into the award:

[The building owner shall] Pause the works described in clause 2(x) of this award and submit amended proposals to the two surveyors for review if, upon excavating of the initial bay, it is discovered that the foundations to the flank wall of the adjoining owner’s extension project over the boundary.

Finally, there may be two distinct phases to the works such as a rear extension and a loft conversion with full information being available for one but not the other. The surveyors could agree to authorise all of the works but include a clause requiring the missing information to be provided for review at least seven days prior to the second phase commencing but my preference in this scenario would be for the surveyors to agree and serve an addendum award when full information is available. Similarly, I do not like to reserve the provision of information, such as a method statement, which will need to be produced before any of the works can commence. There would be no benefit in doing this as the works could not commence until the information was provided.

When a matter has been reserved in the award, I will always highlight it, or ask the other surveyor to do so, in the cover letter or email to the award so that the building owner cannot claim to be unaware.

Should you require free advice on this or any other aspects of party wall procedures you are welcome to contact us on 020 8546 7211 or email.