Your Guide to the Appeal Process

Before describing briefly how to lodge an appeal, it is important to understand what you are getting into. An appeal is an expensive piece of litigation. You need deep pockets, even if your appeal is successful – or at least good legal cover insurance.

Nicholas Isaac QC, a barrister specialising in party wall matters, estimates that it costs between £16,500 and £33,000 to WIN an appeal of a party wall award. The high cost of challenging perceived unfair behaviour is prohibitive and perhaps the biggest reason why litigation is avoided.

Members of the public are broadly unfamiliar with the party wall act and seek the guidance of specialist party wall surveyors to ensure matters are handled correctly. When presented with a letter of appointment, a building owner will often sign it, believing that this is standard procedure – which indeed it is. What people do not realise however, and party wall surveyors are included in this, is that a letter of appointment should only be signed if there is a dispute.

Building owners wishing to undertake work in pursuance of the party wall act should engage with a party wall surveyor at an early stage. Far too often, engagement happens too late, and this causes avoidable stress to all parties involved. Signing a letter of appointment nice and early can seem like a sensible and necessary thing to do, but there are some flaws that must not be ignored.

Firstly, you only need to sign a letter of appointment if there is a dispute. A dispute follows the serving of a party wall notice, where the neighbour either dissents to the work, or does not respond. The Party Wall Act is clear when a letter of appointment is required, it refers to it in sections 10(1)(a) and (b) of the Act, ‘where a dispute arises or is deemed to have arisen’ both parties shall appoint either one surveyor (the agreed surveyor) or their own surveyors. Section 10(4) requires the appointment to be in writing. The act is generally triggered by serving a notice (save for sections 3(3)(a) and (b), and there are no requirements made by the Act for surveyors to be appointed. Indeed, many building owners choose to serve their own notices.

How a neighbour / adjoining owner responds to a notice determines whether a surveyor needs to be appointed. If a neighbour consents, then there is simply no need to appoint a surveyor, and work can start. If a dispute does arise, (for example, a disagreement over damage), a surveyor can be appointed to adjudicate and serve an award. Alternatively, a neighbour can dissent and appoint a surveyor, in which case an award is served settling the ‘dispute’. A neighbour may be perfectly happy for the building owner to use the same surveyor as the one the neighbour has picked – this is known as the ‘agreed surveyor’ route. This saves the building owner having to pay his own surveyor’s fees. However, if the building owner has already appointed a surveyor, then more often than not, the agreed surveyor opportunity is lost, and either from lack of knowledge, or misrepresentation, the building owner has to pay two sets of surveyor’s fees. This is unacceptable.

To find out more about Appealing a party wall award and much more, dive into our latest blogs to get the lowdown on party walls. Whether you’re dealing with construction or legal stuff, we’ve got you covered.

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