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Party walls: When it goes wrong for surveyors and how they can deal with awkward situations
This paper is designed to assist surveyors in handling awkward party wall matters and understanding the limits of their own knowledge — the key message is: ‘Know what you know, know what you don’t know.’ Some of the complexities of recent case law are explained and it is the author’s suggestion that the administration of the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996 (the Act) is becoming far more complex and surveyors need to keep up to date with case decisions in all courts. Changes to the legislation itself are limited; however, case law is driving changes in the way the Act is interpreted and administered. This paper does demonstrate some of the recent cases and the decisions of judges that have had a more significant recent impact on the administration of the Act by surveyors; it also highlights the increasing complexity of judgments and findings within the courts. The need to keep abreast of these decisions is making the party wall surveyors’ role increasingly more complex. A good party wall surveyor will most likely be dedicated to this service exclusively and will have time to allocate to keep abreast of the case law. Members of the public would be well advised to seek these individuals when instructing.
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Michael Cooper is the head of building surveying and neighbourly matters at Cooper’s Building Surveyors Limited, where he specialises in party wall legislation and neighbourly dispute resolution. Michael is a Chartered Building Surveyor and Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and a panel member of the Boundaries and Party Walls Working Group, which he also chairs, which is responsible for the drafting of the Surveyors and Public Facing Party Wall guidance notes. He also writes the guides on ISURV, a RICS online information service for property professionals, for which he contributes updates on neighbourly matters including the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992. Michael has been acting as the Appointed Surveyor for Building and Adjoining Owners under both the old London Building Acts and the new Party Wall Etc. Act 1996 for over 25 years and can be regarded as a leading expert in this field. He is the next chair of the London Pyramus and Thisbe Club, a group which regularly meets to discuss party wall and associated issues and which aims to promote excellence in the administration of party wall legislation. During his career Michael has advised building (developing) owners and adjacent owners on a wide variety of developments, mostly residential but also on some of the most high-profile construction projects, including the Shard and ‘Walkie Talkie’ towers in London, the West Ham football stadium redevelopment and proposed plans for the tallest residential tower in western Europe. Clients range from the largest developers, institutions and authorities to commercial and residential owners and tenants.