I received a call today from a building owner who had been granted planning permission for an extension but was not aware of the Party Wall Act until a neighbour knocked on the door to say that the building owner had to send her a notice and she wanted a party wall surveyor to make an award. The neighbours get on fine and agreed that they would use one surveyor.
There was total confusion when the building owner rang me because the adjoining owner had received a postbag full of letters informing her of her rights and how these surveyors could act on her behalf and she should not worry as the building owner would be footing the bill of their hourly rate.
In fact the adjoining owner did not have any real dispute but did want, understandably, a schedule of condition prior to the work starting. She was led to believe that this was part of the award and there was no other way but to go down the dispute route.
It seems perverse that an Act that is designed to prevent or at least deal responsibly with any dispute is being used as a lever by what are known as ‘ambulance chasers’ to force a dispute where none exists in the first place. There are some firms in the industry well known or maybe only known for these tactics. Mass mailshots to adjoining owners of those just granted planning permission are their way of drumming up work. Scouring the planning lists or just buying the names wholesale is sure to bring some rewards even if it means creating a dispute where none existed.
Making your neighbour pick up a bill for possibly one or two thousand pounds is a sure fire way to create a neighbour dispute for many years to come. Rather than relying on advertising their services and letting the public come to them, they paint a picture of woe virtually frightening people into making rash decisions that will no doubt backfire in the future. I have even heard of ‘cash back’ incentives if they are appointed!
My advice would be to think carefully about such letters and talk to your neighbour before you send back an acknowledgment where you have appointed your own ambulance chasing surveyor. If you have concerns then these could be dealt with without going into full blown dispute. By all means, have a schedule of condition as that will protect both parties but the cost of that will be fixed at a few hundred pounds rather than thousands of pounds for a dispute that never was.