Do I really need to record the condition of the neighbours property? 
A schedule or record of condition is not strictly a task that is required by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. However, a party wall surveyor is tasked to resolve a dispute over work in pursuance of the Act and in a lot of cases, this involves a dispute over damage. It therefore makes sense to record the condition of the adjoining owner's property prior to commencement of the work so that party wall surveyors are able to easily determine if the alleged damage is existing or new and resulting from the works. 
 
If no record is made prior to the work commencing, surveyors would need to rely on their skills to judge if the damage is more likely than not to have been caused by the building owner's work. Sometimes it is straightforward to determine if damage is new but other times, it is not quite so. 
 
I have been involved in numerous instances over the years where an adjoining owner has called me to say that they have noticed a crack or other damage in their property which they believe is from the work being carried out by the building owner but it then turns out that the crack or damage was present prior to the work starting. Initially I will ask that the owner takes a photograph of the alleged damage and email it to me. I will then cross reference the photograph with my photographs and written schedule. If I believe that the damage was present before the work, I will inform the owner of my initial opinion to that effect and send them a copy of my photograph. Sometimes an owner will disagree and at that point I inform them that I can visit their property if they insist but if it turns out that my initial view is correct, they will be responsible for the costs of my attendance. At this point the owner has to seriously consider if they wish to pursue the matter knowing that it is more likely than not, the damage was pre-existing.  
 
It is fairly normal for me to take between 150-300 photographs during the record of condition. These are saved in a Dropbox file which both parties are provided with a link at the time the award is published.  
 
When adjoining owners consent to the initial notice served on them and no award is made, it is still good practice to carry out a record of condition. This protects the building owner against a claim for damage that was pre-existing. The difference is that the building owner who served the notice has to agree to pay for the inspection whereas if there is no consent to the notice, the inspection is carried out as part of the award process and included in the overall costs. Some building owners understandably want to spend the least amount on the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 process and just get on with the work. This is fine until the builder causes some damage and a dispute arises whereby party wall surveyors become involved. This can result in two surveyors or at least the agreed surveyor having to visit the property and make a determination based on their or his professional judgment with all the costs involved in that process rather than refer to the photographs and schedule. 
 
My advice is that you should always carry out a record of condition on the adjoining properties when you are carrying out work that could detrimentally affect them to protect yourself from claims of damage and surveyors costs.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
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