The Party Wall Act 1996
The Party Wall Act doesn't just cover works to a Party Wall (a wall separating two properties or built astride a boundary), it applies to various building works on or close to a boundary. It sets down the rights & duties of owners undertaking such works and provides protection to the adjoining owners.
If a dispute arises between a person doing work and a neighbour a Party Wall Surveyor (or two Surveyors) must make a Party Wall Award to resolve the dispute. The surveyor's duty is to examine the proposed works and ensure that they are properly designed and are executed in a manner which is not likely to cause damage to adjoining buildings or property. A detailed record of the condition of the adjoining property is normally made so that if damage is caused it can be identified and made good.
The Party Wall Act 1996 provides a procedure to follow when building work involves:
- Cutting into a party wall
- Excavations close to neighbouring buildings
- New walls at boundaries
The Act permits owners to carry out certain specific works whilst at the same time protecting the interests of anyone who might be affected by that work. It makes sure property owners notify their neighbours in advance of certain proposed works and provides a mechanism for resolving disputes and enabling works to proceed.
What is a Party Wall?
Party walls usually separate buildings belonging to different owners but could include garden walls built astride a boundary – known as party fence walls. There are three types of party wall:
a). a wall that stands on the lands of 2 (or more) owners and forms part of a building – this wall can be part of one building only or separate buildings belonging to different owners
b). a wall that stands on the lands of 2 owners but does not form part of a building, such as a garden wall but not including timber fences
c). a wall that is on one owner’s land but is used by 2 (or more) owners to separate their buildings
The Act also uses the expression ‘party structure’. This could be a wall or floor partition or other structure separating buildings or parts of buildings in different ownership, such as in flats.
Issuing Party Wall Notices
The workings of the Act are always instigated by the of issuing notices. This is the first stage of the process and, without the issue of valid notices, no further action can be taken under the provision of the Act.
It is essential to include the correct details on a notice as, if they are deemed invalid, then any subsequent actions are also invalid.
Responses to Party Wall Notices
On receipt of a notice, an adjoining owner has three possible courses of action:
a). To consent to the works going ahead as described. A consenting Adjoining Owner retains all rights under the Act including the right to dissent later in the process.
b). To dissent and appoint a surveyor to check the plans, structural implications and agree the terms of an award (the document that sets out the terms under which work can begin).
c). To dissent and appoint us as an ‘agreed’ surveyor. As point two above but we would act on behalf of both parties.
If the Adjoining Owner does not respond within 14 days then a deemed dispute is said to have occurred and the person carrying out the work must appoint a surveyor to act on the Adjoining Owners behalf.
How long can my neighbour take to respond?
If adjoining owners dissent to the works (or if no response is received and a deemed dissent has arisen) then a ‘dispute’ has occurred which must be resolved before work can commence. It is worth reiterating that the Act is one of enablement, it is not there to prevent works from taking place and it offers a route to end disputes at every stage. Where surveyors are involved, they will work together to agree the terms under which work may proceed and will draw up an agreement which sets out the terms under which the work can be carried out (the Award).
Generally, the building owner who is carrying out the work pays for all expenses, this will include the surveyors fees for both Building Owner and Adjoining Owner.
For even more information on Party Walls, please refer to the documents below:
- Our Party Wall Guidance for Clients & Consultants
- RIC's Party Walls
- RIC's consumer guide to Party Walls
- RIC's boundary disputes
- FPWS Party Wall explanatory leaflet
- The Governments Party Wall explanation guide
- The entire Party Wall Act legislation 1996
Our party wall services
Our Party Wall services are designed to legally & professionally conduct surveys for our clients ensuring any building works that affecting their building or their neighbours building are compliant with the Party Wall Act.
- Identification of adjoining property owner and address (if not the tenant) so you can comply with the 2 month notice period and avoid delays.
- Advice on how best to achieve cooperation with your neighbour
- Drafting and serving the notice
- Follow up of the notice after 14 days if required
- Carrying out a schedule of condition survey at the adjoining property before the works start.
- Drafting, negotiating and agreeing the Award with neighbours surveyor.
- Serving of the Party Wall Award.
- Drafting, negotiating and agreeing Award on behalf of the Building Owner and Adjoining Owner.
- Note: Your neighbour has the right to appoint their own preferred party wall expert. In most cases this expense is covered by the person doing the build project. For that reason it makes good sense to try and appoint a joint surveyor
- Agreeing the schedule of condition record before the works start. Liaising with the building owner’s surveyor to negotiate and agree the Award.
- Note: In the majority of cases, the adjoining owner surveyor fees are paid for by the one carrying out the building works.
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