The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 was introduced in order to prevent or resolve the disputes between neighbours if a construction work is likely to have an impact on the adjacent properties. Hence, if you plan to undertake a building work that reduces the structural support/strength of a property, then you have to serve a Party Wall Notice. The Party Wall Act is applicable to the majority of the construction work that is performed on the party walls. However, you may need to perform minor repair or alteration on the party wall.
For example, you may need to re-plaster the wall or may need to cut into the wall to add/replace a recessed electric wiring or sockets. In this scenario, it is sufficient to serve a Party Wall Agreement. It records different types of construction work that needs to be undertaken.
Definition of “Party Wall”
The term ‘party wall’ is used in the following scenarios.
- A wall that stands on the land that is shared by two (or more) owners and forms the part of either or both buildings.
- A wall that stands on the land of multiple owners without becoming the part of either of the building, such as garden wall.
- A wall that stands on the land of one property-owner; however, it is used by both owners.
Types of Construction Work that is Covered by the Party Wall Act
You have to serve a Party Wall Notice in the following scenarios
- You want to alter the width (thinner), depth (deeper) or height (shorter/taller) of a party-wall.
- You want to add a new wall adjacent to or on a boundary line
- You want to remove/replace a party wall.
- You want to remove a chimney-breast from a party wall.
- You want to cut into a party wall.
- You want to undertake an excavation work that goes underneath the foundation level of your neighbour’s property.
Party Wall Surveyor
It is prudent to consult with a ‘Party Wall Surveyor’ before serving a Party Wall notice. According to the ‘Party Wall etc. Act 1996’, Party Wall Surveyors are individuals who are not party to the proposed building works. However, not everyone can become a Party Wall surveyor. A surveyor needs to have experience in the construction work alongside having knowledge regarding the procedures of Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
Party Wall Agreement Overview
You have to serve a Party Wall Agreement to the neighbour if the proposed construction work will have an impact on the adjacent building’s structural strength and support. If there is a possibility of damage, then you have to serve a neighbour with the Party Wall Agreement. You are required to serve this notice at least two months prior to starting the construction work. However, you may serve this notice one month prior to starting the building work if you plan to undertake an excavation work near the foundation level of your neighbour’s property.
Through a Party Wall Agreement, you are asking for your neighbour’s permission before moving ahead with the construction work. Your neighbour has to respond within 14 days after receiving the notice.
- You can immediately start the work if your neighbour agrees to the proposal in writing.
- However, you have to send a follow-up letter if the neighbour disputes the notice or fails to respond to the notice.
This letter is served in order to inform a neighbour that he/she has to engage a party-wall surveyor within the next 10 days. If your neighbour fails to appoint a surveyor, then you can appoint a surveyor on their behalf. You need to mention this point on the follow-up letter.
A property-owner who wants to undertake the construction work needs to pay a party-wall surveyor and you have to pay the fee even if your neighbour hires a party-wall surveyor. Hence, it is prudent to come to an agreement regarding the appointment of a party-wall surveyor, as one party-wall surveyor can cater to the needs of both adjoining landowners.
You may hire a surveyor if your neighbour cannot decide whether or not to hire a party-wall surveyor. However, you cannot hire one surveyor for both properties until you have a neighbour’s consent. Hence, you have to bear an additional expense if you and your neighbour cannot come to an agreement regarding appointing a party-wall surveyor. A surveyor will assess the present condition of your neighbour’s property before drawing up an agreement/award that is supposed to resolve the dispute between the owners of adjoining properties.
A party wall award includes different types of restrictions in order to prevent damage to a neighbour’s property during the construction work.
- If one party-wall surveyor (Agreed Surveyor) has been appointed jointly by both property-owners, then he/she can prepare an agreement/Award to settle any dispute.
- However, your neighbour may want to appoint a separate party-wall surveyor. In this scenario, both surveyors will draw up an Award after discussing and settling the issues.
- The owner of the adjoining property may be dissatisfied with the suggestions of the appointed surveyor and may want to appoint a ‘third’ surveyor. In this scenario, a third surveyor will draw-up an Award
A Party Wall Agreement is a legally binding document and it will describe the following points.
- The work that is supposed to be carried out.
- The time (when) of starting the construction.
- How the building work will be carried out.
- Requirement of any additional building work.
- The provision of access for the surveyor(s) in order to inspect the necessary building work.
- The condition of neighbouring property before starting the construction.
A neighbour may not agree with the drawn-up Award. In this scenario, a neighbour may appeal to the county court within 14 days of issuing an award. If you want to serve your neighbour with a Party-Wall notice, then it is essential to perform this task following all legal rules and regulations.
You will find various Party Wall Notice templates on the Government’s website. You have to find the correct template based upon your unique circumstances. Hence, it is essential to check all templates before sending them.