Party Wall etc. Act 1996
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 came into force in July 1997 and applies throughout England and Wales.
The Act provides a Building Owner, who wishes to undertake various sorts of works affecting a Party Wall, with additional rights going beyond the ordinary common law rights.
The Act also provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to Party Walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.
The Act is based on tried and tested provisions of preceding Party Wall related legislation, which date back to the Great Fire of London of 1666.
What is a Party Wall?
A Party Wall divides the buildings of two owners with the boundary between ownerships usually, but not always, positioned at the centre of the wall.
In simple terms, if you live in a semi-detached or terrace house, you share a wall with your neighbour and that wall is known as 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.
The Party Wall etc Act
Since the Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force, homeowners in England and Wales have had a procedure to follow when building work involves a Party Wall or Party Fence Wall, some excavations close to neighbouring buildings, and new walls at property boundaries.
The Act permits owners to carry out certain specific works, including work to the full thickness of a Party Wall, whilst at the same time protecting the interests of anyone else who might be affected by that work.
The Act is designed to avoid or minimise disputes by making sure property owners notify their neighbours in advance of certain proposed works. The Act requires that where the adjoining owner does not ‘agree’ in writing to the works, a surveyor or surveyors will determine the time and way in which those works are carried out.
What is covered by the Act?
There are some things that you can only do to a Party Wall after formally notifying your neighbour and either with the written agreement of the neighbour or with a Party Wall Award prepared by the appointed Party Wall Ssurveyors.
Such works include:
- Cutting into a wall to take the bearing of a beam, for example for an extension or loft conversion
- Inserting a damp proof course, even if only to your own side of a Party Wall
- Raising a Party Wall and, if necessary, cutting off any objects preventing this from happening
- Demolishing and rebuilding a Party Wall
- Underpinning a Party Wall
- Weathering the junction of adjoining walls or buildings by cutting a flashing into an adjoining building.
- Excavating within six metres of a neighbour’s structure for new foundations, basements and reduction of ground levels.
You must also notify your neighbour if you propose to build a new wall or structure on the boundary between two properties.
What do I have to do?
If you intend to do any of these things, you must give formal written notice to your neighbours at least two months before starting any Party Wall works or one month for ‘line of junction’ or excavation works. Where there is more than one owner of the neighbouring property, or more than one adjoining property, you must notify all of them, thus if a tenant or leaseholder occupies the building next door you will need to tell the landlord as well as the occupiers.
If possible, talk to your neighbours in detail about the work you want to do before giving them written notice. If you can sort out any potential problems in advance, they should give you written agreement in response to your notice. Before you start the specific works you must either have your neighbour’s written agreement to the proposed works or appoint a surveyor to prepare a Party Wall Award in respect of them.
What if there’s a dispute?
Where written agreement is not given, within 14 days of the notice, the solution the Act provides is for both parties to jointly appoint a single ‘agreed surveyor’ who will act impartially or each owner appoints their own independent surveyor.
The surveyor/s will draw up a document called an ‘Award’. This details the nature and extent of the work to be carried out, and will set out when and how it will be done. An Award usually includes a Schedule of Condition, which records the condition of the relevant part of adjoining property before work begins.
The Award will determine who pays for the work if this is in dispute. Generally, the Building Owner who started the work pays for all expenses of work and the reasonable costs, but these will be apportioned between the owners where appropriate.
How we can help
We can ensure that the requirements of the Party Wall Act are met including serving the required Notices to Adjoining Owners, adminsterin the proceudres of the Act, and including the preparation of Schedules of Condition.
Please contact us for more information and a free no obligation consultation.