A 'party wall' is a structure which divides two adjoining properties and whose ownership is shared by the two adjoining owners
The Party Wall etc Act 1996
The general principle of the Party Wall Act is that all work which might have an effect upon the structural strength or support function of a 'party wall', or might cause damage to the neighbouring side of the wall, must be notified to the adjoining owner. If in doubt, advice may be obtained from:
- the Local Authority, Building Control office
- an Approved Inspector, or
- a professional surveyor/architect such as Architectural Ideas
When does the Act apply?
The Party Wall Act comes into effect if someone is planning to do work on:
As with all work affecting neighbours, it is always better to reach a friendly agreement rather than resort to any law. Even where the work requires a notice to be served, it is better to discuss the intended work informally, consider the neighbours comments, and amend your plans (if appropriate) before serving the notice.
- A wall forming part of only one building but which is on the boundary line between two (or more) properties
- A wall which is common to two (or more) properties - this includes where someone built a wall and a neighbour subsequently built something butting up to it
- A garden wall, where the wall is astride the boundary line (or butts up against it) and is used to separate the properties but is not part of any building
- Floors and ceilings of flats etc.
- Excavation near to a neighbouring property
What types of work are covered by the Act?
Work covered by the Party Wall Act includes:
- The demolition and/or rebuilding of a party wall
- Increasing the height or thickness of a party wall
- The insertion of a damp proof course (either chemical injection or a physical dpc)
- The cutting into a party wall to take load bearing beams
- The underpinning of a party wall
- Excavating within 3 metres (~10') of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building
- Excavating within 6 metres (~20') of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below a line drawn 45° downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building
Works outside the Act
Some work can be undertaken without invoking the Party Wall Act:
- Putting up shelves and wall units
- Chases for pipes or wiring.
The Party Wall Act doesn't recognise timber fences or 'temporary' buildings (such as wooden sheds) as 'structures', so it doesn't apply. Also, disputes can arise about the location of a boundary, ownership, responsibility for repairs, over-shadowing trees, etc. None of these evokes the Party Wall Act.
A Party Wall Notice
If the planned work to an existing structure falls under the Party Wall Act, a notice must be issued to all affected neighbouring parties. The notice must include:
- The owners of the property undertaking the work
- The address of the property
- The names of all the owners of the adjoining property
- A description of the proposed work, usually a single line giving a brief description
- The proposed start date for the work
- A clear statement that the notice is being served under The Party Wall etc Act 1996
- The date the notice is being served
- If the notice is for excavation work, then a drawing showing the position and depth of the excavation must be included
If any of the information is missing from a served noticed, it will be invalid in which case, any subsequent award will also be invalid.
Types of Notice
Party Structure Notice (building against/altering a party wall, 1)
Line of Junction Notice (new wall astride the boundary, 4)
- The person intending to carryout the work must serve a written notice on the owner(s) of the adjoining property at least two months before the intended start of the work to every neighbouring party giving details of the work to be carried out
- Each neighbouring party should respond in writing giving consent or registering dissent - if a neighbouring party does nothing within fourteen days of receiving the notice, the effect is to put the notice into 'dispute'
- No work may commence until all neighbouring parties have agreed in writing to the notice (or a revised notice)
If the planned work is a new boundary wall, astride the boundary line, the notice needs to be served at least one month before the planned start date of the work. Neighbouring parties must give written agreement within fourteen days for walls astride the boundary (or a 'dispute' is deemed to have occurred)
Line of Junction Notice (new wall wholly on your own land, 6)
If the planned work is a new boundary wall, up to the boundary line, the notice needs to be served at least one month before the planned start date of the work. No formal agreement is needed for a wall up to the boundary line, the neighbour just needs not to object in writing
3/6 Metre Notice (foundations near boundary, 8)
If the planned work is an excavation within the distance/depth* covered by the Party Wall Act, the notice needs to be served at least one month before the planned start day of the work. Neighbouring parties must give written agreement within fourteen days or a 'dispute' is deemed to have occurred
* Foundations within 3m of the neighbour and deeper than his/her foundations, or, foundations within 6m of the neighbour and below a line at 45° from the neighbour's foundation
What happens if a 'dispute' arises?
If agreement cannot be reached between neighbouring parties, the process is as follows:
If the two surveyors cannot come to an agreement, a third surveyor is appointed to act as arbitrator
- An 'Agreed Surveyor' (someone acceptable to all parties) is appointed to determine a fair and impartial Award
- Each party appoints their own Surveyor to represent the individual parties and the two surveyors come to an agreement
The first option should be cheaper as the costs should be reduced - the Surveyor (or Surveyors) will decide who pays the fees - usually it will be the party undertaking the work; the exception being where the owner of the adjoining property calls on the Surveyor unnecessarily.
It should be noted that:
- any Surveyor(s) must act within their statutory responsibilities and propose a fair and impartial Award
- an Agreed Surveyor, or the individual Surveyors jointly, will produce an Award which must be fair and impartial to all parties
- once an Award has been made, any of the parties can appeal aginst it in the County Court within fourteen days
Once there is an agreement, all work must comply with the notice. All the agreements should be retained to ensure that a record of the granted permission is kept; a subsequent purchaser of the property may wish to establish that the work was carried out in accordance with the Party Wall Act requirements