If you are a property owner planning building works, or a neighbour to somebody who has commenced building works on or near to your property, you may be wondering if the Party Wall Act will apply and how you should proceed. Here, we’ve compiled our most frequently asked questions about Party Walls to help you understand the process to follow.
1. What is a Party Wall?
- A ‘Party Wall’ stands astride the boundary of land belonging to two (or more) different owners. It could be a wall that is part of one building, separates two or more buildings or consists of a ‘Party fence wall’.
- A ‘Party fence wall’ is not part of the building but stands astride the boundary line between different owners and is used to separate those lands – for example, a garden fence.
- A Party Wall can stand wholly on one owners land but be used by two (or more) owners to separate their buildings. An example of this would be when one owner has built the wall in the first place and another has built their building up against it without constructing their own wall.
- Party Structures is a wider term that covers walls, floors or other partitions separating buildings or parts of buildings approached by separate staircases or entrances – flats for example.
Source: communities and local government the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 explanatory booklet.
2. What is the Party Wall Act?
The Party Wall Act 1996 provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to Party Walls, Boundary Walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings. Anyone intending to carry out work (anywhere in England and Wales) of the kinds described by the act must give adjoining owners notice of their intentions. A notice of works enables all parties to agree to the proposals or agree changes to the proposals to the way the work will be carried out.
3. I’m planning building works on my property, do I need to consider the Party Wall Act or notify my neighbours?
YES, if any of the following statements are true:
• You are doing work to an existing party wall or shared structure which can include your chimney.
• You intend to build on, or close to the boundary line.
• You are excavating within 3 metres of a building or structure (normally need to consult, but obtain specialist advice. It is dependent on the depth of the foundations)
• You are building further away from a building or structure but excavation is still required. In this scenario, you should consult the party wall booklet.
In all of the scenarios above, The Party Wall Act is likely to be triggered and you will be required to go through statutory procedure. To do this, you should appoint a Chartered Surveyor experienced in Party Wall matters.
4. Are party wall agreements compulsory?
If you are doing structural work to the party wall, or works affecting a ceiling or floor, it is strongly advised to give an appropriate written notice to the adjoining owners and occupiers living above or below your property.
The Party Wall Act does not contain enforcement procedures if you fail to serve notice, but if you start work without a neighbour’s consent they may seek to stop your work through a court induction or seek other legal redress.
5. When do I need to appoint a Party Wall Surveyor?
At least 3 months before the proposed building work start date.
Correct administration of the Party Wall Act will likely take less time but this ensures plenty of time is allowed so you can be confident all statutory Party Wall procedures are completed before work begins.
The worst-case scenario is that you start work before the correct notices have been issued and your neighbours object to this and take you to court to get an injunction to stop building. This can be hugely expensive and time consuming to resolve if you’ve already contracted a builder.
6. Appointing a Party Wall Surveyor
Locate a qualified Chartered Building Surveyor experienced in Party Wall Act matters in your locality. You can get in touch with the experienced and accredited team at Kempton Carr Croft to ensure you receive an excellent service. We are experienced in dealing in Party Wall matters in relation to all types of property, even those with complex technical considerations.
If you are the Building Owner (the person planning the progress of building works) you should send your chosen surveyor the following information:
• Details of the proposed works (Building regulations and & plans would normally be sufficient)
• Any notices you have already served
• Your name and address
• Your neighbour’s name and address (bear in mind that there could be more than one neighbour affected, particularly in blocks of flats, terraced houses or larger commercial schemes)
7. What will a Party Wall Surveyor do?
You should always instruct a Chartered Surveyor who is certified by the RICS ideally at least 3 months prior to the proposed building works commencing. Once instructed a surveyor will undertake the following process;
• Offer advice on the procedure, your obligations and responsibilities
• Review the works proposal which may involve a site inspection depending on the complexity of the works
• Prepare and serve the required Party Wall notices in line with the statutory procedure detailed in the Party Wall Act
• Conduct a site visit and prepare a schedule of condition of neighbouring property prior to works
• Act if there is a dispute between the building owner and the adjoining owner
• Meet with the adjoining owner’s surveyor if required
• If there are no objections to the work from adjoining owners, the surveyor will then prepare and serve the Party Wall Award.
Note: if you fail to appoint a qualified Party Wall Surveyor and attempt to serve notice yourself, you can end up spending more money down the line if the notices are incorrectly issues and need to be corrected. In our experience, 9/10 self-filed notices are incorrect in some way.
8. What will it cost?
If you are the Building Owner you can expect to cover the following costs in line with the Act:
• The appointment of your surveyor
• If your neighbours appoint a surveyor you will pay for their costs too
• Allow for the cost of any damage caused to the neighbouring property as a result of your building works (The likelihood of this arising is minimised with thorough planning & professional contracts.)
• The use of structures to build up to
9. Who pays party wall surveyor fees?
The Building Owner will usually pay all costs associated in drawing up the award. This includes the adjoining owner’s surveyor fees, as long as the works are solely for the benefit of the Building Owner.
However, a surveyor (or surveyors) may decide who pays the fees for drawing up the award if there are certain circumstances where the work is necessary due to defect or repair. This will be based on the responsibility of the defect or repair.
10. Can a party wall award be amended?
It can be modified by a county court on appeal. However, an appeal should not be undertaken lightly as an unsuccessful appellant may incur costs against them. If you are considering appealing a party wall award it is best to seek legal advice.
11. In the Party Wall Act, who is the ‘Building Owner’?
The party / parties who owns the property where building works are due to be carried out.
12. In the Party Wall Act, who is the ‘Adjoining Owner’?
The party/parties potentially affected by the works. This isn’t just the freeholder but also covers the leaseholder and any tenants in occupation, unless the tenant occupying the property on an AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy).
13. What kind of works trigger consideration of the Act?
The following works require you to consider the Party Wall Act and follow the framework it sets out to notify your neighbours.
- If you are doing work to an existing party wall or shared structure which can include your own chimney.
- Intending to build on or close to the boundary
- If excavating within 3 metres of a building or structure (always consult a Chartered Surveyor if excavation is involved as depth of the foundations to be fully considered)
- If building further away but still excavating consult the party wall booklet.
The key point to consider is whether the proposed works might have consequences for the structural strength and support functions of the Party Wall as a whole or cause damage to structures on the Adjoining Owners side of the Wall.
- Building a new wall, cutting into a Party Wall, making a Party Wall taller, shorter or deeper, removing Chimneys from a Party Wall, knocking down and rebuilding a Party Wall.
What isn’t included?
- Plastering, adding or replacing electrical wiring or socking, drilling to put up shelves or cabinets.
14. How do I serve notice on my neighbour?
You don’t. You should contact a qualified Party Wall Surveyor who will review the planned works and ensure the correct notices are issued.
Note that if you fail to provide correct notice by doing it yourself you may end up not being covered for the type of work you are intending to carry out which can cause problems and expense down the line.
Notices are required for gaining access to neighbours land if building on or near the boundary line. There is a procedure to gain the right to access the land in this instance, if you don’t follow it then you have no right to go on your neighbours land and are trespassing without the statutory permission having been granted.
The act gives you powers or rights that you wouldn’t normally have e.g. the right to access or ‘trespass’ on their neighbours land so it is of benefit to the building owner (not just a cost) as it allows them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t be able to and save them money in the long term.
15. Should I consult my solicitor?
No. All the procedures are dealt with by a qualified Party Wall Surveyor. The Act is designed to prevent neighbours having disputes, going to court and is fully actionable by party wall surveyors.
It is important to get advice on proposed building works right at the start of planning so the procedures of the Act are dealt with and enforced correctly from the offset.
16. Can the Party Wall Act be used to resolve boundary disputes?
The Party Wall Act does not have any provisions that can be used to solve Boundary Disputes. These disputes must be resolved through the courts or by mutual agreement of the involved parties.
View our Dispute Resolution page for more information on these services.
17. Can a party wall award be applied retrospectively?
There are a number of things you can only do to a party wall after notifying and receiving a written agreement from a neighbour, which means the award is not usually applied retrospectively. If works start without consent then it will be a matter of having to deal with any consequences i.e. damage to the adjoining property. If this cannot be agreed between neighbours it will have to go to court.
18. When does a party wall award expire?
The notice is only valid for one year, so you should not serve it too long before you are looking to start any work. You must give at least two months’ notice to the Adjoining Owner before any works start.
Need advice or services?
If you are planning building improvement or a major works project of your own, seek the advice and services of a Chartered Building Surveyor specialising in Party Wall Matters first. Kempton Carr Croft has several Party Wall specialists and you can view our service here.
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