Your guide to the Party Wall Act

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The Party Wall etc Act 1996 highlights the framework for resolving and preventing any disputes related to party walls, excavations and boundary walls near neighbouring buildings. A building owner who proposes to start work that is covered by the Act must ensure that adjoining owners are notified of their intentions in the appropriate way which is put forward by the Act.

It is incredibly useful for anyone looking to carry out works covered by The Party Wall Act to have a detailed guide that summarises all aspects of the Act. There are three categories that works that require notification might fall under, with any work that has a direct effect on a party wall being one of these categories.

The other categories include any excavation close to an Adjoining Owners Building and the construction of a new wall at the line of junction between two properties. Section 2(2) of the Act highlights the list of works which a building owner has the right to undertake that will directly affect a party wall.

What is a party wall?

There are three types of party wall is usually one of three types…

  • A wall that stands on the land of two or more owners and forms part of a building. This wall can be part of one building only or separate buildings belongings to different owners.
  • A wall that does not form part of a building but still stands on the land of two or more owners.
  • A wall that is on one owner’s land but is used by two or more owners to separate the buildings of each owner.

What does the Act cover?

The Party Wall Act covers…

  • New buildings on or at the boundary of two properties.
  • Work to an existing party wall or party structure.
  • Excavation work below or in close proximity to the foundation level of any neighbouring buildings.

Examples of these include building a new wall on the boundary, increasing the height of a party wall, removing chimney breasts from party walls, cutting into party walls, demolishing party walls and digging below the foundation of a neighbour’s property.

The party wall process and timeline

If you are carrying out works governed by the Party Wall Act, you need to serve a Party Wall Notice on your neighbours. This must be done at least two months before the works begin, and at least one month before excavation works begin.

After serving a Party Wall Notice, the neighbour has 14 days to respond. However, work can get underway immediately if they agree in writing.

By day 15, your neighbour must have agreed in writing to your notice. If they fail to reply they are deemed to have dissented. If they dissent you should send them another letter stating they must appoint a party wall surveyor within 10 days or you will appoint one on their behalf.

Your neighbour should have decided whether they wish to appoint a surveyor 26 days after the notice is served. Failure to do so, gives you the power to appoint a surveyor on their behalf, but this must not be the same surveyor you are using. You pay for all surveyors’ fees, so it’s in your interest to get your neighbour to agree to share a single surveyor, which is known as an agreed surveyor.

From this point, you are in the hands of the appointed surveyor or surveyors, who will make a record of the existing condition of your neighbour’s property so any damage can be fairly assessed later.

You will also receive a Party Wall Award laying out rules your builder will have to follow, such as restrictions on when and how the party wall works should be carried out, and any additional work needed to protect your neighbour’s property.

The good news is that your builder will be allowed to legally trespass on your neighbour’s property if the surveyors deem it necessary to carry out the party wall works.

While most property owners will be keen for the building work to start on the earliest possible date, it should be noted that the Party Wall Act states that work must have started within a year of serving notice.

Article provided by Mike, working together with SSJ Surveyors; Chartered Surveyors based in Shrewsbury for over 20 years.