WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PARTY WALL ACT
Updated: May 30
Before starting any home renovation there are numerous considerations that will need to be made during the consultation stage, including if you need to have a Party Wall Agreement in place. If you have neighbouring properties close by, you must tell your neighbours if you want to carry out specific categories of building work near or on your shared property boundary or any works to a ‘Party wall’ in England and Wales. There are different rules in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Act is intended to enable a renovation to be undertaken whilst providing protection for adjoining properties. It achieves this by providing a procedural framework that ensures neighbouring owners and occupiers are notified of impending construction work.
What is a Party Wall?
A wall is a Party Wall if it stands on either side of the boundary of land belonging to two or more owners and either forms part of a building, separates two or more buildings or consists of a ‘party fence wall.’
A wall is a ‘party fence wall’ if it sits between the land of different owners and is used to separate the land, for example, a masonry garden wall. This does not include wooden fences or hedges. A wall is also a Party Wall if it stands solely on one owner’s land but is used by two or more owners to separate their properties. Floors or walls between flats and apartments are ‘party structures’. The Party Wall Act is named as such because it covers all aspects of partitioning two properties.
What is The Party Wall Act?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 provides 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 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 ensuring property owners notify their neighbours in advance of specific proposed works.
The Act provides a mechanism for resolving disputes and enabling works to proceed. It also 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 You Must Tell Your Neighbour About
You must tell your neighbour if you want to:
Build on or at the boundary of your two properties;
Work on an existing party wall or party structure; and
Excavate below and near the foundation level of their building or structure.
Your neighbour can’t stop you from making changes to your property that are within the law, but they can affect how and when your work is carried out. Failure to follow the requirements of the Party Wall Act may result in the works being unlawful. If you are not sure whether the Act applies to the work you are planning, you should always seek professional advice.
You don’t need to tell your neighbour about any minor changes such as plastering, adding or replacing electrical wiring or sockets or drilling to put up shelves or cabinets etc. Again, if you’re unsure, it’s always best to check.
What Type of Renovations Require a Party Wall Agreement?
There are certain types of renovation work that can only be done after notifying the adjoining owners and either receiving a written agreement of the neighbour or with a Party Wall Award prepared by a surveyor/s.
Notifiable renovation projects could include (but are not limited to):
Cutting into a wall to take the bearing of a beam, for instance, for a 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 or part of a party wall
Weathering the junction of adjoining walls or buildings by cutting a flashing into an adjoining building
Excavating foundations within three metres of a neighbour’s structure and lower than its foundations
Excavating foundations within six metres of a neighbour’s structure and below a line drawn down at 45° from the bottom of its foundations.
Notices are also required if it is proposed to build a new wall on the boundary line. A party wall surveyor will usually be able to confirm which work is notifiable and advise the notice period and type of notice required.
Reaching a Party Wall Agreement with Your Neighbours
You must give notice to your neighbour between 2 months and a year before you plan to start building works. Include what you plan on doing and consider explaining why if you anticipate any issues. Try to reassure them that the work will be carried out by a reputable builder and they will be protected at all times. The more information you can provide, the better. You could speak to your neighbour in person to explain the work you want to carry out, before giving notice in writing, although any agreement should always be in writing.
Once you’ve given notice, your neighbour can:
Give consent in writing;
Refuse consent, which will start a dispute resolution process; and
Serve a counter-notice requesting additional works be done at the same time (they’ll have to pay for these if they benefit from the works).
Your neighbour must let you know in writing within 14 days if they consent to your notice, and you must do the same with any counter-notice. A counter-notice must be served within a month of the first notice. Your neighbours need to respond to the notice. You can’t assume that no response means they agree to the work. The dispute resolution process will also start if they don’t respond to your notice within the given time.
What If My Neighbour Doesn’t Agree To My Renovation?
If your neighbour doesn’t agree to your planned works, each owner must appoint a party wall surveyor to act for them individually or agree on a single surveyor to act on behalf of both owners. Where two surveyors are appointed to act for each owner individually, the two surveyors have to select another surveyor, a third surveyor. If required, the third surveyor would be called upon if the two surveyors cannot agree.
The surveyor/s will settle the dispute by making an ‘award’ (known as a ‘party wall award’). This is a document which usually states:
The work to be carried out;
When and how the work is to be carried out (to limit times of noisy work, for instance);
Any additional work required (protective measures to prevent damage, for instance); and
A record of the condition of the adjoining property before the work begins. This is desirable as it can assist in identifying and attributing any damage to adjoining properties, for instance.
If you’re considering any home renovation in North London or the surrounding area, contact us today for any advice or a free, transparent quote. Either get in touch online, give us a call on +44 (0)203 488 0172 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org