The Party Wall Act.

The Party Wall Act.     The Party Wall etc Act 1996 is a complicated piece of legislation and if you don't do things right, you can be sued by an aggrieved neighbour.

Firstly, as a Building Owner proposing to carry out building work to which The Act applies, you have a duty to serve the correct notices, with reference to the correct sub-sections of The Act, together with plans and details, on your neighbour (The Adjoining Owner). These should contain sufficient detail to allow a lay-person with no knowledge of the construction industry, to understand your proposals and how they may affect their building.  The Adjoining Owner then has 14 days from the date of serving the notice(s) to either register their consent to the works or dissent to the works. If they dissent, then Surveyors must be appointed by both parties to administer The Act. No response is deemed to be a dissent. If one party doesn't appoint a surveyor, the other parties surveyor may appoint one on their behalf after giving a further 10 days notice of this intention do so.

Once surveyors are appointed, they will meet on site to record a schedule of condition of the adjacent properties likely to be affected by the work, both internally and externally. This will record by notes and photographs, any defects found such as cracks to walls, mis-aligned roof tiles, cracked plaster, sticking doors or windows etc etc that exist prior to the building works commencing. This will then form part of The Party Wall Award, a document prepared by the two surveyors which lists the works to be done, which parts of The Act are applicable, how the works will be done in some cases, and any special precautions to be taken to ensure the safe-guarding of the adjacent properties. This is issued to all parties who have 14 days from receipt to appeal against it in the County Court if they feel they have been unfairly treated.

Once the works are complete, the schedule of condition is compared to the condition of the neighbouring properties and any additional damage can be largely apportioned to the building works. The Building Owner is then required to put this right. The Adjoining Owner does not have to let the original builder do this - they can employ their own builder so long as his costs are reasonable, and the cost of this is still met by the Building Owner.

If as a Building Owner you decide not to follow the procedures of The Act, and after the project is complete your neighbour complains that your builder has damaged their property, you are very hard pushed to prove otherwise if you don't have a Schedule of Condition prepared pre-project. Court Judges have been proven to find far more sympathy with the adjoining owner claiming damages when the building owner hasn't bothered to follow due legislation. The Party Wall Act is there to protect both parties - use it or ignore it at your peril!

So, when do you need to comply with The Party Wall Act?

There are several instances when this is the case, and it doesn't just involve carrying out building works on a Party Wall.

Generally, but not exclusively, if your project involves the following;

  • Cutting into a Party Wall (to form a pocket to support a steel beam for example or to insert a flashing).

  • Fixing to a Party Wall with anything bigger than plugs and screws

  • Cutting chases in a Party Wall for an electrical installation.

  • Reducing or raising the height of a Party Wall.

  • Taking down a Party Wall to rebuild (between two garages for example).

  • Removing a projecting chimney or foundations from a Party Wall.

  • Enclosing upon the side of a neighbours extension with your own extension.

  • Building a new Party Wall or Party Fence Wall astride the line of boundary between you and your neighbours.

  • Building a new wall up to the line of boundary, with foundations projecting past the line of boundary.

  • Excavating for foundations within 3m of your neighbours foundations, AND to a lower depth than the bottom of your neighbours foundations. That includes under-pinning. Foundations aren't just limited to house foundations - any building can have a foundation - even garages and some sheds, and old-fashioned brick built man-holes.

  • Exposing a Party Wall that was enclosed ( such as taking down one half of a semi-detached property for development).

As an Adjoining Owner to a proposed building project, your neighbour, the Building Owner, should serve all the notices and details listed above to give you the chance to consent or dissent. If they do this, and you don't understand the project, contact us and we will talk you through what is happening and what your rights are under The Act.

If your neighbours knocks on your door to show you plans for their proposed extension and says 'you don't mind, do you? And we're starting on Monday!' contact us and we can get the project put on hold whilst the correct procedures are followed. It is possible to get a Court Injunction to do this if required.

Without going through the required process, it is much more difficult to gain the protection of The Act in terms of 'is their building in the right place, and is it allowed to be there?'.

More information can be found by following this link;