The Party Wall etc Act 1996
The Party Wall etc Act 1996, came into force in 1997 and covers England and Wales. This legislation provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to Party Walls, Party Fence Walls (certain garden walls) and Adjacent Excavations. The Act also deals with works to a Party Structure which could be the floor or ceiling separating you and your neighbour should you live in a flat.
The Party Wall is generally a shared wall between the Building Owner who is doing the work and the Adjoining Owner who is the neighbour. The Act dictates how the neighbour is notified, by Serving a Notice and lays out time scales for the various actions. The Act then provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes. We can act as an appointed surveyor for either or both parties to ensure that the provisions of The Party Wall etc Act 1996 are complied with. For further advice please contact us.
The Party Wall Act does not affect any requirement for Planning Permission or Building Regulation Approval for any work undertaken. Likewise, having Planning Permission and/or Building Regulation Approval does not negate the requirements of The Party Wall Act. The Party Wall Act does not stop the work being undertaken but can control how it is carried out.
What is covered by the Act
The following are types of work to a Party Structure, which has to be carried out in accordance with the Act:
- Thicken, raise, demolish and rebuild a party wall
- Remove projections
- Insert a chemical damp proof course or install flashings
- Insert beams, padstones and structure into a party wall
- Reduce party wall height
- Convert a Party Fence Wall into a Party Wall
- Permanently expose a Party Wall
- Carry out repairs to a party wall.
- Excavations within 3 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.
- Excavations within 6 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below a line drawn 45 degrees downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.
- Relevant work to floors and ceilings of flats etc.
Normally putting up shelves and wall units, re-plastering and electrical rewiring can be undertaken without serving a Notice under the Act.
The following diagrams show the definitions of a Party Wall, Party Fence Wall, Party Structure and prescribed distances for Adjacent Excavation works. These diagrams can be used as a guide as to what might be covered but for more specific advice please contact us.
A Party Fence Wall has to straddle the boundary to be a Party Structure. Most garden walls are built wholly on the land of one owner so are not generally party structures.
Most common Party Walls have the boundary running through the centre as in the Party Walls on most terraced or semi-detached houses.
A wall is also a “Party Wall” if it stands wholly on one owner’s land, but is used by two (or more) owners to separate their buildings. An example would be where one person has built the wall in the first place, and another has butted their building up against it without constructing their own wall.
Only the part of the wall that does the separating is the "Party Wall" as shaded in the example.
Notice has to be served if you plan to excavate, or excavate and construct foundations for a new building or structure, within 3 metres of a neighbouring owner’s building or structure, where that work will go deeper than the neighbour’s foundations. A problem with this is that you might not know the depth of the neighbour’s foundations.
Notice has to be served if you plan to excavate, or excavate for and construct foundations for a new building or structure, within 6 metres of a neighbouring owner’s building or structure, where that work will cut a line drawn downwards at 45° from the bottom of their foundations. This becomes an issue if you are digging a basement or using piled foundations which can affect more than one adjoining owner.
What do I have to do?
If you are carrying out works you must inform your neighbour, the Adjoining Owner, of your intentions. The best way to start the process is to engage the services of a qualified party wall surveyor to prepare and serve the necessary notices in advance of the works commencing. The Act also lays out time scales for the various actions through the process and gives a framework for preventing and resolving disputes. The Act is there to protect both the building owner and the owner of the adjoining property.
For further advice on whether your works are notifiable under the Act or what to do if you receive a notice, please contact us for a free consultation.
Notices for works to a Party Wall must be served two months before they commence or one month if you are excavating foundations within a certain distance of your neighbour’s building or structure. The notice needs to describe the works and, when dealing with an excavation, must have a drawn section through the proposed excavation showing the assumed relationship with your neighbour’s foundations.
What do I do if I am Served a Notice
If you are the Adjoining Owner you have the option to either consent to the works or dissent. Dissenting actually means “to proceed with the protection of the Act”. If you dissent on the basis that you require your interest to be considered and protected, you should appoint a surveyor. Dissenting does not stop the works but instead controls how the works are carried out. You should be aware that the appointed surveyor is administering the Act impartially and not representing a client.
It is important to be aware that in almost every situation (as you are the adjoining owner) your surveyor’s fees will be paid for by the neighbour who is instigating the work, except in very rare instances.
The two surveyors will now put in place a Party Wall Award which protects you against damage, contains the drawings related to the works, and a "schedule of condition" of your property.
If the works are minor the adjoining owner can consent to the works and that generally ends the involvement of the Act and obviously saves the building owner money, avoiding the need for surveyors. If you are considering consenting we would still recommend you take advice before doing so, as a well worded letter of consent can give you better protection.
We are committed to assist Building Owners and Adjoining Owners in resolving disputes and managing the requirements of the Party Wall Act in a fair and reasonable way. For further (free and without obligation) advice please contact us now on 01582 708000 or email...
Further information can also be found on the government website:
(Image to link to government website)
- Subsidence or Settlement? Either way there's no need to panic!
- The Party Wall etc Act 1996
- Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007
- All Engineers are equal, but some are more equal than others
- Computer Aided Design