When a semi detached or terraced house shares a wall (or walls) with an adjoining owner (neighbour), that wall is known as a party wall. A ‘party wall’ separates buildings which belong to different owners. A separating floor can be a ‘party structure’. Where a wall separates two different sized buildings, only the part that is used by both properties is considered to be a party wall. The rest belongs to the person on whose land it stands.
Since the Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force, building owners in England and Wales have a legal procedure to follow when building work involves a party wall, party fence wall, excavations or building on the line of junction. The Act is designed to minimise disputes and should be regarded as an Act to enable an owner to exercise rights and undertake obligations associated with ‘party works’.
Davis Blackburn can advise on the Act and it’s procedures in order to allow a building owner to consider their duties and notify the adjoining owner. The adjoining owner may consent to the works or may dissent. If the adjoining owner dissents then he can appoint the same surveyor nominated by the building owner termed an ‘agreed surveyor’ to act for both parties or he can choose to appoint a seperate surveyor.
What is or is not covered by the Act?
Making alterations to a Party Wall or cutting into the wall such as inserting a beam.
Inserting a damp proof course all the way through a wall.
Raising the entire party wall, including cutting off any parts of the adjoining owner’s building which would otherwise prevent this being carried out.
Demolishing and rebuilding the party wall.
Underpinning the whole or part of the wall.
Building a new wall on the line of junction between two properties.
Excavating foundations within three metres of an adjoining structure and to a lower depth than the adjoining structure.
Excavating foundations within six metres of an adjoining structure and below a line drawn at 45 degrees from the bottom of its’ foundations.
The Act does not cover everyday minor jobs such as fixing plugs, screwing in wall units or shelving, adding or replacing recessed electrical wiring or sockets or replacing internal wall plaster.
If you intend to carry out any works which fall under the Act, you must give appropriate written notice to your adjoining owners at least two months before starting any party wall works. One month for ‘line of junction’ or excavation works. Notice must be given to all owners (freeholders and leaseholders). Where party works are proposed to a party floor then notice must be given to the owners living either above or below your property as floors can also be party structures. Davis Blackburn can assess any proposals and advise on what needs to be done to comply with the Act. We can speak to the adjoining owner and serve notices to ensure your works are lawful.
If an adjoining owner does not consent then the Party Wall etc Act 1996 provides for both parties to each appoint a surveyor or an ‘agreed surveyor’ (one surveyor acting for both parties). These are statutory appointments and surveyors have a duty to act impartially. The surveyor(s) will draw up a document called ‘an Award’. This details the works to be carried out, when, and how it will be done and records the condition of the adjoining property before works commence. It may also grant access to both properties so the surveyor(s) can inspect work in progress. The Award will determine who pays for the work if this is in dispute. Generally, the building owner who is carrying out the work pays for all expenses unless the works are due to want of repair to a party structure.
Davis Blackburn can help If you require general advice, are you proposing to start building work in the near future, are concerned that work is about to start at an adjoining owner’s property but have not received any written notification or have you received a notice and don’t know what to do next.