Party Wall Act FAQ's
Do you have a question regarding about the Party Wall Act? Take a look at some of our most frequently asked questions below. However if you have a question that isn't answered below, or you want to find out more, please contact us on 07912 120 052 , or fill out the enquiry form below.
What is the Party Wall etc Act 1996?
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’.
What is covered by the Act?
- Works covered by the Act include:
- Cutting into a 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.
- Where it is intended to build a new wall tight up to or astride the boundary line.
What is a Party Wall Award?
At Route5qs we prepare a fair and impartial Party Wall Award/Agreement, which includes:
- The right to execute the Party Wall works.
- The time and manner of executing any Party Wall work.
- Protection of the neighbouring structure during and after the works.
- Coverage of common matters that may arise.
In normal circumstances the Party Wall surveyors will also prepare a report called a “schedule of condition”, of the neighbouring property before work starts in order to protect the interests of both parties in the event of a later claim for damages.
What doesn’t the Act cover?
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. It also doesn't cover timber fencing between properties.
Where is a party wall?
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.
I am proposing to carry out work I think falls under the Party wall Act.
It is always advisable to contact a party wall surveyor for advice as early as possible before you are ready to commence works. The surveyor will advise you as to what items of work require the service of a notice under the Act and how to properly appoint your party wall surveyor. For works that fall under the provisions of the Act, you must appoint a party wall surveyor. Having been appointed, your party wall surveyor will serve a properly constituted notice on your behalf. Some types of work require a minimum notice period of 1 month. Other types of work require a minimum notice period of 2 months. As the building owner, you will under all normal circumstances be responsible for all party wall surveyor’s fees (including the adjoining owners’ party wall surveyor/s if they appoint an independent party wall surveyor) and reasonable associated costs.
What if there is a dispute?
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.
Do you require general advice?
Are you proposing to start building work in the near future?
The process has time frames attached to it and even simple disputes can be elongated. It is advisable to seek advice and issue any relevant notices as soon as possible in the process.
Are you concerned that work is about to start at an adjoining owner’s property but have not received any written notification?
Again we are happy to advise on any plans or schemes that adjoin your property. We can advise if you should have been issued a notice and are happy to correspond with adjoining owners on your behalf. This initial assessment is free of charge.
Have you received a notice and don’t know what to do next?
When you receive a notice served under the Act, there would generally be an acknowledgement form attached for returning to the building owner. Before completing the acknowledgement form you should contact a party wall surveyor for advice. On occasion the proposed works may be very minor in nature and you may be advised that it is safe to consent to the work. However, it is generally the case that the works will need to be regulated under the provisions of the Act and that your rights and the protection provided by the Act should be preserved. In those circumstances you would be advised on how to respond to the notice and how to properly appoint your party wall surveyor. Your appointed party wall surveyor would deal with matters on your behalf from that point on. Under all normal circumstances all of your party wall surveyor’s fees and reasonable associated costs would be met by the building owner proposing to undertake the work, not by you.
What if I have started my work not realising I should have served notice?
If the works you have commenced fall under the provisions of the Act, those works would be regarded as ‘unauthorised works’. As such, the adjoining owner can take legal action against you to have the works stopped and they can claim their costs and damages from you. If you have started the works and subsequently realised you should have served notice, you should stop the work and contact a party wall surveyor immediately for advice. You would not benefit from the rights and protections offered by the Act in respect of the unauthorised works.
What if my neighbour has started work which I believe required service of a notice?
If you believe your neighbour has commenced works that fall under the Act and you have not been served notice, you should contact a party wall surveyor immediately for advice. The Party wall surveyor will consider the works that are underway and will advise you as to whether notice should have been served. You will be advised how to properly appoint your party wall surveyor and your appointed surveyor would take the necessary steps to afford you the rights and protections provided by the Act.
Does the Act give a right of access to neighbouring land?
If a dispute arises under the Act and an Award is published then it is normal to include access arrangements within it. Otherwise the Act provides a right of access, exercisable by giving reasonable notice. Such access is restricted to the carrying out of works in pursuance of the Act and nothing else (for example for a 3m notice, there would be an entitlement for access for the excavation work, but not necessarily to enable the construction of walls subsequently) which is not to say that such access cannot be agreed between the parties and written into a Party Wall Award. Finally, it is an offence (prosecutable at a Magistrate's Court) for an Adjoining Owner to deny or obstruct access to those who might reasonably be known to be entitled to it.
How much does a Party Wall Surveyor Cost?
Typically, the building owner proposing the works will pay all the Party Wall costs associated with drawing up the Party Wall Award if the works are solely for his/her benefit. Where a difference is deemed to have arisen, and before the Party Wall surveyors produce the Party Wall award, both parties may jointly agree to settle any outstanding matters between them without the need for an award. In this case the building owner will usually still be liable for all reasonable Party Wall costs incurred up to the date where the parties notify the Party Wall surveyors of their intentions in writing. The building owner will typically be responsible for any onsite costs and rectification of any damage caused to the neighbouring properties during the construction works.