The Party Wall etc. Act 1996
The Party Wall Act?
What actually is
a 'Party' Wall?
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 provides the legal framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.
It imposes a legal requirement on building owners, that propose to carry out certain building works, to 'serve notice' of their intentions (as outlined in the Act) on their neighbours
(know within the Act as Adjoining Owners). Once notice has
been received Adjoining owners can agree or disagree with
what is proposed. Where they disagree, the Act provides a mechanism for resolving disputes.
The Act is completely separate from obtaining planning permission or building regulations approval.
The 3 main common definitions for party walls are:
1. A wall that stands on the lands of 2 (or more) owners and forms part of a building - this wall can be part of one building
only or separate buildings belonging to different owners
2. a wall that stands on the lands of 2 owners but does not
form part of a building, such as a garden wall (this does
not include timber fences).
3. a wall that is on one owner’s land but is used by 2
(or more) owners to separate their buildings
The Act also uses the expression ‘party structure’.
This could be a wall or floor partition or other structure separating buildings or parts of buildings in different ownership, such as in flats.
What work is deemed
'Notifiable' under the act?
How do you serve a
a Party Wall Notice ?
The 3 main areas of works the Act covers are:
Section 1: Building Along the Line of Junction (Boundary)
If you are building on your property you have certain rights to build right up to the boundary (know in the act as the line of junction). You must however serve a Section 1 Notice on the Adjoining Owner. If your neighbour agrees, you may also build astride (over) the boundary thus creating a new party wall which you can both share.
Section 2: Works physically affecting the Party Wall
A number of works such as cutting into the wall for a steel beam to be inserted for an extension or loft conversion or removal of chimney breasts all require a Notice being served under Section 2/3 of the Act.
Section 6. Excavations Near a Neighbouring Structure
Most extensions to semi-detached, or terraced properties, will require excavation for foundations etc. Depending on the depth of the excavation and how close it is to a neighbouring structure many require a Notice under section 6 of the Act to be served.
The Act states that it is the responsibility of the Building Owner (person or persons wishing to carry out the work) to serve Notice on the affected Adjoining Owners for each of the 'Notifiable Works' accordingly.
A simple 'Notice' letter, stating intent is required to be sent to the adjoining owners (neighbours being affected by the works). However, in order for the 'Notice' to be served correctly
and in accord with the legalities of the Act it is important
that the details contained in the Notice are correct
otherwise it could be deemed to be invalid.
Because of the possible serious repercussions of an invalid
notice being served it is common for Building Owners to
request a professional Party Wall Surveyor to serve such Notices on their behalf.
What if the neighbour
'dissents' to the notice?
What is a
Schedule of Condition?
This is exactly what the Act is there for... To provide a mechanism for resolving disputes...
When a neighbour dissents (disagrees) with the notifiable works then a dispute is deemed to have risen in accord with the Act.
The neighbour should then either appoint their own party wall surveyor or may agree to use the same surveyor as the building owner (this surveyor is then referred to as the 'Agreed Surveyor').
It is important for all parties to understand that a party wall surveyors role under the Act is to be unbiased, as such they should work in accord with the Act and are thus not 'on the side' of either the Building Owner or the Adjoining Owner regardless of whom they have been appointed by.
The agreed surveyor or the two surveyors then work within the confines of the Act to serve an award.
An Award is a legal document that sets out clearly the details of the proposed works and how these will be undertaken. It may also include details on other matters relating to the 'notifiable works' such as access to undertake the works and who should pay for the works and the surveyor’s costs.
A schedule of condition (SOC) is a factual record of the condition of a property. For Party Wall works they are often used to record the condition of the neighbouring property so that should there be any claimed damage to the property, the damage can easily be checked against the SOC to see if such damaged existed prior to the works under notice.
While the Act does not require it by law, a Schedules of condition is highly recommended and it is very quickly becoming the norm to have such carried out even when there is no dispute over the proposed works as it protects the Building Owner from false claims and confirms any damage for the Adjoining Owner should it be incurred from the proposed works.
As professional Party Wall Surveyors we recommend and are able to provide Schedule of Conditions for all our clients should they require such.