The main types of party walls are:
- 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
- A wall that stands on the lands of 2 owners but does not form part of a building, such as a garden wall but not including timber fences
- 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 do I have to do?
You must tell your neighbours if you want to carry out any building work near or on your shared property boundary, or ‘party wall’, in England and Wales.
A surveyor has to be appointed to prepare a Party Wall Award (the agreed document outlining how the works should progress) Once the notice is served, the neighbour has fourteen days to respond. When The neighbour gives assent in writing it provides the homeowner will put right any problems
The homeowner should take dated pictures of the party wall and ideally have agreed written notes of any cracks, with copies for both or a surveyor could be appointed to assess and prepare a schedule of condition to minimise the risk of disputes later. This should be done shortly before the work starts.
What if the neighbour doesn’t agree?
If the neighbour dissents (or if they do NOT reply within 14 days, in which case, they are assumed to have dissented) and a Party Wall Award is required
In this case, both homeowner and neighbour can appoint ONE Agreed Surveyor, usually within ten days, who can act impartially for both. The agreed surveyor should be independent and NOT the same surveyor the homeowner might be using for their own works. Otherwise their neighbour is unlikely to view the surveyor as neutral.
The Agreed Surveyor produces an “Award” which details the works proposed and a schedule of condition, including pictures, of the neighbour’s home.
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.
A building owner proposing to start work covered by the Act must give adjoining owners notice of their intentions in the way set down in the Act. Adjoining owners can agree or disagree with what is proposed. Where they disagree, the Act provides a mechanism for resolving disputes.
The Act is separate from obtaining planning permission or building regulations approval.