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What is the Party Wall Act 1996 and what you need to know?

What is a Party Wall Act 1996?

The Party Wall Act 1996 covers the following: Building on the line of a junction, repairs of a Party Wall and adjacent excavation and construction within 3 or 6 metres. The Act also uses the expression ‘party structure’. This covers works to a wall or floor partition or other structure separating buildings or parts of buildings in different ownership, such as in flats.

The most commonly used rights are:

· To repair a party wall

· To insert a damp proof course

· To underpin the whole thickness of a party wall (for example, to prevent settlement)

· To cut into a party wall to take the bearing of a beam (for example for a loft conversion)

· To raise the height of a party wall (for example, adding another storey)

· To extend a party wall downwards (for example, to form a basement)

· To demolish and rebuild a party wall (for example, if it is structurally defective)

· To underpin the whole thickness of a party wall (for example, to form a basement)

· To cut off projections from a party wall (or from an adjoining owner’s boundary or external wall) if necessary to build a new wall adjacent to that wall (for example, removing a chimney breast)

What do I have to do?

You must make your adjoining owners aware if you are wishing to carry out any building works near or on your shared property boundary, or ‘party wall’. An adjoining owner is anyone who is an owner of land, buildings or rooms adjoining those of the building owner, which may include the local authority.

A surveyor has to be appointed to Serve Notice and prepare a Party Wall Award (the agreed document outlining the proposed works). Firstly, the notice should be served at least two months before the planned starting date for work to the party wall. Once the notice is served to the adjoining property owners, they have 14 days to respond advising whether they consent or dissent to the proposed works. If the adjoining owner consents to works then the notices must be returned and signed and then works can commence as planned. However, it is highly recommended that a schedule of condition is prepared to record the current condition of the adjoining properties to form a datum to rely upon to minimise the risk of disputes later. This should be done shortly before the work starts.

What if the adjoining owner doesn’t agree?

If the adjoining owner dissents, or if they do not reply within 14 days, in which case, they are assumed to have dissented a Party Wall Award is required.

If you cannot reach agreement or a dispute has arisen with the adjoining owners, the next course of action is to agree with them on appointing an Agreed Surveyor to draw up an Award. Alternatively, each owner can appoint their own surveyor to draw up the award together. Their duty is to resolve matters of the dispute between the adjoining owners in a fair and practical way.

The Act is separate from obtaining planning permission or Building Regulation approval. We advise that all necessary permissions are obtained before works are commenced.

For further information about The Party Wall Act, visit the link below to read the Governments explanatory booklet.

If you are unsure whether you require a Party Wall Award give us a call and we can assist you with your enquiry. We have a Party Wall Surveyor in house who is able to service notices, prepare Awards and act as an Agreed or Joint Surveyor if a dispute has arisen.

Give us a call on 01206 768556 (Colchester) or 01223 653065 (Cambridge) or alliteratively email us at to make an enquiry.

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