Residential Property Management and Home Survey Specialists

Row of houses - UK House door knocker Terraced House - UK Mansion Block - UK

Party Wall Practice

Party Structures and Fence Walls, amongst other things, include separating walls you have in common with your neighbour's building. Owners of property and landlords need to know their rights and responsibilities.

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force in 1997 and property owners throughout England and Wales are required to follow specific procedures when building work affects a party structure or party fence wall or where excavations are below a neighbours' foundation.

The Act is meant to reduce disputes by ensuring property owners use a surveyor to determine how and when work is carried out. An 'agreed surveyor' can act for both owners as his appointed position under the legislation is to be impartial in his judgment. Should problems arise he will determine the remedy.

The Act, if followed, gives property owners the right to carry out work on or next to party walls. In return it protects the interests of others who could be affected by the works.

What You Need to Know!

Semi-detached and terraced houses share walls with their neighbours. We call these party walls. They separate the buildings (or parts thereof) belonging to different owners. The part that is used by both properties is considered to be a party wall whereas any other part of the wall belongs to the person on whose land it stands.

If you want to develop, repair or alter a Party Structure or Fence Wall, you must first serve notice on your neighbour and obtain their consent to your proposals BEFORE you start work. There is a similar Notice and consent requirement in the legislation where you are working within certain distances – 3 or 6 metres; specific provisions apply for each - by excavating or constructing foundations for (say) a new building close to and below your neighbour’s foundations.

What Works Are Excluded?

Common minimal work that does not affect the other half of a party wall is excluded. For example: drilling for Raw plugs; screw fixing wall units and shelving to a wall; inserting or renewing electrical sockets; re plastering your walls.

What Works Are Included?

  • Cutting into the wall for bearing of a beam, for example for a loft conversion or through lounge;
  • Inserting a damp proof course into a wall;
  • Increasing the height of the party wall (including where necessary cutting off any parts preventing this from happening);
  • Demolishing and rebuilding the wall;
  • Underpinning the whole or part of the wall;
  • Cutting a flashing into an adjoining building;
  • Building a new wall on the line of junction (boundary) between two properties;
  • Excavations within three metres of an adjoining structure and lower than its foundations;
  • Excavations within six metres and below a 45° line drawn from the bottom of the neighbouring structure’s foundation;

Notices

For most of these works you must give written notice to your neighbours at least two months before starting any works to a party wall (one month in cases relating to 'line of junction' or excavation works).

Where there are several owners of a property or more than one adjoining property, you must let them ALL know of your intentions. Written notice to ALL owners is necessary.

It may help to talk to your neighbours frankly about the work you want to do before serving an official written notice. If you can do this amicably they may give you written agreement in response to your notice. In any case, however they must respond within 14 days otherwise a dispute is deemed to have arisen (except in the case of excavations, where deemed consent results from their silence).

Disputes, Dissent And Resolution

This is where expert advice from a Chartered Surveyor can minimise any delays that might arise and help resolve any concerns or worries you may have.

The Act provides for both parties to each appoint a surveyor or an 'agreed surveyor' who should act impartially. The surveyor/s will prepare an 'Award'. This specifies the work that can be carried out and how and when it may be done. It will also record the condition of the neighbouring property before work commences. It may also grant access to both properties so the surveyor/s can inspect work in progress. It also affirms who pays for what.

If damage occurs the surveyor/s may prepare a further Award determining how this will be remedied. They can order that repairs are carried out and who bears that cost.