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Party Wall

If you are considering carrying out building works to your house that are close to the neighbouring property then the Party Wall etc Act 1996 may well influence your plans. The Act applies to you if you are carrying out any work that might affect the wall between you and your neighbour.

The Act requires that you send a party wall notice to notify the adjoining property owner well in advance of the works taking place.

The neighbour has to respond and in due course the two owners then appoint a surveyor to act for them. This can be the same surveyor, as the surveyor appointed has to be impartial under the Act, effectively working for the best interests of the wall. Ideally, neither should be involved with the building project.

After inspection of the properties and reviewing the works a Party Wall Award document is then prepared, detailing the works, any precautions that must be taken and any other issues relating to the work.

Building Owner Information

The Party Wall etc Act is intended to enable you to do the work you want, not to prevent it starting.

It is important that the Party Wall Notices served upon your neighbour are valid. We recommend that you speak to your neighbour early in the process to let them know that notices are going to be arriving through their door.

Once they have the Notices, they should appoint their surveyor. In due course a record of the condition of their property is taken so that any damage caused can be easily identified.

A Party Wall Award document is then prepared, detailing the works, any precautions that must be taken and any other issues relating to the work.

The works proceed and the condition is then checked upon completion. Providing all is well, the matter is signed off, if there is any damage, this is listed and neighbour has the choice of having the repairs carried out by your contractor or taking compensation in lieu.

Adjoining Owner Information

The Party Wall etc Act obliges property owners to serve formal Notice on their neighbours of building works that might affect the party structure between their properties.

If you haven't had a Notice and works have started, then knock on their door and ask what is happening, it may be that the building works don't require a Notice.

Normally, you'll have been sent a Notice that asks you to 'consent' or 'dissent' to the works. This sounds like you can prevent works going ahead - but it doesn't. If you 'consent' then the work will proceed without any checks under the Act.

We always recommend that adjoining owners dissent to the Notices as this will ensure you will have the protection of the Party Wall Act rather than relying on a personal claim if things go wrong.

When you dissent you need to appoint a surveyor to act for you. This can be the same surveyor, since the surveyor has to be impartial under the Act, effectively working for the best interests of the wall - something that may not be easy if the surveyor is also the designer. Your neighbour is required to pay all of the surveyor's reasonable costs so it should cost you nothing.

After this, your property will be inspected by the surveyor(s) and its condition recorded. Then a Party Wall Award document is issued detailing the works and also any precautions that might need to be taken to protect your property.

The works then go ahead and your property is inspected on completion to check for any damage. If there is damage, then you have the choice of letting their contractor put it right or taking compensation instead.

Party Wall Notices

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 requires that homeowners can only do certain types of work to a party wall after they have firstly notified their adjoining owners and then either obtain their written consent or ensure that a Party Wall Award has been prepared. Some examples are:

  • Building a new wall or raising an existing wall for an extension
  • Excavating for new foundations or underpinning within a certain distance of a nearby structure, also excavating for a basement
  • Cutting into a party wall, for example a steel beam end in a loft floor
  • Cutting walls away from a party wall, such as chimney breast removal

There are three different types of Notices depending on the works proposed,

  • Party Structure Notice,
  • 3m Notice or 6m Notice,
  • Line of Junction Notice.

Once you have served a party wall notice upon your neighbour he/she has 14 days in which to respond in writing. If he/she dissents from the party wall notice or does not respond to you within the 14 days then a difference is deemed to have arisen between the parties.

This means that both you and your neighbour must appoint party wall surveyors under section 10 of the Party Wall Act. You can either jointly agree upon a single party wall surveyor or you can each appoint different party wall surveyors.

Party Wall Disputes

The Party Wall Act 1996 is designed to help neighbours resolve any disputes about works on or near the party line between two properties before work starts. It is a facilitative Act in that it allows the building owner to do works whilst protecting the rights of the adjoining owner.

If you are concerned about works your neighbour has done work which has caused damage and you gave written consent to the works then you may need to instruct a surveyor to examine the damage in order to help you complete your claim.

Party Wall Award

The party wall surveyors will prepare a fair and impartial party wall award which will deal with the right to execute the party wall works, the time and manner of executing any party wall work, and any other matter that arises between the parties connected to the party wall works. In all normal circumstances the party wall surveyors will prepare a report, called a “schedule of condition”, of the neighbouring property before works start in order to protect the interests of both parties in the event of a later claim for damages.

Party Wall Costs

Usually the building owner proposing the works will pay all 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.

Fees are normally £500 plus VAT per appointment (minimum of two appointments). For example, if you and one of your neighbours both appoint us (two appointments in total) then the cost would be £1,000 plus VAT. If you and both of your neighbours were to appoint us (three appointments in total) then the cost would be £1,500 plus VAT.

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