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Property Surveying Blog

Written by Sadek Miah

When discussing the Party Wall etc Act 1996 there are different entities to consider that may affect the works that a building owner proposes to undertake.

The below will give an insight into the characteristics of different types of walls often referred to under the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

There are 2 main types of party wall;

Party Wall type (a)

In simple terms, this party wall can be described as a wall that divides 2 adjoining buildings. The wall is built so that one half of the entire walls thickness lies on each side of the boundary between the 2 adjoining buildings.

Party Wall type (b) 

A wall is also considered a party wall if it sits wholly on one owner’s land and is used by two or more owners to separate their buildings. For example, if an owner has built a wall first and then another owner has created another building by joining onto this wall without constructing their own wall then this would be considered a party wall.

Party Fence Wall

A party fence wall is described as a wall that separates 2 owners’ land (Not part of a building). It does not form part of a building but instead extends from it. If the ‘wall’ sits on one side of the boundary then this would not be considered a ‘Party Fence Wall’ under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 and is often referred to as a boundary wall or garden wall.

If a building owner, who is the person that is undertaking the proposed construction work, wishes to carry out works to a Party Fence Wall, then they would have to serve a Party Wall Notice in the same way you would have to if you were carrying out works to a Party Wall.

A Party Wall Notice notifies the relevant adjoining owners of the proposed works and prompts them for a response option in relation to the works.

At this stage it isn’t necessary to have a party wall surveyor appointed and can be done by the homeowner who is carrying out the works although it is highly recommended a party wall surveyor does this on the homeowner’s behalf as the notice will be invalid if it is completed incorrectly and will cause delays.

Although there are similarities with Party Wall Notices for Party Fence Walls and a Party Walls; not all work to a Party Fence Wall is notifiable to an adjoining owner, who is the owner adjoining the proposed works, as it would be on a Party Wall. For example, the concept of Party Wall type (b) wouldn’t apply to a party fence wall as the party fence wall sits equally on both owner’s land.

It should be also be noted that a building owner cannot demolish a Party Fence Wall without the consent of the adjoining owner as the wall is equally shared.

The wall can be later repaired or rebuilt depending on what sort of agreement is made between the building owner and their neighbour. This is usually dealt in a civil matter between both parties.

Often building owners that have engaged in the Party Wall etc Act 1996 will want this to be dealt with and covered under the Act.

When rebuilding this wall the costs can be defrayed between the two owners on account of defect as both owners would benefit from this. If the Party Fence Wall is already in good condition and the building owner demolishes and rebuilds this due to works, they want to carry out then this would have to be done at their own cost as an adjoining owner won’t benefit from this anymore than if the wall had been left alone.

This would be dealt with under ‘2(2)(b) – To make good, repair, or demolish and rebuild, a party structure or party fence wall in a case where such work is necessary on account of defect or want of repair of the structure or wall’ of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

Party Structure

A Party Structure shares similar characteristics as a party wall. In addition to what is notifiable to a party wall or party fence wall, the term party structure is often used to describe the physical division between 2 properties or land.

A Party Structure notice is often used when works are taking place to the floor/ceiling separating buildings or parts of buildings

Other types of fences on the boundary

Japanese Knotweed

Any form of fences whether it is concrete, timber or any other material is not covered under the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

Determining the location of the boundary is also a common misconception, under the Act, a Party Wall Surveyor will not be able to determine that. Owners jointly share that garden wall.

As this is not covered by the act it is often referred to as a ‘Garden wall’ or ‘Boundary wall’ as to not confuse matters with party wall proceedings. Garden walls are usually maintained by both owners and usually sit equally on the boundary.

It is important to identify the entity of a garden wall as it can determine whether you need to go through party wall proceedings. If a garden wall sits on your side of the boundary, the outer face of that wall facing the adjoining owners land usually marks where the boundary is.

In this case, you are free to do what you want with that wall as it is your wall sitting wholly within your own land. Your neighbour however cannot modify this in any way.

The distinction between the different types of walls can often be blurred and disagreements between 2 neighbours can arise as to where the actual boundary line is or who owns the fence separating both lands.

In these scenarios I would suggest that you discuss the matter with one of our Boundary surveyor specialists. It is not the job of a party wall surveyor to determine the boundary and can only act on what the parties have agreed the boundary is.

If you believe you are carrying out works to a Party Wall or a Party Fence Wall and want to confirm if it falls within the remit of the Party Wall etc Act 1996, feel free to give one of our surveyors a call to discuss the matter in more detail.