In this blog post, I will endeavour to explain what the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 consists of and when it applies to you as a building owner in the simplest way possible!
First and foremost, what is a Party Wall?
In the simplest terms possible, which I believe is always preferred. A party wall is a wall that separates the building between two or more owners with the boundary between. Furthermore, this could also include the likes of the garden wall which has been erected up to or astride the boundary line. Under the wording of the Act, garden walls such as this as referred to as Party Fence Walls.
To attempt to simplify your understanding of a party wall further, say, for example, you are the owner of a semi-detached property or a terraced property and due to the infrastructure of the buildings, you share a wall with a neighbouring property or properties, the wall which you both share is known as the party wall.
It is also worth noting that a party wall by nature is a wall that is shared by one or more owners and generally speaking, the different respective owners will have equal rights over the wall.
What is the Party Wall etc. Act 1996?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996, once again in simple terms, is a law that was put in place in 1997 to stand as a framework for homeowners who undertook certain types of construction work to their property in England and Wales.
The introduction of the Act ensured that if a building owner (the person planning on undertaking the works) was planning to carry out construction works that affect the party wall, party fence wall or party structure, they would need to serve a Party Wall Notice on the adjoining owner (the neighbouring owner) in advance of the proposed works commencing.
The Act permits homeowners to carry out a variety of different works, for example undertaking a loft conversion or rear extension. However, the Act at the same time makes sure that any owner party to the works is legally protected by any risk or inconvenience.
Hopefully by now, light is beginning to be shed on the importance of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
As confirmed above, the Act legally obligates a building owner to notify their neighbour(s), the adjoining owner, in advance of commencing certain construction works.
There are a few different statutory Party Wall Notice periods that apply based on the specific kind of works proposed, ranging from 1 to 2 months.
Lastly, the Act requires that in a case where the adjoining owner doesn’t agree to the works set out within the building owner’s served Party Wall Notice, meaning that they are dissenting, a Party Wall Surveyor or Party Wall Surveyors will be appointed to professionally deal with the Party Wall Surveying Procedures thus leading to the agreement of a Party Wall Award or in another term a Party Wall Agreement.
A deeper look into what’s covered by the Act
In my experience these tend to be the typical types of works covered by the Party Wall etc Act 1996:
- Cutting into a wall to take the bearing of a beam or beams, for example facilitating a loft conversion.
- Removing chimney breasts from a party wall, common these days to increase internal living space.
- Insertion of a damp-proof course, even if only to your own side of a party wall. Commonly this is to eradicate a rising or penetrating damp issue.
- Making a party wall or party fence wall higher, shorter or deeper. Generally, this would be increasing the height of a wall to build an extension of it, or underpinning a party wall as part of deep excavations.
- Demolishing and rebuilding a party wall or party fence wall, usually as a result of the wall being of insufficient strength.
- Underpinning a party wall, or part of a party wall, commonly as part of basement works.
- Weathering the junction of adjoining walls or buildings by cutting a flashing into an adjoining building. Common when two different walls are built in close proximity to one and other.
- Excavating foundations within six metres of an adjoining owner’s (neighbour’s) structure and lower than their foundations.
Unbeknown to a lot of owners, the Act actually covers a great deal more works than works directly to walls. In my opinion, this tends to be one of the most common misconceptions of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.
What works are not covered by the Act?
I’m sure you’re wondering what works can be done without requiring having to go through the Party Wall Procedures and without notifying the adjoining owner (your neighbours).
The Act isn’t intended to cover everyday minor works that don’t affect the structural infrastructure of the party wall, in my experience these tend to be:
- Fixing plug sockets
- Screwing in wall units or shelving
- Adding or replacing electrical wiring or sockets
- Re-plastering your walls
Party Wall Surveying situations can be complex and at times confusing, I hope all the details I have provided help with any uncertainty that you may have had prior to reading this blog, I also hope you enjoyed reading it!
If you are about to serve a Party Wall Notice or have been served a Party Wall Notice and would like professional assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in contact I happily offer 30 minutes free Party Wall Advice to any callers!