In this blog post, I am going to discuss party wall procedures generally and let you know when the Act applies, the type of work it applies to and what needs to be done if you are a building owner, or an adjoining owner.
A wall is a “party wall” if it stands astride the boundary of land belonging to two (or more) different owners. A wall is also a “party wall” if it stands wholly on one owner’s land but is used by two or more owners to separate their buildings.
Party Fence Wall
A wall is a “party fence wall” if it is not part of a building and stands astride the boundary line between lands of different owners and is used to separate those lands (e.g. masonry garden wall).
Now that we have understood what a party wall is, let’s look at, is why the Act came into force.
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 came into force on the 1st of July 1997 and applies throughout England and Wales to prevent or resolve disputes in relation to party walls, party structures, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.
Generally speaking, the Act covers the three following types of construction works:
- Various work that is going to be carried out directly to an existing party wall, party fence wall or party structure
- A new building, up to or astride the boundary line between properties
- Excavations within 3 or 6 metres of neighbouring buildings or structures
We will now take a closer look at these in a little more detail:
Various work that is going to be carried out directly to an existing party wall, party fence wall or party structure
The Act provides a framework for the building owner who may wish to carry out various types of work to an existing party wall, party structure or party fence wall. These works can include:
- To repair a party wall as it is damaged
- To insert a damp-proof course to prevent moisture passing through to the interior
- To underpin the whole thickness of a party wall to prevent settlement
- To cut into a party wall to take the bearing of a beam for a loft conversion
- To raise the height of a party wall as you are adding another storey
- To extend a party wall downwards to form a basement
- To demolish and rebuild if it is structurally defective
- To underpin the whole thickness of a party wall if it is structurally defective
- To cut off projections from a party wall to remove a chimney breast
- To cut off projections of an Adjoining Owner’s boundary to remove or build a new wall
A new building, up to or astride the boundary line between properties
If the building owner is planning to build a party wall or party fence wall astride the boundary line, you must inform the adjoining owner by serving a notice.
There is no right to build astride the boundary without your neighbour’s consent in writing.
The building owner must also inform the adjoining owner by serving party wall notice if they plan to build a wall wholly on their own land but up against or up to the boundary line.
Excavations within 3 or 6 metres of neighbouring buildings or structures
A notice is to be served under the act, if excavation works are taking place for a new building or structure within 3 metres of any part of a neighbouring owner’s building or structure and going deeper than their foundation or 6 metres of any part of a neighbouring owner’s building or structure where any part of that work will meet a line drawn downwards at 45o in the direction of the excavation from the bottom of the neighbour’s foundations.
The notice must also state whether you propose to strengthen or safeguard the foundations of the building or structure belonging to the adjoining owner.
It is recommended to attach any Architectural or Engineer plans to the notice for the neighbours to understand the extent of the works.
There is no enforcement procedure for failure to serve a notice however with giving notice the correct way, the Adjoining Owner may seek to stop your work through a court injunction.
The building owner must provide temporary protection for adjacent buildings and property where necessary. The Building Owner is responsible for making good any damage caused by the works or must make payment to cover the cost of making good to the adjoining owner.
There are some works on a party wall that may be minor and not regarded as necessary to serve a notice under the act. This would include things like:
- Drilling into a party wall to fix plugs and screws for wall units or shelving
- Cutting into a party wall to add or replace electrical wiring and sockets
- Removing old plaster and re-plastering
Notice must be given at least two months before the work is due to start or one month for new party walls or structures and any excavation. The notice is only valid for a year.
Party wall matters can be confusing, especially if you are embarking on your first construction project. I would recommend speaking to a surveyor as soon as you can, he will be able to run you through the procedures and ensure the correct procedures are followed.