What is a Party Wall?
A party wall is a wall that forms part of a building and stands on lands of two different owners (e.g. walls between terraced houses) or a wall that is on one owner’s land and separates buildings belonging to two different owners. In addition, a party structure can be a party wall or a floor or partition separating buildings or parts of buildings (e.g. flats). Boundary walls can be party fence walls if they sit astride boundaries, but not if they are owned solely by one owner.
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 applies to residential and commercial property in England and Wales and was designed to enable some work to be carried out that would otherwise be illegal and to prevent work being carried out that could potentially compromise or damage any properties adjoining the party wall or near to excavation works. When applied correctly, the Party Wall Act is intended to prevent disputes between neighbours and to help resolve any disputes arising.
When do I need a Party Wall Agreement?
You must tell your neighbours and provide them with a Party Wall Notice before you start work on a party wall or near your neighbour’s structures; we recommend you serve the notice at least 3-4 months before starting work to allow time for any Award to be produced. You need to have a Party Wall Consent or Award in place before work commences. The Party Wall Notice needs to be served by you as the person having the work done.
There are some specific types of work that may require you to have a Party Wall Agreement.
- Any work to shared walls between two properties
- Some work on shared ‘party structures’ such as ceilings or floors between flats or offices
- Work on shared boundary walls
- Underpinning or excavation works within 3 or 6 metres of your neighbour’s structure (depending on depth of excavation)
- Inserting a damp proof course into a party wall
- Making a party wall thicker, longer or higher
- Building an extension above a party wall
If you are simply drilling holes for shelves or replastering, for example, you do not need a party wall agreement.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Party Wall Notice?
A Party Wall Notice is a written intention of work to be carried out and must be served no less than two months before the work commences. You should write to your affected neighbour(s), including your contact information, comprehensive details of the work that you have planned, the date that work will start, as well as any access requirements over their property, such as gaining access for scaffolding or undertaking work. In the case of adjoining leasehold properties, you must serve notice to the building’s owners as well as to the tenant(s) living there.
When do I serve a Party Wall Notice?
You can serve Notice up to a year before the work starts but it must be at least two months beforehand. It is recommended that you talk to the neighbours in person so that you can answer any questions and prepare them for receiving the Party Wall Notice.
What happens if my neighbour objects?
If your neighbour refuses consent, this triggers a dispute resolution process. Your neighbour needs to respond to the Party Wall Notice within 14 days to agree to appoint your party wall surveyor or appoint their own. The surveyor(s) will then review the information and produce an Award that determines the nature and timing of the proposed works. Your surveyor can appoint another surveyor on behalf of an adjoining owner who does not respond to the notice. If your neighbour agrees to the works in writing, you don’t need the Party Wall Award.
What happens if I don’t serve a Party Wall Notice?
You risk alienating your neighbours and being in breach of a ‘statutory duty’. Your neighbours could claim that their property has been damaged by your works and without a record of the condition of their property (usually appended to an Award), it may be difficult prove anything to the contrary. You may have to pay for repairs that you may not have caused, and you could also have an injunction placed on you to stop work until an Award is in place.
If you need work doing to your party wall, please talk to our building surveying team first. Our head of Neighbourly Matters is Kirsty Worden.
We are very experienced with dispute resolution too so if matters have reached that stage, get in touch here.