The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is a legal framework for preventing and resolving disputes involving party walls, party fence walls, excavation work, and building activity along or near a property’s boundary line. Any building works to a shared wall, excavations within three or six metres of a neighbouring property, and any new walls at the junction of neighbouring lands require notice to be served, and that notice to be resolved, prior to works commencing.
What is the Party Wall Act?
The Party Wall Act was introduced in England and Wales to prevent construction-related disputes and disagreements between neighbours. It has a specific legal framework to resolve any conflicts that may arise. The Party Wall Act prohibits an owner from undertaking construction work that could compromise the structural integrity of the shared wall or neighbouring properties. Under the Act, the person carrying out the works is referred to as the ‘building owner’ and their neighbour(s) are ‘adjoining owners’. Building owners have both rights and responsibilities: rights to carry out their own building works, and obligations to maintain the integrity of their neighbour’s property.
What are your responsibilities under the Party Wall Act?
A building owner intending to carry out work covered by the “Party Wall Act” must notify neighbouring homeowners. This notice applies even if the work does not extend beyond the property division’s centre line.
For works to a “party structure” – anything from inserting a steel beam, to underpinning or raising the level of the shared wall, to removing a chimney breast or cutting a chase into the structure for weatherproofing purposes – you must deliver the adjacent building owner a “party structure notice” and a two-month notice period.
For any excavations that are below the level of the neighbour’s foundations and within three or six metres of their property, a section 6 notice must be served at least one month before works are due to start. Should the building owner be raising a new wall either astride or adjacent to the neighbour’s property then a section 1 notice will also be required with the same time frame.
The adjoining owner has 14 days to respond to a building owner’s notice(s). If they consent to the proposed work, the agreement must be in writing. If the adjoining owners disagree or do not respond within 14 days of receiving the notice, it is presumed that a legal “dispute” appears to exist, and this is resolved by way of a Party Wall Award, carried out by a party wall surveyor who must act impartially and in the interests of the integrity of the shared wall or nearby property. The adjoining owner may also issue a counter-notification stating that they wish to add additional work for their benefit and the surveyor would determine any split in such expense.
All neighbouring owners must be notified in writing if “Building owners” intend to perform the work covered by the Act.
There is no formal notification form, but it must include the following information:
- The names and addresses of the building owners and the adjoining owners (all joint owners must be named)
- The site of the building where you will work (maybe different from your current address)
- A detailed description of what you intend to do (including plans, if applicable, and section drawings of proposed excavations)
- When you propose to begin working (this cannot be before the end of the relevant notice period, although the adjoining owner can waive the notice period)
If an adjoining owner does not respond to the building owner’s notice(s), they will be deemed to have a dispute with them.
Nevertheless, adjoining property owners have the right to:
- Appoint a surveyor to deal with any disagreements on their behalf.
- Require reasonable precautions to protect their property from foreseeable damage and to ensure their safety.
- Receive compensation for any losses or damages caused by construction projects.
- Security for Expenses may be provided by the Building Owner before beginning work per legal requirements to avoid any potential losses caused by unfinished projects
Building works inevitably impact neighbours, who will undoubtedly experience some level of disruption. The essential thing is to assist them in correctly understanding the situation, timeline, and scope of work. Before you begin, you must procure your neighbours’ consent, or if they dissent to your notices a Party Wall Award will frame the terms of the agreement of how the notifiable works will be carried out; this will help you avoid any additional stress with your project. Spending time developing positive relationships with your neighbours will be highly beneficial; trust us!