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What is the Party Wall Act 1996  & What does the Act do?

The Party Wall Act 1996 is a law and as such if you are instigating building works to a wall shared with a neighbour, building at or near the boundary line of your property or excavating near a neighbouring building it is your responsibility to be aware of the terms of the Party Wall Act 1996 and follow its provisions. 

The Party Wall Act provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in works carried out to Party Walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.

Anybody who wishes to carry out work must give notice of what they plan to do in writing to their neighbours even if the works will not cross the centre line of the Party Wall.

The adjacent owners can either agree to the works or disagree. Generally if it is explained to them in a clear manner they will agree, but the Act provides a framework for the resolution of disputes.

Where can I get Government information on the Party Wall Act?

From your Local Building Control Department.

How do I know if its a Party Wall?

If your building shares the wall with your neighbours property or your buildings wall sits astride a boundary. The Act also applies to garden walls but does not include wooden fences. If you are in any doubt about the Act ask the person who is preparing the plans for your extension about the Party Wall Act. Do not ignore it will not go away.

When am I likely to want to work on a Party Wall?

When you want to build an extension over a garage, especially when the dividing wall between the properties are of single brick construction.

When you want to do a loft conversion.

When you want to underpin a wall.

When you want to cut into a wall to take bearing for steelwork beams.

When you want to demolish and rebuild a Party wall.

When you want to put flashing over to protect walls from a higher to a lower wall.

What should I do if I want to work on the Party Wall?

You must inform the adjoining owner in writing of your intentions. If you do not inform your neighbours in the proper manner they are legally entitled to stop the work and seek legal redress. You will probably lose any resulting court action.

A neighbour cannot stop you from working to a Party Wall provided you have given them proper notice and followed the terms of the Act. They can however influence how and when the work is done.  If you are instigating the building works you must ensure they are done in a manner that causes the minimum inconvenience, with sufficient care to provide protection to the adjacent property and provide for compensation where any damage is caused to the neighbouring property.

Who should I Notify?

The person or persons who lives in the adjacent property. In the case of tenants or leaseholders it will be necessary to inform the landlord as well.

How do I inform the adjacent owners?

If you do not have a professional advisor the best way is to wait until you have had your plans prepared for your extension or alteration and show them your plans for what you intend to do. Explain how you do not wish to cause them any inconvenience and how you will take measures to protect their property from any damage. Leave them a copy of the plans to look at in their own time.

You can then explain about how you have to give them notice under The Party Wall Act in writing and hopefully if you have already cleared up any possible snags they will readily give consent under the notice. As a helpful tip it may be a good idea to frame a response letter for them to sign with a section asking for their comments. If they are agreeable they then only have to sign the response.

How do I write the notice?

Your own name, address and the date.

The buildings address if different.

A statement that you are serving Notice of intention to work on the Party Wall under the terms and conditions of The Party Wall Act 1996.

A description of what you intend to do including a set of plans where appropriate.

The date that you intend to start.

How do I deliver the notice?

If you have talked to them in advance deliver in person and talk to them.

By post otherwise.

Where the adjacent premises are empty or the owner is not known you may serve notice addressed to "The Owner" and fix it to the front door.

The Local Authority does not need a copy of this notice or any reply, but it is essential for your own protection that you keep your own copies.

When do I serve the notice?

At least 60 days before the planned starting date.

What happens next?

Hopefully if you have handled it carefully your neighbour will give their consent in writing. In which case provided you keep them informed you can proceed with the work when you are ready.

Your neighbour may serve you with a counter notice within 14 days expressing concerns. If you receive a counter notice you must respond in writing within 14 days or a dispute is regarded to have arisen.

If after 14 days you have received no reply from your neighbour a dispute is regarded to have arisen.

At this point one would hope that you would not require any further information on the Party Wall Act.

What if I can't reach agreement?

Try to settle it with your neighbour by friendly discussion. Provide them with a copy of the Government booklet on the Party Wall Act 1996 the full 25 page copy. Ensure that they have a copy of your plans.

If this fails you are left with two alternatives.

You can each jointly appoint an " agreed surveyor" to draw up an " award." The terms of the Act state that this should not be the person or company that you have used to prepare your plans. 

Or alternatively if it is getting very difficult each of you can appoint your own surveyor to draw up an award together. Provided the surveyors are competent they should be able to agree an award but in the event of the surveyors disagreeing they will then jointly appoint a third surveyor to act as an arbiter.

All surveyors appointed under the disputes resolution procedures have a duty to act impartially and consider the interests of both parties. They are not there to argue the case for each side.

Who pays the fees?

The surveyor or surveyor decide who pays the fees for drawing up an award and checking that the work has been carried out in accordance with the agreement. Usually the owner who first planned the work will pay all the costs concerned with drawing up the award.

Is the award final?

To all intents and purposes yes.

Who pays for the Building work?

When an award is made this is stated in the agreement. Generally it is the person who wishes for the building work.

The neighbour may pay for part of the cost when work to a party wall is needed because of defects or lack of repair for which the adjoining owner may be responsible.

Or where the adjoining owner requests that additional work be done.

Where agreement has not been reached the disputes resolution procedure may be used specifically to resolve questions of costs.

What happens if my neighbours will not do anything?

If a dispute has arisen and the neighbouring owner refuses to appoint a surveyor. Again ensure that he has a copy of the relevant booklets and a copy of the plans and inform him that you intend to appoint a second surveyor on his behalf within the next 14 days. If you receive no reply to this appoint a second surveyor on his behalf to allow the procedure to go ahead. Remember to keep copies of all correspondence.

Is there anything else I should know?

Hopefully not.

More information is available from the booklet provide by the DETR whose address and telephone number are at the top of this page. The Party Act 1996 is law and should not be ignored. As the instigator of building works it is your responsibility to know what is required and that the provisions are followed.

Ignorance is no defence.

If you are still not sure use the pre-prepared notice of intention to start building works and the reply letter for your neighbour supplied below.

Reference Material

Copies of the DETR booklet on the Party Wall Act 1996 are available free of charge from:

DETR Literature,PO Box 236, Wetherby, L23 7NB.
Tel: 0870-1226236
Fax: 0870-1226237


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