Party Wall Surveying
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 sets out property owners rights and duties in relation to their neighbours when carrying out work to a party wall (shared wall), boundary wall or digging an excavation near neighbouring buildings. The Act outlines what specific types of work require a written notice to be "served" on the relevant neighbour(s) and provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes. The main obligations are to inform the neighbour(s) of the planned work, to protect their property from damage and carryout repairs in the unfortunate case of damage occurring as a result of the work.
Under the Act the person carrying out the work is known as the Building Owner and the neighbour is known as the Adjoining Owner. We can act as an appointed surveyor for either or both parties to ensure that the provisions of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 are complied with.
Our surveyors are highly trained and experienced individuals who are all members of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors or other such relevant professional body.
When planning building work/ alterations it is always best to consider whether it may be relevant to the requirements of the Act as early in the process as possible. Further guidance can be found in our FAQ's below or Building Owner and Adjoining Owner pages. or alternatively please contact us as our surveyors who will be happy to discuss the proposals and give initial feedback in relation to the Act.
General FAQ's applicable to both Building and Adjoining Owner
How does the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 relate to Planning Permission and Building Control? (click to show/hide)
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force in 1997 and gives property owners rights to do work to the party wall (shared wall) and excavate or build close to the boundary line. The main obligations are to inform the neighbour(s) that the work is to be done and to repair any damage that might be caused by the work.
The Party Wall Act does not affect any requirement for Planning Permission or Building Regulation Approval for any work undertaken. Likewise, having Planning Permission and/or Building Regulation Approval does not negate the requirements under the Party Wall Act.
Under the Act the person carrying out the work is known as the Building Owner and the neighbour is known as the Adjoining Owner. We can act for either or both parties to ensure that the provisions of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 are complied with.
What is a party wall? (click to show/hide)
Detailed definitions for a "party wall", "party fence wall" and "party structure" are given within the Act itself
In general terms, a wall is a party wall if it stands astride the boundary of land belonging to two (or more) different owners, or it belongs totally to one owner, but is used by two (or more) owners to separate their buildings.
Where one person has built the wall in the first place, and another has butted their building up against it without construction their own wall, only the part of the wall that does the separating is "party" - the sections on either side or above are not "party".
What work needs a Notice to be served? (click to show/hide)
The general principle of the Party Wall Act is that all work which might have an effect upon the structural strength or support function of the party wall or might cause damage to the neighbouring side of the wall requires a Notice be served.
Normally putting up shelves and wall units, re-plastering and electrical rewiring can be undertaken without serving a Notice under the Act.
If you are in any doubt that your intended work requires you to notify your neighbour then please contact us.
What are examples of common work covered by the Party Wall Act? (click to show/hide)
The type of work covered by the Party Wall Act includes:
- The demolition and/or rebuilding of a party wall.
- Increasing the height or thickness of a party wall.
- Inserting a damp proof course (either chemical injection or a physical dpc).
- Cutting into the party wall to take load bearing beams.
- Underpinning a party wall.
- Demolition, rebuilding or increasing the height a garden wall, where the wall is astride the boundary line (or butts up against it) and is used to separate the properties but is not part of any building.
- Relevant work to floors and ceilings of flats etc.
- Excavations within 3 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.
- Excavations within 6 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below a line drawn 45 degrees downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.
What is required in a notice? (click to show/hide)
If the planned work to an existing structure falls under the Party Wall Act, a notice must be issued to all affected neighbouring parties. The notice must include:
- The owners of the property undertaking the work.
- The address of the property.
- A full description of the proposed work (the level of detail will vary between sites, but may include colours of brick, hours of work, etc).
- The proposed start date for the work.
- A clear statement that the notice is being served under The Party Wall etc Act 1996.
- The date the notice is being served.
We are able to act on your behave in preparing and serving the notice to ensure it contains all the relevant and required information.
What is the process when serving a Notice? (click to show/hide)
The process of serving a notice under the Party Wall Act is as follows:
- The person intending to carryout the work must serve a written notice a set time (one month or two depending on the proposals) before the intended start of the work. Notice must be served on every relevant neighbouring party giving details of the work to be carried out.
- Each neighbouring party should respond in writing giving consent or registering dissent - if a neighbouring party does nothing within 14 days of receiving the notice, the effect is to put the notice into dispute (as though they have dissented).
- Work should not start until the Notice period has run and, if the work is dissented, a Party Wall Agreement is in place. (Work can start earlier if the relevant neighbour agrees in writing.)
What about new boundary walls? (click to show/hide)
If the planned work is a new boundary wall up to or astride the boundary line, the process is similar to other Party Wall Notices, but in this case the notice needs to be served at least one month before the planned start date of the work. Neighbouring parties must give written agreement within 14 days for walls astride the boundary (or a dispute is deemed to have occurred), however no formal agreement is needed for a wall up to the boundary line, the neighbour just needs not to object in writing. If you are unclear which case is relevant to your proposals please don't hesitate to contact us.
What about excavations? (click to show/hide)
If the planned work is an excavation within the distance/depth covered by the Party Wall Act, the notice needs to be served at least one month before the planned start day of the work. Neighbouring parties must give written agreement within 14 days or a dispute is deemed to have occurred.
See below regarding what happens in the event of a dispute/objection.
What happens if a dispute arises? (click to show/hide)
If agreement cannot be reached between neighbouring parties, the process is as follows
- A Surveyor or Surveyors is/are appointed to determine a fair and impartial Award, either:
- An 'Agreed Surveyor' (someone acceptable to all parties).
- Each party appoints their own Surveyor to represent the individual parties.
- An 'Agreed Surveyor' (someone acceptable to all parties).
- The first option should be cheaper for all concerned as the costs will be shared, but may lead to some parties being dissatisfied at the end of the day. However it should be noted that any Surveyor must act within their statutory responsibilities and propose a fair and impartial Award.
- The Agreed Surveyor, or the individual Surveyors jointly, will produce an Award which must be fair and impartial to all parties.
- Once an Award has been made, all parties have 14 days to appeal to a County Court against the Award.
What about once an agreement has been reached? (click to show/hide)
Once an agreement has been reached, all work must comply with the notice. All the agreements should be retained to ensure that a record of the granted permission is kept; a subsequent purchaser of the property may wish to establish that the work was carried out in accordance with the Party Wall Act requirements.
Where can I find out more? (click to show/hide)
We've only given a brief outline of the Party Wall Act here but have a look at the Communities and Local Government website for a more comprehensive explanatory booklet including example letters for notices and responses. Please also refer to our Building Owner and Adjoining Owner FAQ's on this website - and feel free to contact us with any queries.