The Party Wall etc Act 1996
Our specialist Party Wall Surveyors always aim to give you clear, cost-effective and impartial advice to guide you through your rights and obligations
If you've received a Party Wall notice yourself, we’ll make sure your neighbour is compliant and taking all reasonable steps to protect your interests throughout the works. If you intend to carry out works to your property, we can assist with serving the relevant Party Wall notices on neighbouring properties and agreeing subsequent Awards if needed.
A very brief overview of the key points of the Party Wall Act is provided below but please feel free to contact us for further advice of how the Party Wall Act may affect you or your neighbours.
When does the Party Wall Act apply?
When works are carried out to an existing Party Structure (this may be a shared wall, or a separating floor between flats).
When new buildings or structures are constructed up-to or astride the boundary line between two properties.
When excavations are carried close to neighbouring structures (this can be up to 6m away).
What is a Party Wall?
A wall is a Party Wall if it stands astride the boundary of land belonging to two or more owners and either:
Forms part of a building
Separates two or more buildings
or consists of a ‘party fence wall’
A wall is a party fence wall if it is not part of a building and stands astride the boundary between land of different owners and is used to separate the land such as a masonry garden wall for instance. This does not include wooden fences or hedges.
A wall is also a Party Wall if it stands wholly on one owners’ land, but is used by two or more owners to separate their buildings.
Floors or walls between flats are ‘party structures’.
Typical Notifiable Works
See below for some of the most common areas of work that are notifiable under the Party Wall Act.
Most home extensions will be notifiable under Section 6 of the Party Wall Act due to excavation works for new foundations. If either flank wall of the extension is built along the boundary line then further notices may be required under Section 1.
Internal works that involve cutting into the Party Wall (generally for accepting new steel beams) or the removal of chimney breasts will require the serving of a Section 3 Party Structure Notice.
Loft conversion works will generally require the insertion of steel beams into at least one Party Wall. In addition to this, further notifiable works may involve inserting flashings or exposing the Party Wall.
Construction of new walls along (or astride) the boundary line will require the serving of a Section 1 Line of Junction notice. Section1 notices also cover the provision of access to carry out the construction works.
Basement conversions are considered to be higher risk works and fall under the Party Wall Act. Notices will be required for the excavation works and it is likely that further notifiable structural works will be required such as underpinning existing structures.
What are the different types of Party Wall Notice?
There are three different types of Party Wall Notice that cover specific areas of works. You may issue (or receive) one, two or three different notices depending on the nature of works being carried out.
Section 1 - Line of Junction Notice
A line of junction notice describes the intention to construct a wall either astride or abutting a boundary, which is not presently built upon, or is built upon only to the extent of a simple boundary wall wholly on one party’s land.
Serve minimum 1 month before proposed works
Section 3 - Party Structure Notice
A party structure notice, under section 3 of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, describes the intention to exercise rights, conferred under section 2, to undertake certain works to a party structure. This is most commonly applicable for cutting into the party wall for new steel beams, removal of chimney breasts and cutting into party walls for roofing and weathering works.
Serve minimum 2 months before proposed works
Section 6 - Notice of Adjacent Excavation
Adjacent Excavation Notices are concerned with works notifiable under section 6 of the Act. The provisions of section 6 of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (the Act) are designed to try to avoid the careless destabilising of the foundations to buildings and structures that are in close proximity to a development site. If works will involve excavation of any type (whether or not for foundations), and that excavation falls within certain dimensional parameters in relation to an adjoining building or structure, then notices must be served.
Serve minimum 1 month before proposed works. Drawing required to accompany notice.
Section 6 (1) - Excavation works are notifiable if they are within 3m of a neighbouring structure AND to a lower level.
Section 6 (2) - Excavation works are notifiable if they are within 6m of a neighbouring structure AND intersect a downward plane taken at 45° from the bottom of it.
So the Party Wall Act applies to my works, what do I do now?
If the Act applies, you are obliged to serve a Party Wall Notice on your neighbour (s), setting out details of the works at hand and providing key information such as plans, proposed commencement dates etc. In the case of adjacent excavation (Section 6 notice), you are also required to include a section drawing of the proposed excavation and in some cases, provide specialist details of foundations.
You are required to serve notices on all relevant owners under the Party Wall Act. This is defined under section 20 of the Act as 'a person in possession of land, otherwise than as a mortgagee or as a tenant from year to year or for a lesser term or as a tenant at will' or, in other words, the owner of the freehold and any tenants with an interest of greater than 12 months.
What happens if my neighbour objects to my Party Wall Notice?
The Party Wall Act gives you the right to complete various types of work on or around the boundary line, so provided your works are covered by the Act, your neighbour’s objection cannot stop you going ahead, but will mean that you are obliged to follow the Dispute procedure set out under Section 10 of the Act.
This requires you to appoint a Party Wall Surveyor to act on your behalf. Your neighbour has the right to appoint their own surveyor or they may agree in the appointment of a single ‘agreed’ surveyor. Where two surveyors are appointed, they will agree on the appointment of a third surveyor to adjudicate/referee where the two surveyors cannot agree.
My neighbour is starting work and I haven’t received a Party Wall Notice
If you notice your neighbour preparing to commence work that you feel may include items covered by the Act then you should consult them immediately to check if they are aware of their obligations under the Act and, if required, contact a Surveyor to advise further. It is very difficult to authorise works retrospectively under the Act so it is important take action before the relevant works are completed. There are no penalties under the Act for failure to serve notice but a court injunction can be served to halt works until an Award is in place.
Who pays the Surveyors Fees?
The person carrying out the work (referred to in the Act as the ‘Building Owner’) is usually responsible for covering all reasonable Surveyors’ fees. There are some instances where the costs are apportioned between owners, these may include repairs to shared boundary walls or enclosing upon an existing party wall.