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Party Wall Act definitions and overview

Party Walls

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 provides formal procedures for works undertaken to, or in close proximity with, party walls or structures. It provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to Party Walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings. The Act applies to residential, commercial and industrial properties.

What is a Party Wall?

The Act recognises two main types of Party Wall:

Party Wall type 1 – a wall that stands on both sides of a boundary line on land belonging to two or more different owners/leaseholders.

Party Wall type 2 – a wall that stands wholly on one owners/leaseholders land but is used by two or more owners/leaseholders to separate their buildings.

Other important definitions are:

Party Fence Wall – is a wall that is not part of a building but stands on both sides of a boundary line on land owned by two or more different owners/leaseholders. Such as a garden wall.

Party Structure – is any element that separates different buildings or any element that separates parts of a building which are accessed and occupied independently. Such as compartment floors separating flats.

Building Owner - a person or organisation proposing to undertake work on or to a party wall or structure.

Adjoining Owner – all relevant owners/leaseholders of neighbouring property or land which could be affected by the Building Owner’s proposed works.

When does the Party Wall Act apply?

The Party Wall Act will apply when:

  • Various works are proposed to an existing Party Wall or Party Structure
  • New buildings, structures or walls are proposed to be erected up to or sat astride a boundary line.
  • Excavations are proposed within close proximity to a structure on a neighbouring property which have the potential to undermine the foundations of that structure.

So the Party Wall Act applies to my works, what do I do now?

If the Act applies you will be obliged to serve a Party Wall Notice on your neighbour, setting out details of the works at hand and providing key information such as plans, proposed commencement dates etc. In the case of adjacent excavations you may need to provide specialist details of foundations.

You will be obliged to give your neighbours between 1 and 2 month’s notice of commencement of qualifying work depending on which section of the Act applies.

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 that you 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 should the two surveyors not agree.

The Party Wall Surveyor prepares the Party Wall Award (often referred to as a Party Wall Agreement) which sets out the rights and obligations of both parties and may include a Schedule of Condition of the neighbouring property to record its condition before works start.

What is a Party Wall Agreement?

The Party Wall Agreement (Award) is a written document prepared by the Party Wall Surveyor (s) detailing the rights and obligations of the Building and Adjoining owners. The contents are agreed by the Party Wall Surveyor(s) and upon completion the Agreement is served on the Building Owner and Adjoining owner(s) affected by the proposed work. This is a legally binding document which can be enforced by the County Court where necessary.

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