When carrying out works on your property you have to be aware of The Party Wall Act 1996 when working on or near your boundary. The Act came into force in 1997 and it provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings. Anyone intending to carry out work of the kinds described in the Act must give Adjoining Owners notice of their intentions.
So, what are the kinds of works where the Act applies?
- Work being carried out directly to an existing party wall or structure
- New building on or astride the boundary line between properties
- An excavation within 3 metres of a neighbouring building or structure where the work will be deeper than the neighbouring foundations
- An excavation within 6 metres of a neighbouring building or structure where the excavation is deeper than a line drawn at 45 degrees from the bottom of the neighbouring foundations
Does the Act always apply?
Some works on a party wall may be so minor that service of notice under the Act would be generally regarded as not necessary. This includes things like:
- drilling into a party wall to fix plugs and screws for ordinary wall units or shelving
- cutting into a party wall to add or replace recessed electric wiring and sockets
- Replastering works
The key point to remember is whether your planned work might have consequences for the structural strength and support functions of the party wall or can cause damage to the Adjoining Owner’s side of the wall. If you are in doubt about whether your planned work requires a notice you might wish to seek advice from a qualified building professional.
What are the steps you need to take?
Once you are sure that the Party Wall act applies, It is best to discuss your planned work fully with the Adjoining Owners before you (or your professional adviser on your behalf) give notice, in writing, about what you plan to do. If you have already ironed out possible snags with your neighbours, this should mean that they will readily give consent in response to your notice.
PLEASE NOTE: You do not need to appoint a professional adviser to give the notice on your behalf.
Whilst there is no official form for giving notice under the Act, your notice must include the following details:
- your own name and address
- The address of the building to be worked on
- A full description of what you propose to do (it may be helpful to include plans but you must still describe the works)
- When you propose to start
- The notice should be dated and it is advisable to include a clear statement that ‘it is a notice under the provisions of the Act’.
The notice must be served at least 2 months before works start and it is only valid for 1 year.
PLEASE NOTE: You do not need to tell the local authority about your notice.
What happens next?
The person who receives a notice about intended work may:
- Give his consent in writing
- Disagree with the works proposed, in writing
- Do nothing.
If, after a period of 14 days from the service of your notice, the person receiving the notice has done nothing, a dispute is regarded as having arisen.
A person who receives notice about intended work may, within one month, give a counter-notice setting out what additional or modified work he would like to be carried out for his own benefit. A person who receives a notice, and intends to give a counter-notice, should let the Building Owner know within 14 days. If you receive a counter-notice you must respond to it within 14 days otherwise a dispute is regarded as having arisen.
What if you are still in dispute?
If agreement cannot be met or a dispute has arisen the next best thing is to agree with them on appointing what the Act calls an “Agreed Surveyor” to draw up an “Award”. The Agreed Surveyor should NOT be the same person that you intend to employ or have already engaged to supervise your building work. Alternatively, each owner can appoint a surveyor to draw up the award together. The two appointed surveyors will select a third surveyor (who would be called in only if the two appointed surveyors cannot agree).
The surveyor (or surveyors) will prepare an “award”. This document sets out the work that will be carried out, how the work is to be carried out and specifies any additional work required. It often contains a record of the condition of the adjoining property before the work begins and allows access for the surveyor(s) to inspect the works while they’re going on. It is a good idea to keep a copy of the award with your property deeds when the works are complete
Usually the Building Owner will pay all costs associated with drawing up the award if the works are solely for his benefit.
What happens if your neighbours won’t cooperate?
If a dispute has arisen and the neighbouring owner refuses to appoint a surveyor under the dispute resolution procedure, you can appoint a second surveyor on his behalf, so that the procedure can go ahead.
What if you need access to neighbouring property?
Under the Act, an Adjoining Owner must, when necessary, let in your workmen and your own surveyor or architect etc., to carry out works in pursuance of the Act (but only for those works), and allow access to any surveyors appointed as part of the dispute resolution procedure.
You must give the Adjoining Owner and occupier notice of your intention to exercise these rights of entry.
The Act says that 14 days’ notice must usually be given. It is an offence, which can be prosecuted in the magistrates’ court, to refuse entry to or obstruct someone who is entitled to enter premises under the Act, if the offender knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the person is entitled to be there.
If the adjoining property is closed (for example an unoccupied property) your workmen and your own surveyor or architect etc. may enter the premises after following proper procedures if they are accompanied by a police officer.
You should discuss access for other works with your neighbour. It is often in the best interests of the Adjoining Owner to allow access voluntarily to build a wall or carry out works for which there is no statutory right of access, as this will allow a better finish to the side of the wall that they will see.
What rights do Adjoining Owners have?
Adjoining Owners’ rights include the right to:
- Appoint a surveyor to resolve any dispute
- Require reasonably necessary measures to be taken to protect their property from foreseeable damage
- Not to suffer any unnecessary inconvenience
- Be compensated for any loss or damage caused by relevant works
- Ask for security of expenses before you start significant work so as to guard against the risk of being left in difficulties if you stop work at an inconvenient stage.
For further information please read ‘The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 Explanatory Booklet’ which can be found on our website by clicking the image below.
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