Party Wall Act 1996 - How to Carry out Home Improvement and DIY Work to and Around Party Walls, Shared Walls and Shared Boundary Walls

Summary: The Party Wall Act does not necessarily involve a wall. If you intend to carry out any work on your property which could affect a neighbour with whom you share a boundary then they should be notified, and agreement reached, about the intended works. The party wall act covers new work about to be done on, or near a boundary; work done to or near a boundary wall; Excavation near a boundary and also excavation that will involve digging deeper than the foundation of your neighbours building. The Party Wall Act is a framework intended to prevent or resolve disputes in relation to party walls and property boundaries. This project shows you how to decide if you need to involve your neighbour in discussions about work you intend to do. Thanks to the department for communities and local government for the images below.

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What do I do if I am Working Near a Boundary or Boundary Wall?

We get many questions regarding working close to, or on the boundary between properties, for example a common question is; can I use my neighbours wall as part of my extension or the back of my shed?

There are rules and regulations for this and most are covered by the party wall act of 1996.

Sharing a boundary-Party Wall Act

The party wall act comes into effect if you share a boundary

On July 1st 1997 The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 came into force. Based on Part VI of the London Building Acts (Amendment) Act 1939, it was presented by the earl of Lytton as a Private Members Bill.

If, as a building owner, you intend to do work to or on a wall you share with a neighbour, or any work on or near a shared party wall or division including excavations which may be deeper than your neighbours foundations, you must tell them of your intentions and you must do this in the way set down by the Party Wall Act.

This has to be in writing and to assist you with this, the Government have a series of template letters which you can use for the purpose of Party Wall notification.

Garden wall on property boundary

The party wall act covers garden walls

The type of notice that must be served depends upon the nature of the work. There are 3 possibilities:

  • Work directly to a party wall is covered by Section 2 of the Act and a Party Structure Notice must be served
  • New walls built up to or astride the boundary are covered by Section 1 of the Act and a Line of Junction Notice must be served
  • Excavations close to an adjoining owner's structure are covered by Section 6 of the Act and a Notice of Adjacent Excavation must be served

Sometimes two or even all three notices are required to cover a single project.

If your neighbour agrees that you can continue with the work, this agreement must also be in writing (to protect future owners of the property). This is also the case if they disagree!

If they do disagree, there is a framework in place to resolve any dispute this causes.

You can read all about the full legal ramifications and further details of the Party Wall Act here on the official gov.uk website.

What is a Party Wall?

It is called a Party Wall when work is to be done on:

  • Walls that stand on and/or form the boundaries of two (or more) buildings owned by two (or more) people
  • Walls that stand on only one persons land but is used as a separation wall between two (or more) owners as a building division
  • Walls, such as garden walls, which are physically used as boundaries between two (or more) properties. Wooden fences are not affected by the Party Wall Act
Using a party wall as part of a new construction

The party wall act covers using party walls as part of a new construction

What is a Party Structure?

The Party Wall Act also covers parts of buildings which may be shared as separation of structures e.g. in the case of a semi-detached property, this would be the wall that seperates the two properties.

Part wall in between semi-detached properties

The party wall dividing two semi-detached properties essentially splits the overall building in to it's two seperate dwellings

Additionally, this may well be, for example, the floor, or floors in a block of flats, that divides two seperate dwellings that are owned by different people.

Floors as a party structure

Floors are included in the party wall act as structures

What Type of Work is Affected by the Party Wall Act?

By informing the owner of the shared boundary wall (Party Wall) of the work you wish to carry out, and providing they consent to the work being done with the minimum of disruption, you will have the right to complete works such as the common jobs listed below:

  • To repair a party wall
  • Removing a chimney breast, or flying buttresses from a party wall
  • Adding another storey to the height of a party wall which requires the height of the party wall to be raised
  • To install or repair a damp proof course
  • Underpinning the party wall to repair or prevent settlement
  • Using the party wall as a bearer for a beam or joist (timber or steel) in order to support walls. This work involves casting a pad-stone into the wall to take the weight of the new beam or joist
  • Increasing the depth of a party wall if you are fitting or installing a basement
  • If the party wall is falling apart, you may wish you rebuild it
  • If you wish to excavate (below the level of the existing foundations of a party wall) within 3 or 6 metres of that party wall you must also seek permission from the adjoining owner
Removing a chimney breast

The party wall act covers removal of chimney breasts

The Party Wall Act provides that you must take all reasonable care when working on a party wall and should any damage arise from the work, you will be responsible for repairing the damage caused.

Garden wall foundations straddle the boundary

Foundations to garden walls reach into both gardens

You can download an explanatory booklet from here. This booklet picks up where this project leaves off and will leave you in no doubt as to your rights with regard to any party wall or party structure.

Does The Party Wall Act Affect my Planning Permission Applications?

The Party Wall Act is separate from planning permission applications but your planning officer may suggest you seek the correct permission from your neighbour should any work submitted for planning approval involve work on or near a neighbours boundary.

If you intend to work on a party wall or property boundary you do not have to apply for planning permission of building regulation approvalunless the intended work requires this type of approval in it's own right.

Foundations within 3 or 6m of a neighbours property

Party wall act includes foundation near neighbours property

Letter Templates to Inform Your Neighbour About the Work you Intend to do

For the owner Intending to Carry out the Work

For the Receiver of the Notice Enabling Them to Reply Positively or Negatively

What am I Allowed to do to my Side of a Party Wall Without Notifying my Neighbour?

While it is still polite to do so, there is no regulation that says you need to tell your neighbour you are putting up shelves, chasing in wiring etc....

These minor works are considered to be acceptable providing you do not disturb them beyond the normal course of daily activity.

If you need some advice on foundations and how they should be constructed, please see our project here.

Viewing the project should also give you an idea of how certain works might effect your neighbours property.

What to do in the Event of a Dispute

Essentially, if there is disagreement between parties as to whether the work can be carried out, each party should employ a surveyor, or you can both employ a surveyor together.

The surveyors are instructed to reach a “Party Wall Award”. The Party Wall Award will decide what work can be carried out and the hours within it may be done. It will also decide who should pay for it if the work is to benefit either party in any way.

There are, however, a few provisions to employing a surveyor:

  • You may not act as your own surveyor
  • If your neighbour refuses to co-operate, you may employ a surveyor on their behalf
  • If you have employed both surveyors and your neighbour complains, the surveyors themselves can employ a third surveyor to arbitrate. This of course is very costly and the law intends you to try and sort this out yourselves under the given framework and has made it very easy for you to do so by supplying letter templates and an abundance of information
  • If you do not agree with the surveyors Party Wall Award you can appeal by filing an appellants notice in a county court. You can find out how to do this here
Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

Surveyors are required to sort out party wall act disputes

What Happens When Work Starts?

When work has been agreed between owner and neighbour the neighbour must (if necessary) allow access, by surveyors and workmen, to the party wall or party structure during normal working hours, BUT, 14 days notice must be given of intention to do this.

For more information, please do download the explanatory booklet mentioned above. This booklet has a whole host of additional information and will fully explain and clarify both your rights and your responsibilities.

Good luck with your party wall project!

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