Party Wall Act

Summary: The Party Wall Act. Sharing a wall or boundary with neighbours.

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We get many questions regarding working close to, or on the boundary between properties; can I use my neighbours wall as part of my extension? etc. There are rules and regulations for this and most are covered by the party wall act of 1996.

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 you are planning to carry out building work which may involve:

  • work on an existing wall shared with another property
  • building on the boundary with a neighbouring property
  • excavating near an adjoining building

Then you must reach agreement with the neighbours concerned. Please remember that just by reaching an agreement with them, the need for planning permission and building regulations still exists.

The Act introduces a framework within which disputes relating to work at, or close to, the boundary can be resolved. The procedures are invoked by the owner planning to undertake the works (known as the Building Owner) serving notice on their neighbour (the Adjoining Owner).

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.

Upon receipt of a notice an Adjoining Owner has 14 days in which to consent to the works. Should they choose to consent the Building Owner can commence work as soon as the notice period has run or earlier by agreement.

Should the Adjoining Owner choose not to consent, the Owners are considered to be ‘in dispute’ under the Act and must each appoint a surveyor so that an Award can be agreed to resolve that dispute. The Act makes provision for the two owners to appoint the same surveyor, known as the Agreed Surveyor.

Until recently it was thought that an Adjoining Owner that consents to the initial notice lost their right to appoint a surveyor later in the process should a dispute arise e.g. over damage. The position was clarified in the case of Onigbanjo v Pearson [2008] where the judge made it clear that a consenting Adjoining Owner retained all of their rights including the right to appoint a surveyor under Section 10 should a dispute arise later in the process.

Some excellent help in relation to the Act, is set out clearly in the Government Explanatory Booklet that can be found on the website.

Article written in conjunction with Justin Burns BSc MRICS MFPWS of Peter Barry Party Wall Surveyors

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