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Party Wall etc. Act 1996

Carter Fielding have more than 25 years’ experience of providing a wide range of professional residential surveying services for properties in London, Surrey and the South East. As recognised experts in the field of party wall matters, we routinely advise on all issues arising from the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

What is a ‘party wall’?

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 came into force on 1st July 1997 and is now enshrined in English law. It stipulates the rights and responsibilities that must be observed for anyone planning to work on a relevant structure.

The Party Wall Act is entirely separate from any Planning Permission or Building Regulation Approval required for building works undertaken.

The Act does not just cover work that directly affects a ‘party wall’, it also includes:

  • The construction of a new wall that forms part of only one building, but which is on the boundary line between two or more properties
  • A wall that is common to two or more properties, including where a wall was built and a neighbour subsequently built a structure butting up to it
  • The construction of a new garden wall astride, or built up to the boundary line, used to separate the properties but that is not part of a building
  • Work affecting ceilings/floor structures separating flats of different owners
  • Excavations near to a neighbouring or shared structures

Work requiring notice

The general principle of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is that any work which might affect the structural strength or support function of the party wall, has the potential to damage the neighbouring property or cause inconvenience to the adjoining occupiers must be notified.

Examples of work covered by the Party Wall Act include:

  • Cutting into a wall, e.g. to insert a damp proof course or to allow the seating of a beam
  • Demolition and rebuilding of a party wall
  • Raising the entire party wall, and cutting off any projections that might prevent the work
  • Excavation or construction of foundations for a new building or structure within 3 metres of a neighbouring owner’s building or structure, where work would go deeper than the neighbouring foundations
  • Excavation or construction of foundations for a new building or structure within 6 metres of a neighbouring owner’s building or structure, where work would cut through a plane extending down at 45 degrees from the bottom of the neighbouring foundations.
  • Protection of two adjoining walls by way of fitting a flashing from the higher to the lower

A general overview and guidance provided by the Government can be viewed here but, if in doubt, advice should be sought from a Chartered Surveyor with solid experience of Party Wall matters.

Serving a notice under the Party Wall etc. 1996 Act

The owner intending to undertake the building works must serve a written notice on the proprietors of the adjoining property, detailing the work to be carried out. This must take place at least 2 months before the start of the planned work where the work directly affects a party structure or 1 month in advance for adjacent excavation and new walls at the boundary. No work is permitted to start until all neighbouring parties have given their written consent or surveyors have been appointed and disputes settled by way of a party wall award.

Once an agreement has been reached, all work must comply with the notice. It is important to keep records of all party wall documents, as a subsequent purchaser of the property may wish to verify that works were carried out in accordance with the Party Wall requirements.

As with any work affecting neighbouring properties, it is always recommended to maintain a dialogue with the neighbours in the interests of preserving harmonious relations.

Even in situations where a notice is required to be served, it is usually better to have an informal discussion about the intended work with your neighbour, taking their comments into serious consideration and, if possible, voluntarily amending your plans, prior to serving the notice.

Dealing with Party Wall Disputes

If, for whatever reason, it has not been possible to reach an agreement between all the neighbouring parties, one or more surveyors will need to be appointed to resolve the dispute by serving an impartial party wall award. All surveyors must act within their statutory responsibilities to produce an award that is fair and impartial to all parties concerned.

Once a party wall award has been served, there are 14 days within which an appeal to the County Court by the parties can be made.

Carter Fielding Surveyors

As experienced Chartered Surveyors with particular expertise in dealing with Party Wall matters, Carter Fielding’s Surveyors are well placed to assist with all queries, and can assist throughout the entire process.

If you wish to discuss your requirements for any building works that may be affected by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, or indeed if you are the neighbouring party, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our friendly expert team can be reached on 020 8546 7211.