Services / Party Wall Matters
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996
- The Act came into force on 1 July 1997 and applies throughout England and Wales.
- It provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.
- Anyone in England and Wales who intends to carry out the kind of work described in the Act must give Adjoining Owners notice of their intentions.
What does it cover?
- Work that is going to be carried out directly to an existing party wall or structure.
- New building work at or astride the boundary line between properties.
- Excavation within 3 or 6 metres of a neighbouring building(s) or structure(s), depending on the depth of the excavation or proposed foundations.
What is not covered under the act?
Some works on a party wall may be so minor that service of notice under the Act would be generally regarded as not necessary e.g. 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 or re-plastering.
How do I inform the adjoining owner or owners?
Whilst there is no official form for giving notice under the Act, your notice must include the following details:
- Your own name and address (joint owners must all be named).
- The address of the building to be worked on (this may be different from your main or current address).
- A full description of what you propose to do.
- When you propose to start (which must not be before the relevant notice period has elapsed).
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. You do not need to tell the local authority about your notice.
How long in advance do I have to serve the notice?
At least two months before the planned starting date for work to the party wall. The notice is only valid for a year, so do not serve it too long before you wish to start.
What happens after I serve notice?
- If you cannot reach agreement with the Adjoining Owners, the next best thing is to agree with them on appointing what the Act calls an "Agreed Surveyor" to draw up an "Award".
- Alternatively, each owner can appoint their own surveyor to draw up the Award together and the two appointed surveyors will select a third surveyor (who would be called in only if the two appointed surveyors cannot agree).
What does the Surveyor do?
The surveyor(s) will prepare a party wall award. This is a document which:
- Sets out the work that will be carried out and when and how it will be carried out.
- Specifies any additional work required (e.g. necessary protection to prevent damage).
- Contains a set of drawings showing the proposed work, where excavations are carried out and foundation depths.
- Contains a record of the condition of the adjoining property before the work begins (so that any damage to the adjoining land or buildings can be properly attributed and made good).
- Allows access for the surveyor(s) to inspect the works while they're going on (to see that they are in accordance with the award).
It is a good idea to keep a copy of the award with your property deeds when the works are completed.
Who pays the Surveyor’s fees?
Usually the Building Owner will pay all costs associated with drawing up the award if the works are solely for his benefit.
Is the Surveyor’s award final?
The Award is final and binding unless it is amended by the Court. Each owner has 14 days to appeal to the county court against an award.
Does the building owner have to wait for the full one or two months after serving a notice before starting work?
No, so long as the Adjoining Owner agrees, in writing, to the work starting earlier than as stated in the notice.
The main thing you need to consider is whether your planned work might have consequences for the structural strength and support functions of the party wall as a whole, or cause damage to the Adjoining Owner’s side of the wall. If you are in doubt about whether your planned work requires a notice, please call AFA and we will be happy to provide you with professional and confidential advice.
If you require the services of a Party Wall Expert, please contact AFA and we will be happy to provide you will professional and confidential advice.