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A QUICK GUIDE TO THE ACT
Information on the Party Wall Act General information on the Act and its application are outlined below.
What is the Party Wall Etc Act 1996? The Party Wall Etc. Act 1996 makes provision for dealing with works that might affect adjoining properties and can include excavations within close proximity to neighbouring structures. The Act exists to protect both the building owners and adjoining owners from potential issues that may arise from the proposed works including legal costs associated with Civil disputes. It is an enabling Act designed to allow building owners to carry out necessary actions in the course of certain types of building works at their property.
Which works require a notice? Generally the Act should be considered if any of the following 3 categories of works are being undertaken and there are adjoining or neighbouring properties in close proximity to the proposals:
Building of a new wall at or astride a boundary.
Work on an existing party wall or party fence (boundary) wall. Types of works include:
Underpinning, thickening or raising a party structure, a party fence wall or an external wall against a party structure. a party fence wall
Making good, repairing, demolishing and rebuilding due to defect of the structure
Demolishing a partition and rebuilding a party wall to conform to statutory requirements
Demolishing arches over public passages and rebuilding to conform to statutory requirements
Demolishing a party structure to rebuild with sufficient strength as may be required
Cutting into a party structure for any purpose
Cutting away any footing or projection over a building owner's land
Cutting away or demolishing parts of any wall of adjoining owner overhanging building owner land to enable a vertical wall to be erected
Cutting into wall of adjoining owner to insert flashing or other weather proofing
Exposing a party wall to provide adequate weathering
Excavation within 3 metres (or 6 metres for piling) of the adjoining property and to certain depths.
Which works do not require a notice? Works on a party wall that are so minor that service of a notice is not usually necessary can include:
Drilling into a party wall to fix plugs and screws
Shallow chasing into party wall to add or replace recessed electric wiring
Boundary fences, sheds or temporary structures
Building owner or adjoining owner? A ‘building owner’ is the person who intends to undertake work that comes under the scope of the Act. It is the building owner’s responsibility to serve a notice, where necessary.
An ‘adjoining owner’ generally owns (or occupies with a tenancy of greater than a one year) land, buildings etc. that are in close proximity to the proposed works.
As a building owner, what are my duties? In proposing to undertake works which are notifiable under the Act, the building owner must inform all adjoining owners.
What might happen if I decide to proceed without issuing a party wall notice? Should the building owner choose to commence work without having issued any notice, an adjoining owner may seek a Court Injunction to prevent you continuing and/or requiring you to remove any works already carried out. Vaious judgments suggest the Courts are taking a dim view of non-compliance with the Act and the risk is that an Injunction could be granted, with the adjoining owner’s legal costs being awarded against the building owner.
If you are threatened with an injunction you must act quickly and decisively to prevent costs from eslcalting. We may be able to help. Click the button below for more details.
It is important to note, not having issued a notice does not protect the building owner against claims for damages. In such an event, if the matter were to end up in court, a judge may award higher damages/costs than awards made by surveyors.
Additionally, not having established the original condition of the neighbouring property(ies) by way of a condition survey, it could be difficult to defend against some claims for damage.
Having made the mistake of progressing without first serving the appropriate notice/s, you might still find the formality of paperwork could be beneficial. We may be able to help. Click the button below for more details.
As a building owner, how do I inform an adjoining owner? It is sensible for the building owner to speak to their neighbours before serving any notice. Keeping the neighbours well informed and ‘on side’ may save you extra costs incurred where the adjoining owner/s opts to appoint their own surveyor/s. The final bill can double and even triple in such cases.
Notice should then be given in writing to adjoining owners that fall within the scope of the Act.
Notice should be served in accordance with the relevant timescales set out in the Act and must contain specific information and and drawings in order to be valid under the Act.
Any notice not meeting the required standards may be invalid which can lead to delays and additional costs .
If you choose to prepare your own notice, it is sensible to have it checked by a party wall surveyor before service to avoid any unnecessary problems arising.
I have been served with a notice, what should I do? You should immediately contact us. We will offer FREE IMPARTIAL ADVICE advice specific to your case.
If required, you can appoint us to act on your behalf. Our fees usually are paid for by the building owner not you (except in exceptional circumstances which we will discuss with you should they apply). You can either CONSENT or DISSENT to the notice
Where you have decided to CONSENT it is still sensible to ask for a condition survey to benchmark the condition of your property prior to works commencing. This will make it easier for you to recover any losses you may incur as a result of any works covered under the Act. The fees for this will be paid by the building owner.
What is an ‘award’? Where you DISSENT, a party wall award must be made before works can commence. An award is a legally binding/enforceable document prepared by your appointed surveyor/s who, having considered the proposals but forward by the building owner, set conditions on the works with the aim of preventing damage and other unnecessary inconvenience.
NOTE: DISSENTING from the notice will not prevent the building owner from going ahead with the works.
My neighbour has started work but I have not received a notice, what can I do? Call us immediately. We will assess the works to confirm if the works are notifiable. If notifiable works commence without a notice having been served we would initially recommend you speak to your neighbour and ask them to stop works whilst the matter is considered. We can contact them on your behalf if you wish (charges may apply). If your neighbour refuses to stop work or consider the Act you can seek a court injunction to stop the works.
We will encourage your neighbour to issues a notice if they haven’t completed the works. This should help reduce the risks associated with the work and should make it easier for you for recover any losses you may incur without the potential risks and costs associated with court actions.
Even where works have been completed, you (and your neighbour) might find the formality of paperwork could still be beneficial. We may be able to help. Click the button below for more details.
Send your plans to email@example.com to get the ball rolling.As an adjoining owner, who can I appoint? You can appoint whoever you wish.
We recommend you appoint someone who has the relevant knowledge and insight. Someone who encourages sensible decision making from both parties by providing comprehensive impartial advice from the outset. Someone you will have direct contact with. Not someone who will delegate the role to a junior or assistant. And someone who is happy to act as the agreed surveyor to avoid you incurring costs.
How long should the process take? After service of the required notice the adjoining owner has 14 days in which they can CONTENT or deemed DISSENT will have arisen (except under Section 1 where an automatic consent can occur). In the absence of a surveyor (or two) must be appointed. A single surveyor appointed by both parties will be the agreed surveyor. Alternatively, to separate surveyors can be appointed by each side. Normally the process should be complete within a few weeks, although this is dependent on the information available. The notice period for party structure works is 2 months. If an award is agreed sooner, subject to the adjoining owner agreement, the work can progress immediately after the serving of that award.
NOTE: An adjoining owner can consent at any time (even after 14 days). In doing so, the dispute is resolved and no award is necessarily required.