Party Wall Act 1996
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.
A building owner proposing to start work covered by the Act must give adjoining owners notice of their intentions in the way set down in the Act.
It is a common misconception that the Party Wall Act 1996 only applies to works which are being carried out on a party wall. The majority of the act deals with works which are referred to as being adjacent excavations, which makes it particularly relevant to domestic works.
Excavations within three meters of a neighbour's property which are to a depth greater that the bottom of their foundations will fall within the Act.
If you live in a semi-detached or terraced property and plan to extend up or down, rather than outwards, the work is also likely to fall under the Act. A loft conversion will most likely require new steelwork which will need to be inserted into and will be supported by the party wall. Equally, a basement conversion may require significant excavation which will fall within three meters of the neighbouring property.
What's the first step if my works fall under the Party Wall Act?
If your works fall under the Party Wall Act then you are required to serve a Party Wall Notice to your neighbour before starting any work. The type of notice will differ depending on the type of work being carried out.
When should I serve the notice?
The notice should be served at least two months before the planned starting date for work to the party wall. The Adjoining Owner may agree to allow works to start earlier but is not obliged to even when agreement on the works is reached. The notice is only valid for a year, so do not serve it too long before you wish to start.
How do I serve the notice?
It is the responsibility of yourself (as client/building owner) to serve the notice and it should be served in writing to your neighbour. At the bottom of this page is a link to the Government's official guidance where you can download an explanatory booklet. This booklet includes a set of standard letters which you can use to serve the notice.
What happens after I submit notice?
After the notice has been issued your neighbour has a fourteen day period in which to reply. If, after the fourteen day period, your neighbour has not replied then it will be deemed that they has dissented under the Act and both parties should appoint surveyors. The Act does allow for the appointment of a single 'Agreed' surveyor although this can only happen if the objective neighbour is in agreement.
If the neighbour chooses to agree to works then you are free to start immediately (subject to relevant planning and building regulation permissions being in place) and any damage caused by the works will be dealt with outside of the Act.
What happens if my neighbour dissents?
If you neighbour dissents then both parties will appoint a surveyor. The surveyors will prepare a legal document known as the Part Wall Award which sets out the duties and responsibilities of the respective owners. It will cover areas such as how damage is dealt with, working hours and contractor's insurance.
If you are unhappy with how the awards have been drawn up then there is a fourteen day appeal period.
The above information is informal guidance only and the official Party Wall Act guidance provided by the Government should be consulted to determine whether your work falls under the Act..
Click here for official guidance on the Party Wall Act and a downloadable explanatory booklet which contains sample letters in order to serve the notice. Individual templates of the letters are also available from from the party wall guidance page.
For further informal advice and planning guidance, please feel free to contact us.
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