What is a Party Wall
Party walls are the walls of your property that you share with your neighbours. Such walls are covered by the Party Wall Act 1996 and owners of property need to know their rights and responsibilities especially if they are making alterations to their property.
Where there are different sized adjacent buildings, the part that is used by both properties alone is considered to be a party wall. The rest belongs to the person on whose land it stands.
The Party Wall etc Act 1996
The purpose of The Party Wall etc Act 1996 is to minimise disputes between property owners by ensuring that they use a Certified Surveyor to determine how and when work is carried out.
The Act gives homeowners rights to do work to a Party Wall or any excavating and building close to a boundary line. The main obligations are to tell the neighbour that the work is to be done and to repair any damage that might be caused by the work.
An ‘agreed surveyor’ can act for both property owners and, indeed, this is common for smaller works. Should any problems arise then he/she will determine the remedy.
Under the Act the person carrying out the work is known as the Building Owner and the neighbour is known as the Adjoining Owner.
When is a Party Wall Agreement needed?
Party Wall Agreements are needed for the following types of work:
- Cutting into a wall for bearing of a beam, for example for a loft conversion or through lounge
- Inserting a damp proof course deep into a wall
- Demolishing and rebuilding a party wall
- Underpinning the whole or part of a wall
- Cutting a flashing into an adjoining building
- Building a new wall on the line of junction between two properties
- Excavating foundations within three metres of an adjoining structure and lower than its foundations
- Excavating foundations within six metres of an adjoining structure and below a 45° line drawn from the bottom of the foundations
When is a Party Wall Agreement not needed?
Party Wall Agreements are not needed for common minimal work that does not affect the other half of a party wall. This includes work such as:
- Fixing wall units and shelving using screws and rawlplugs
- Inserting or renewing electrical sockets
- Re-plastering your walls
What to do if your work is covered by The Party Wall Act
If you are the Building Owner then these are the processes that need to be followed:
- Appoint the services of a Certified Building Surveyor
- Find out who is the Adjoining Owner
- Decide if your Building Surveyor is going to act as a jointly appointed surveyor or solely as the Building Owners surveyor
- Consider your building plans – liaising with your architect and engineer as appropriate
- Prepare & serve notices with explanatory letters
- Prepare records on the condition of the Party Walls
- Engage with other appointed surveyors to agree matters
- Deal with compensation and other monetary issues as may arise
- Progress the award from the drafting stage to ultimate signing
- Assess damage that may arise to neighbours property
- Manage the process within the time frame provide in the Act or as otherwise may be agreed
For most of these works you must give written notice to the Adjoining Owner two months before starting any party wall works and one month for ‘line of junction’ or excavation works.
If the building next door is let, you will need to give notice to the person renting the property as well as the Adjoining Owner. Where there are several owners of the property or more than one adjoining property you must give them notice as well. Sometimes written notices to owners above or below your property may also be necessary.
It often helps to talk to your neighbours in a frank and friendly fashion about the work you want to do before serving them with an official written notice. If you can do this amicably they may give you a written agreement in response to your notice. They must do this within 14 days other wise they are deemed to have dissented.
Party Wall Awards
This is a document that The Party Wall Award will include details of the work to be carried out, when and how it will be done and records the condition of the adjoining property before work begins.
The Act allows both owners to appoint their own Party Wall surveyor. The building owner’s Party Wall surveyor will draw up a document called a Party Wall Award which will be sent in draft format to the adjoining owner’s Party Wall surveyor. Once the contents of the Party Wall Award has been agreed by the Party Wall surveyors it is published and the work can commence. If both owners are in agreement a single Party Wall surveyor may be used – known as the Agreed Surveyor. Generally, the building owner who started the work pays for the Party Wall surveyor.
For the Adjoining Owner
We would examine the Notices submitted by the Building Owner to ensure that they are valid.
Contact will then be made with the Building Owner’s Surveyor, we will visit your property, examine the building to prepare a record of the condition and then negotiate the Party Wall Award.
On completion of the work we will re-inspect your property to ensure compliance with the Award and if notified of problems during the course of the building work we will inspect and take the appropriate action.
Often a neighbour wishes to protect his property, but does not object to the proposals and will be happy for us to act as the Agreed Surveyor after receiving the Party Wall Notices. This involves the preparation of a record of condition and also the preparation of a Party Wall Agreement.
For an evaluation of the party wall matters that may affect your property, please send a set of proposed drawings or email them in Autocad format, or, if you are an Adjoining Owner, forward copies of the Notices and any accompanying drawings and we will advise on the best course of action. Dependent on our advice, a fee may of course be chargeable.
- Heard from a neighbour that he/she intends to undertake relevant work and seeks your permission
- Received a written notice from your neighbour or his/her surveyor
- Found out that your neighbour is undertaking relevant work without informing you
If so you will need to quickly decide how to deal with it.
- Advise you on your options
- Respond to the neighbour on your behalf
- Act as either a jointly appointed surveyor or the Adjoining Owners surveyor
- Prepare or check a schedule of condition
- Examine the neighbours proposals in detail and consider the implications
- Engage with the neighbours surveyor to agree matters
- Deal with compensation and other monetary issues as may arise
- Check the award during its progress from the drafting stage to ultimate signing
- Inspect the work as it proceeds
- Assess damage that may arise to your property
Disputes, Dissent and Resolution
This is where expert advice form our Chartered Surveyors can minimise any delays that may arise or resolve any concerns or worries you may have.
The Act provides for both parties to each appoint a surveyor or an ‘agreed surveyor’ who should act impartially.
The surveyor/s will prepare an ‘Award’. This specifies the work that can be carried out and how and when it may be done.
It will also record the condition of the neighbouring property before work commences.
It may also grant access to both properties so the surveyor/s can inspect work in progress.
The Award will determine who pays (usually the owner who is benefiting from the works). Generally, the building owner who started the work pays for all expenses.
If damage occurs the surveyor/s will prepare a further award determining how this will be remedied. They can order that repairs are carried out or that the cost of the repair is to be paid.
Access to Neighbouring Land
The Access to Neighbouring Land Act gives a landowner the right to carry out maintenance to his property from a neighbour’s land. Advice can be given on how to obtain access if a neighbour is being difficult.
Rghts of Light
Some proposed developments could affect the light available into a neighbouring property. It is often difficult to prevent a development going ahead, but in some cases a payment might be made by the Developer to the neighbour for the loss of light. We can advise on the loss of light and negotiate the appropriate payment for this loss.
Rights of Way
Many properties have rights of way leading to them or across their gardens. These should be detailed within the deeds, but where there is uncertainty, we can advise on this again with reference to the deeds, ordnance survey maps and site inspection.
When owning a property, it is important to know the location of the boundaries and who is responsible for these. The deeds of the property will normally provide these details, but on occasions the actual boundary positions may have been altered following the construction of an extension or other building and in some instances the boundary fences themselves can have been relocated.
From time to time neighbours disagree about the position of a boundary and we can help to agree the boundary position based on the property deeds, ordnance survey maps and site measurements.
Appointment of Surveyors
The appointment of a party wall surveyor is very important as, once appointed, the surveyor cannot be replaced other than in very specific circumstances. We at Gemstone Building Surveyors are Chartered Surveyors and work to the professional standards of the RICS, the CABE and the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors (FPWS).
If you would like to discuss the possibility of Gemstone Building Surveyors acting for you in a party wall matter please write to us at the address below or call us on 01485 545778 and ask for Edward Phillips, alternatively you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.