What is a party wall?
Party walls are generally walls, fences and buildings that share a boundary between two properties. For example, semi-detached or terraced houses or commercial buildings that are linked together by one boundary feature.
It is very important that anyone planning to do any works to anything which may be a party wall or works near to a party wall seeks advice from a Party Wall Surveyor.
This blog will focus on what the Party Wall Act 1996 is and gives a brief summary of some of the main legal issues surrounding the Party Wall Act 1996, as the area is very complex.
What does the Party Wall Act 1996 do?
The Party Wall Act 1996 governs the procedure property owners should use when planning to develop or do works to (or near) a wall or feature that is a “party wall”.
The main aim of the Party Wall Act 1996 is to allow works to be carried out whilst protecting property belonging to an adjoining owner who may be affected by those works.
Due to less space available for building (particularly in central city locations) more and more people are trying to maximise the space they do have available by expanding their current property. This is type of work (e.g. creating a new basement) is where the Party Wall Act 1996 is particularly relevant.
What works does the Party Wall Act 1996 apply to?
The Party Wall Act 1996 only applies to certain works, for example you wouldn’t have to follow the procedure every time you wanted to put up a shelf.
Generally, the works involve some of the following: cutting into a party wall, inserting a damp proof course, raising a party wall, demolishing/rebuilding/underpinning a party wall, excavating foundations within three or six metres of a party wall etc.
If you wanted to create a new wall on the boundary of your property and another property then you would be creating a party wall and would then need to notify your neighbour using the procedure in the Party Wall Act 1996.
I need to do some work to my party wall – what should I do under the Party Wall Act 1996?
The Party Wall Act 1996 provides a procedure to follow when someone is planning to carry out any of the relevant works. Under this procedure, you must provide your adjoining neighbour two months written notice of the proposed work and they then have 14 days to either agree or object to the works.
It is always best (assuming you get on with your neighbour) to approach your neighbour in person and explain the works before sending a formal notice under the Party Wall Act 1996. This will give you the opportunity to talk through the proposed plans and find out if they have any issues in advance.
What if my neighbour objects under the Party Wall Act 1996?
If your adjoining neighbour objects to your formal notice, then the Party Wall Act 1996 governs what should happen.
Generally, a joint surveyor should be appointed who will prepare a Party Wall Award. The Party Wall Act 1996 sets out that this document should detail the works, when they should be carried out, the current condition of the adjoining property and the methods to be used.
My neighbour has started work on our party wall but hasn’t served notice on me under the Party Wall Act 1996 – what should I do?
If the procedure under the Party Wall Act 1996 hasn’t been followed, then the building owner is in breach of a statutory duty: they are at risk of a claim being made against them by an adjoining owner and they may also be liable under trespass.
Under the Party Wall Act 1996, you, as an adjoining owner, can apply to the court for an injunction to stop the building owner continuing with the works.
For more information on the Party Wall Act 1996, contact Rebecca Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org.