Understand Party Walls: A Basic Guide for Homeowners

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the nuances of party walls before starting work on your property. 

What is a Party Wall? 

A party wall, in essence, is a wall shared by two adjacent properties. A good example is the wall that divides terraced or semi-detached houses. Party walls embody both a physical and legal connection. Understanding this legal connection is crucial for homeowners, as it dictates your rights and responsibilities when planning construction or renovations. 

The Party Wall Act 1996

The Party Wall Act 1996 is a piece of legislation that provides a legal framework for property owners when dealing with party walls. The act provides a procedure to follow when building work involves a shared party wall.

The Party Wall Act applies whenever a property owner plans to undertake party wall works. This includes: building a new wall on the boundary between two properties; cutting into, raising, or underpinning the party wall; demolishing and rebuilding a party wall or party structure; excavating within specified distances of an adjoining owner’s building or structure.

Your Rights and Responsibilities

As a homeowner, you have a number of rights and responsibilities when it comes to undertaking work on a party wall. Here are some of the key principles:

Rights:

  • The right to undertake work: You have the right to carry out certain types of work on your property that may affect a party wall, as long as you follow the proper legal procedures. This typically includes routine maintenance and repairs.
  • The right to appoint a party wall surveyor: You have the right to appoint a party wall surveyor to represent your interests and ensure that any work on or near the party wall is carried out in accordance with the law.

Responsibilities:

  1. Notify your neighbours: When carrying out planned construction or renovation work on or near a party wall, it is absolutely essential that you notify your neighbours and outline adjoining owner information. This will set the stage for open communication and help build a cooperative relationship. It will also give your neighbour the opportunity to ask questions and voice any concerns they may have.  
  2. Obtain consent: Once you’ve discussed the proposed party wall works, you must obtain consent for the works to go ahead. It’s important to ensure that any party wall agreement reached is documented in writing for clarity and legal protection.
  3. No unreasonable damage: It is your duty to ensure no unreasonable damage comes to your neighbours property. In the event that damage occurs, you may be responsible for repairing it.
  4. Comply with the law: You have a responsibility to adhere to the requirements and procedures outlined in the party wall act. Failing to do so can lead to legal issues and potential disputes with your neighbours.

Appointing a Party Wall Surveyor

When it comes to party wall matters, appointing a party wall surveyor is a crucial step to ensure that the rights and interests of all parties involved are protected. A party wall surveyor is a qualified professional responsible for impartially assessing the proposed work’s impact on party walls and neighbouring properties. Their primary duties include conducting inspections, reviewing plans, and upholding the Party Wall Act. Another important role that party wall surveyors undertake is to resolve any disputes that arise throughout the process. 

When it comes to appointing a party wall surveyor, both the building owner and the adjoining owner have the right to appoint their own party wall surveyors. The selection of a qualified and experienced surveyor is crucial to ensure proper representation of interests and compliance with the law.

Hiring a party wall surveyor in London is quick and easy, and will help you ensure that all best practices are followed.

Party Wall Agreement

A party wall agreement (sometimes called a party wall award) is a legal document that outlines what work can be done, and how and when this work can be carried out. It also details who will pay for the work and any associated surveyors fees.

It’s vital to have a party wall agreement if you’re planning on carrying out any building or renovation work involving a party wall. This agreement can be obtained through your party wall surveyors, outlining the terms and conditions for the proposed work. Once both parties have signed the agreement, you’re free to proceed with the work. 

Common Scenarios: 

These are some of the common scenarios you might encounter. 

I get along well with our neighbours and they have said I can go ahead with the work. Do I need to get an agreement in writing? 

Even if you have an amicable relationship with your neighbours and they have verbally consented to your proposed work, we strongly recommend that you formalise this agreement in writing. 

This will ensure that all parties involved have a clear understanding of the work that will be taking place and protect you from any potential misunderstandings. A formal party wall agreement will also provide legal protection for you and your neighbour.

My neighbour refused to consent to proposed works, what can I do?

If your neighbour refuses consent for your proposed works, you should adhere to the formal procedures set out in the Party Wall Act 1996. 

Begin by serving the necessary party wall notices and appointing a party wall surveyor. The surveyor will help mediate and create a party wall agreement, specifying the terms and conditions for the work. Should disputes persist, the surveyors or a third surveyor will work toward resolution. Following the signing of the party wall agreement, you can proceed with your project while safeguarding the interests of all parties involved.

My neighbour has accepted the notice, what next? 

If your neighbour has accepted the notice, signed the party wall agreement, and a party wall surveyor has outlined the terms and conditions, you’re good to go. Make sure you keep all records of the agreement safe and document the works as they progress.  

My neighbour has not responded to my notice, what should I do? 

If your neighbour does not respond to your notice, you should interpret this as your notice being refused. In this case, you should appoint a party wall surveyor. In some cases, you may also need to appoint, and pay for, a party wall surveyor on behalf of your neighbour. 

Wrapping Up

So there you have it, a top-level intro to party walls, including what they are and your responsibilities and rights when thinking about them. Be sure to search for any updated rules, laws, and regulations related to party walls should you be carrying out any building work on your property.