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Party Wall Act 1996 Vital Facts

The Party Wall Act Explained?

This act came into action in 1996 and provides a structure for both preventing and solving disputes (where necessary) regarding party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.

An individual who owns a building and is proposing to start work covered by the act must, by law, give adjacent owners some notice of what their intentions are, and this must be done using the method set down by the act.

Adjacent owners can then either agree or disagree with the proposal – in cases where adjacent owners disagree; there is a mechanism provided as part of the act which deals with resolving any disputes that may have arisen.
It is important to note that the ‘Party Wall etc. Act 1996’ is separate from any other steps that are taken when extending or renovating a property such as obtaining any planning permission or approval of building regulations.

Now we have established exactly what the ‘Party Wall etc. Act 1996’ is, what it consists of and why it is in place; it is important to look at some of the other areas that may cause some confusion amongst individuals.

What exactly is a ‘Party Wall’?

There are two main types of party wall.

The first being a wall that sits on the land of two ( or more in some cases) owners and forms part of a building – it is important to note that this wall could be part of one building only or separate buildings which belong to different owners (e.g. terraced houses).

The second type of party wall, would be a wall that again sits on the land of two ( or in some cases more) owners but, unlike the other type of party wall, does not form part of a building – an example of this type of party wall would be a garden wall ( not including timber fences).

This type of party wall could also only be sitting on one owners land, however it would still be a party wall in cases where it is used by two ( or more in some cases) owners to separate their buildings – a good example of this would be again a garden wall (not including timber fences).

As well as these two types of party wall, the ‘Party Wall etc. Act 1996’ also uses the term ‘party structure’. A ‘party structure’ could be a partition wall or floor or in fact any other form of structure that is separating full buildings or merely parts of buildings that have different ownership; for example, this would be the case in a block of apartments.

I know what a party wall is, but what exactly does the ‘Party Wall etc. Act 1996’ cover?

The act covers various building work to an area or property such as:

  • Building of a new structure, or addition to an existing structure either on or at the boundary of two properties
  • Building work to an existing party wall or to a party structure
  • Excavation work below and close to the foundation levels of neighbouring buildings

Examples of this sort of work could be:

  • Building a new wall either at or on the boundary of two properties with separate ownership
  • Cutting into a party wall
  • Adapting a party wall to make it either taller, deeper or shorter
  • The removal of chimney breasts from a party wall
  • Demolishing and rebuilding a party wall
  • Digging below the foundation level of a neighbour’s property

‘Party Wall etc. Act 1996’ – A portrayal of the work timeline that would take place:

Day One: The individual serves the notice to all the relevant neighbouring legal building owners – the notice needs to cite all relevant sections of the ‘Party Wall Act’ and state the date on which the proposed work will begin; which must be within at least two months from the day of the notice being served.

Day Fifteen: The individuals neighbour must have agreed in writing to the individuals notice by now. If the neighbour fails to reply within this time, it is seen that they disagree – if a neighbour disagrees, the individual should send them a letter stating that they must assign a party wall surveyor within ten days. The letter should also state that if the neighbour fails to do this, the individual will appoint a party wall surveyor on the neighbour’s behalf.

Day Twenty Six: The individuals neighbour should now have decided whether they wish to appoint a surveyor or not. If the neighbour has not yet appointed a party wall surveyor, the individual can appoint one on their behalf; however, where this occurs the individual must not appoint the same surveyor they are using for their neighbour to use – the individual will pay for all the surveyor fees that are incurred, therefore it is in the individuals interest to persuade their neighbour to share a single surveyor for the dispute.

Day Twenty Seven: From this point forwards both the individual and the neighbour are at the hands of the appointed surveyor(s). The surveyor(s) will make a record of the existing condition of the neighbour’s property in order for any potential damage that occurs to be fairly assessed later on.
As well as this, the individual will be served with a party wall award which will lay out regulations the individuals builder will need to adhere to ( for example restrictions on how the party wall work should be carried out and any additional work that will need to be carried out in order to protect the neighbours property). – The individual’s builder will be legally allowed to trespass on your neighbour’s property where the surveyor(s) deem this action necessary to carry out the party wall work.

Day One PLUS Two Months: Work can begin on this date providing the party wall award has been agreed by the surveyor(s).

Day One PLUS Twelve Months: Work must have started by now in order for the original notice that was served to be valid.

Sources: http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/mar/14/home-extensions-plans-party-wall

https://www.gov.uk/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance

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