If you are thinking about building an extension, or carrying out some other form of home improvement which may affect your neighbours, you need to know about the Party Wall Act.
Like so many other legal matters, the Party Wall Act 1996 may seem daunting at first glance, but it’s actually pretty straightforward...providing you stick to the process. Failing to adhere to the boundary wall rules can result in lengthy delays to your build, which will ultimately end up costing you money, and potentially cause friction between you and your neighbours.
To help you avoid such inconveniences, we’ve put together a guide to the act and included links to a few party wall agreement template letters to get you started. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at Party Wall Act in a little more detail.
What is the Party Wall etc Act 1996?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 was introduced as a way of preventing and resolving disputes between neighbours when building work is being planned that might have an impact on adjacent properties.
In short, any work to be carried out which may have an effect on the structural support or strength of a property will require a party wall notice. If you are unsure of whether or not your work requires an agreement, a party wall surveyor will be able to advise further.
While it may seem like a hassle, it’s important to remember that the idea behind the Party Wall Act is to provide protection to all parties. Providing your work complies fully with the notice given, you will be covered should anything unforeseen occur during the build.
What is a party wall?
A party wall isn’t simply an adjoining wall which separates two semi-detached properties, which is where some confusion can arise. A party wall can be a number of things, including:
- A wall that is shared by two, or more, properties. This is not solely related to original internal structural walls, so can include walls built by one party and then subsequently adjoined to by a neighbour.
- A wall which stands alone but lies upon the boundary line found between two, or more, properties.
- For apartments and flats, the Party Wall Act also includes ceilings and floors.
- Garden walls which separate two, or more, properties and straddles the boundary line but does not form a part of any building. This also includes garden walls adjoining the boundary line.
- Any work which may impact on a neighbouring property, such as excavation work, for example.
What type of work requires a Party Wall Act notice?
As building work can be so varied, the type of work which requires a Party Wall Act notice to be served can be wide ranging. Here are a few typical examples of when a party wall notice will need to be given:
- Altering a party wall. For example, making it thinner, deeper, shorter, or taller.
- Adding a new wall either on or adjacent to the boundary line.
- Removing and replacing a party wall.
- Removing a chimney breast from a party wall.
- Making cuts into a party wall.
- Excavation work, especially those which go beneath the neighbouring property’s foundation level.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so consulting a professional Party Wall Act surveyor is strongly advised, but some work will be obvious if you remember this general guideline:
A Party Wall Act agreement is required whenever there may be an impact made to surrounding building’s structural support or strength.
The key word here is ‘may’. Even the remotest possibility of damage must be addressed and notice given at least two months prior to work commencing. In some instances, however, excavation work can be brought down to just a single month’s notice.
What is a party wall agreement?
Party wall agreements are pretty obvious. By giving your neighbour notice, you are effectively asking for their permission to go ahead. They will have 14 days to respond from the date of the party wall notice being issued.
If your neighbours agree in writing, work can commence immediately. However, if they dispute the notice, or fail to respond, you will be required to send a follow-up letter. This will be to inform them they need to engage a party wall surveyor within the next 10 days, otherwise you will employ one on their behalf.
You will be required to pay any party wall surveyor fees you may incur and that of your neighbours, so, wherever possible, try and come to an agreement with your neighbour to use a shared surveyor for the task. If your neighbour cannot decide on whether they would like to appoint a party wall surveyor or not, you can hire one yourself. However, in this instance, you cannot use the same surveyor you have employed, which means more expense, so do try and come to an agreement to share one if you can.
Once the surveyor(s) are instructed, it’s largely out of your hands. They will make a full assessment of the current state of your neighbour’s property, which will give you a baseline to work with should any damage occur during the build.
Alongside this will come a party wall award. This forms the basis of the party wall agreement which your builder must adhere to. The party wall award will include any restrictions and further protection required to keep your neighbour’s property free from damage.
Party wall agreement template example letters
If you are ready to give your neighbours notice of your intended work, you’ll need to do so in the correct way. Thankfully, there are a number of party wall notice templates on the Government’s website. You can find them here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance#example-letters
The party wall notice template you choose will depend upon your circumstances, so be sure to check through them all before sending.
Further Party Wall Act questions
While we have done our best to cover the main points of the Party Wall Act in this post, there are nuances to each individual case, so further reading is advised.
Many people complete major renovation work in order to increase the value of their home, which enables them to move further up the property ladder. If you fall into this category and are situated in and around Wanstead or Buckhurst Hill, we can help you achieve the best price once your work has been completed.
Our family run estate agency offers local buyers, sellers, landlords, and tenants a more personal approach to property. We’ve been serving Wanstead since 1908, so no one knows the area better than us. Give one of our team a call to discuss your needs today.
We can also offer you a free, instant online valuation on your property if you would like to know just how your property currently sits within the market. Simply click here to get the latest price on your home.