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PARTY WALL ACT

PARTY WALL PROCESS

In July 1997 the Government introduced legislation, known as Party Wall, etc. Act 1996 across the whole of England & Wales to protect neighbors’ rights and to ensure a legal framework is in a place where building works may affect the adjoining properties. The Act enables buildings works whilst protecting the adjoining owners and occupiers.

Party Wall etc. Act 1996 covers building works such as;
  1. Work on an existing wall, ceiling or floor structure shared with another property.
  2. Building on or at the boundary with another property.
  3. Excavating near and deeper than a neighbouring building or structure.

Failure to comply with this legislation may result in the works being unlawful. If you are unsure you should seek professional advice from a competent Party Wall Surveyor.
There are three key stages involved in the process.
  1.  Preparing and Serving of Party Wall Notices - How the Party Wall process is triggered.
  2.  Schedule of Conditions of the adjoining affected properties - known as pre works condition survey.
  3.  Party Wall Award, also known as Party Wall agreement by some.

NOTICES

In simple, Notices are how Building Owners inform, in writing, their neighbours who may be affected by the building works they are looking to carry out.

 

Building Owners, the owners proposing the works which fall under the remit of the Act, must give a Notice in writing to all the affected owners of the neighbouring properties who have an interest in the property.

What Should Notices Contain

This notice should fully identify the owners who intend to have the work undertaken and describe the work proposed, providing plans and details if possible to ensure the recipient fully understands what is proposed.

 

Work involving party walls or party structures requires two months’ notice, whereas, for certain excavations or new walls built at the boundary, one month’s notice is required.

 

The adjoining owner(s) then have 14 days in which to reply.

Types of Notices
  1. Section 1 – Line of Junction Notice
If you are proposing to construct a new wall on the boundary line where it has not already been built upon, you are required to inform your neighbour in writing about these proposed building works. Typical examples would be rear or side extensions or new buildings on the boundary line. The type of Notice requires One Month Notice Period.

  1. Section 3 - Party Structure Notice
Where works to existing Party Wall is proposed, such as, cutting into the party wall, cutting away from it, raising the party wall or reducing the party wall in height building owners are required to inform the adjoining neighbours about these proposed works. It can also include floor partition or other structures separating buildings or parts of buildings approached solely by separate staircases or separate entrances Typical examples are loft extension where beams are inserted into the party wall, cutting into the wall to insert weathering, increasing or reducing the height of the party wall. This type of Notice requires Two Months’ Notice period.

  1. Section 6 - Excavation and Construction Notice
Where Excavations are proposed within 3 metres of the adjoining buildings or structures AND going below their foundations, Building Owners are required to inform their affected neighbours in writing. Typical examples would be rear or side extensions or new buildings on the boundary line. The type of Notice requires One Month Notice Period.
Notices Response

A notice is required to be responded to within 14 days. After expiration of 14 days, where the neighbour has not already responded to the Notices served, there is an automatic dispute in place known as a deemed dispute. If they agree to the proposed work then that agreement must be in writing, simply put, the consent given must be in writing.

 

The Adjoining Owners have three choices given to them under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

 

  1. Consenting to the Notices.

This will mean there will be no dispute and there will be no involvement of a surveyor. Consent must be given in writing within 14 days.

 

  1. Dissent to the Notices with Agreed Surveyor.

One surveyor may be appointed, where the adjoining owners have dissented or a deemed dispute has arisen.

 

  1. Dissent and Appointing Own Surveyor.

The adjoining owners have the right to appoint a surveyor of their choice who may be different from the Building Owners’ Surveyor.

 

Where the adjoining owners on whom the Notices were served and have not responded, Building Owners or their appointed surveyor send a reminder letter to the adjoining owners. This letter is valid for 10 days, after which a surveyor is appointed on the adjoining owner’s behalf so that the statutory process may progress.

APPOINTMENT OF SURVEYORS

The objective of the Party Wall Surveyors is to resolve a dispute which arises when the adjoining owners’ dissent to the Notices served on them.

They are required to follow the Party Wall Act framework so that the building works progress and that they do not cause unnecessary inconvenience to the affected neighbours.

 

DUTIES AND TYPES OF PARTY WALL SURVEYORS:
DUTIES OF PARTY WALL SURVEYOR

Party Wall Surveyors’ duties are somewhat similar to Arbitrators, in the same manner, that the party wall surveyors also produce an Award which is a method available to resolve a dispute which arose when the neighbours dissented to the Notices.

Party Wall Surveyors are required to Act impartially under this statutory appointment and must always look to resolve the dispute as an independent person and not to be pressured by any of the appointing owners and that the Act’s requirements are administered properly, efficiently, and fairly.

1. Building Owners Surveyor

Party Wall Surveyor appointed by the Building Owners is known as Building Owners Surveyor.

2. Adjoining Owners Surveyor

Party Wall Surveyor appointed by the Adjoining Owners is known as Adjoining Owners Surveyor.

3. Agreed Surveyor

A surveyor appointed by the two neighbours in dispute is known as an Agreed Surveyor.

SCHEDULE OF CONDITION

Although not part of the Act, it is the only recipe available to ensure no damages have been caused to the adjoining affected property by the proposed building works.

 

Schedule of Condition Surveys are carried out of the neighbouring properties where the neighbours have chosen to have this done. When neighbours consent to the Notices, they can request for the survey to be carried out as an extra option. 

REASONING OF UNDERTAKING SCHEDULE OF CONDITIONS

As Agreed Surveyor or where they appoint their own surveyor, Schedule of Condition is seen as best practice and is carried out in most cases where access is granted by the neighbours.
Building Owners should always consider getting a Schedule of Condition carried out of the neighbouring affected properties to protect themselves against any potential false claims. Responsibility typically rests on the Building Owners to show there were no damages that existed before works were undertaken by them.

Once surveys are conducted, Survey Reports are then created and appended to the Award.

The most common techniques used for carrying out a building survey include:
  • Visual examination, as opposed to an invasive one where carpets, floor coverings, furniture and so on may need to be moved or taken up.
  • An external examination from the ground level of roofs, chimneys and other surfaces of the building. This also includes an examination of boundary walls, fences, permanent outbuildings and areas in common (shared) use.
  • The use of equipment by us could be, a Dictaphone, camera, damp-meter, binoculars, torch, a short ladder and so on.
  • Depending on safe access is available, an internal examination of the roof structure.
  • Floor surfaces and under-floor spaces depending on safe access and requirement.
  • Photographs, which may subsequently be annotated where necessary for the report.

AN AWARD

 Party Wall Award, also known as Party Wall Agreement by some, is drafted and served on all owners who have dissented to the Notices. This is a legal document that puts a responsibility on the building owners and protects both sides during the development stage. The award is a legally binding document.

An award regulates
  • how the works are to be conducted as well as dealing with any other related incidental matters such as costs and compensation.
  • says when and how the work is to be carried out (for example to limit continuous periods of time when excessively noisy work can be carried out);
  • specifies any additional work required (for example necessary protection to prevent damage);
  • often contains a record of the condition of the adjoining property before the work begins (so that any damage to the adjoining land or buildings can be properly attributed and made good);
  • allows access for the surveyor(s) to inspect the works while they're going on as may be necessary (to see that they are in accordance with the award).

This final document is sent to all parties involved and once served on the parties involved, the dispute is then resolved.