The Party Wall Act

The Party Wall Act 1996 came into effect on 1 July 1997 to provide guidelines for preventing or resolving disputes between neighbours regarding their party walls. If you intend to carry out work that affects a wall between you and your neighbour, for example:

  • Work to an existing wall or structure shared with another property
  • Building a free standing wall or a wall of a building that is up to or astride your boundary
  • Excavating near a neighbouring building;

then you must find out if the Party Wall Act is relevant in your case. If the work you carry out is covered by the Act, then you must follow the relevant procedures to inform your neighbours that such work is to take place.

Informing your neighbours

If the work you are undertaking is covered by the Act, then you must inform your neighbours with at least the following information:

  • Your name and address
  • The buildings address if different from your own
  • A clear statement that your notice of intention to undertake the work is under the provisions of the Party Wall Act.
  • Full details of your proposal
  • When you propose to start the work

You must serve the notice at least two months before you start the work on party walls or one month for party fence walls of excavations that are close to your neighbours walls. The notice is only valid for one year.

After the notice is served

Once you have served a notice on your neighbour they can:

  • Give written consent within 14 days for the work to take place
  • Serve a counter notice requiring additional work to be carried out
  • Object to the work being done. If after 14 days your neighbour has not replied to your notice, a dispute is deemed to have arisen.

If you receive a counter notice requiring extra work to be carried out, you must respond to it within 14 days. If you fail to respond to this counter notice a dispute will be regarded as having arisen.

Resolving disputes

If either you or your neighbour have objected to the others notice and the dispute cannot be settled by way of a friendly discussion, then the problem should be resolved by the appointment of surveyor. A surveyor may be appointed by both parties or each party may appoint their own surveyor. The surveyor or surveyors will draw up a document which will include:

  • A description of the work that is to be carried out
  • When and how the work is to be carried out
  • A description of the condition of the neighbour's property prior to the work commencing
  • Conditions allowing the surveyor(s) access to inspect the work as it is carried out
    The surveyor will decide who pays the fee for drawing up the document, although it is usual for the person undertaking the work to pay all costs.

Conclusion

As most buildings or building work will be close enough to the neighbour's property to be covered by the Act, it is essential that all those involved in the construction process understand the purpose and effects of the Act.

For further information and an explanatory booklet which is available free of charge contact us.

Download The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister guide on the Party Wall Act.