- October 9, 2022
- Posted by: Chris Cooper
- Category: Party Walls
Whether or not you get on well with your neighbours, the fact remains that noise and damage from construction work next door can be distracting. And if you weren’t informed beforehand, the whole experience can be frustrating.
But did you know that you’re legally obliged to inform your neighbour in advance before carrying out construction work (and vice versa)? This Party Wall etc. Act 1996 guide covers the UK legislation governing the timing and manner in relation to the proposed construction works. Keep reading to learn why the Act is necessary, the type of construction work it covers, and more.
What is the Party Wall Act?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 was made to prevent the disruptive works from occurring without the adjoining owner being able to request necessary safeguards and appoint a Surveyor to review the proposals on their behalf. The adjoining owners have rights and are owed obligations under the Act, so each party must take care not to infringe on the rights of the other. Doing otherwise may make the infringing party liable (for damages or other compensation).
If you’re wondering, “What is a party wall?” It is: a wall separating the properties of more than one owner (i.e., your neighbour and you). Where a boundary wall is jointly owned and there is no building attached to either side, it is known as a party fence wall. Further definitions can be found in the Act.
Why Is the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 Necessary?
Because the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 governs the timing and manner in which proposed works to a party wall are carried out, it helps to prevent disputes between the adjoining owners. The Act also covers excavations works near to an adjoining owner’s structure so where new foundations are constructed, advice should be sought as to whether or not this invokes the Act. When both parties are aware of their rights and obligations under the Act and the consequences associated with infringing on the rights of the other, they are more likely to engage and follow the process properly with the assistance of suitably qualified surveyors.
The Act makes it a legal requirement to serve your neighbour with a Notice before starting construction work that affects the shared wall (or if you’re excavating nearby/constructing a new wall at the boundary).
We’ll cover the rights and obligations the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 affords building owners in more detail in another section of the article.
How the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 Can Affect Your Renovation Plans
We’ve introduced the Party Wall Act from the perspective of a neighbour possibly infringing on your rights. Now let’s see things from your perspective.
Suppose you live in a terrace building and want to cut into the wall for beams on padstones and therefore the renovations would affect it on a structural level. Since you share the wall with your neighbour, the law may deem it a party wall. Therefore, you’ll have to consider your neighbour’s rights (the right to receive notice) under the Party Wall Act while making renovation plans.
However, not all construction work requires you to give notice. Some works (like replastering and fitting shelves) are generally considered too minor to require the service of a Party Notice.
Works Covered by the Party Wall Act
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 stipulates building owners must provide adjacent owners with Party Notices for the following works:
- Cutting into the party wall (e.g. for flashing or beams on padstones)
- Demolishing a party wall
- Increasing or decreasing the party wall’s height
- Raising the party wall downwards
- Removing a chimney breast connected to a party wall
- Underpinning the party wall
- Excavating to a depth lower than your neighbour’s foundations within 3m (within 6m if cutting through the 45 degree axis
- Constructing a new wall at the boundary
Your Rights Under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 as a Building Owner
If you plan on carrying out construction work to a party wall, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 affords you the right to:
- Repair the wall
- Insert damp-proof course into the wall
- Increase the wall’s height
- Raise the wall downwards
- Demolish and rebuild the wall
- Underpin the party wall
Of course, to comply with the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, you’ll need your neighbour’s consent before going ahead with any of the above construction works or an Award in place.
Your Duties Under the Party Wall Act as a Building Owner
Before arranging construction work on a party wall, you must inform adjoining owners first by giving them a Notice. This is the primary obligation building owners owe to their neighbours under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. You’re not even allowed to open up your side of the wall until you’ve satisfied this requirement.
Additionally, when the work begins, you cannot cause unnecessary inconvenience to your neighbour. The key word in the above sentence is “unnecessary”, meaning the Act acknowledges that some inconvenience (for example, noise) is inevitable for certain types of construction work.
Moreover, where necessary, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 requires the building owner to provide protection for adjacent buildings. And if the work on the building owner’s side of the wall damages the neighbour’s property, they must make good on the damage (i.e. pay) or pay the adjoining owner to make good to the damage.
Who the Party Wall Act 1996 Considers an Adjoining Owner
You may hear consultants use the term “adjoining owner” when discussing your renovation plans. But, who does the Party Wall etc. Act 1996consider an adjoining owner?
You can think of an adjoining owner as anyone with aninterest of more than a year in the propertythat adjoins your own. This means that both Freehold and Leaseholders need to be considered when looking to serve the requisite notices.
How to Comply With the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 Requirements
To comply with the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 when planning works speak to your neighbour to explain your works and give them the Notice(s).
Your neighbour can either agree to the notice in writing, refuse consent and appoint a surveyor or serve a counter-notice detailing the work they would also like carried out to the party wall. If a dispute arises (either through your neighbour’s refusal of consent or ignoring the notice), you can arrange for an Agreed Surveyor to produce a Party Wall Award or appoint a Surveyor to act on their behalf if they ignore the initial notice and reminder.
What to Do if You’re Yet to Receive a Party Wall Notice and Believe Your Neighbour Is About to Start Work
If you suspect your neighbour wants to start construction work and they haven’t given you a Notice, you can inform your neighbour about the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 in writing. Hopefully, that should be enough to get them to furnish you with a Notice.
What to Do if Your Neighbour Starts Work Without Giving You a Party Wall Notice
If your neighbour begins construction on the party wall without giving you notice, then you should speak to a Surveyor to confirm the works are notifiable under the Act and following this you may need to seek legal assistance. You may then need to seek an injunction to stop any further works continuing.
Understanding your rights and obligations under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 will keep you from incurring delays and increased costs to your project and mitigate the impact to the adjoining owner’s property. The Act is an enabling act to allow the Building Owner to proceed with their proposed works but in a safe and proper manner. Please get in touch if you would like to know more about the Act..