Renovation is an excellent way to breathe new life into familiar surroundings, and the prospect of giving your property a facelift can be exhilarating. However, before you bring the builders in and start tearing down the old for the new, it’s important to understand who might be affected by the construction work.
In fact, you’re legally obligated to inform your neighbours well ahead of time, and failing to do so might attract consequences.
So, in this article, we’ll explain everything you need to learn about a Party Wall Notice and how you can use it to inform your neighbours about your building plans in a timely manner.
What Are Party Wall Notices?
If your house shares a wall or other boundary with your neighbour’s, and you plan to do some building work on your side of the the wall or structure, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 obligates that you inform your neighbour first. In other words, you give your neighbour notice of the proposed construction work using a Party Wall Notice.
Party Wall Notices: All You Need to Know
Now that we know what a Party Wall Notice is, let’s learn about them, so we avoid legal action in the future.
Party Wall Notice: Mandatory or Not?
Are Party Wall Notices compulsory? And what would happen if you didn’t give your neighbour one before starting work?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 doesn’t explicitly state consequences that’ll befall a building owner who fails to give adjoining owners (i.e. their neighbours) notice before starting work on a party wall. Moreover, it doesn’t provide for a procedure the wronged party can follow to enforce their right to notice.
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 allows for exceptions, mainly when the work is so minor that there’s little risk of it affecting the wall’s structural strength or damaging the neighbour’s side (e.g. putting a nail into the wall to hang a picture).
However, before the above leads you to believe Party Wall Notices aren’t mandatory, you should know your neighbour can still seek redress for your failure to inform them before working on a party wall. The said redress may come in the form of an injunction preventing you from completing the work, damages, or both. Therefore, in an abundance of caution, give notice.
Whose Responsibility Is It to Serve a Party Wall Notice and Who Receives It?
As mentioned previously, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 obligates the building owner to serve an adjoining owner (anyone with an interest of more than a year in the property) with a Notice before working on a party wall. Therefore, if you’re the party planning the construction, you owe your neighbour the duty of informing them of your plans via a Party Wall Notice, and vice versa if your neighbour is the party planning construction work.
Types of Party Wall Notices
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 lists three types of Party Wall Notices:
- Line of Junction Notice
- Party Structure Notice
- Notice of Adjacent Excavation
While you can serve Line of Junction Notices and Notices of Adjacent Excavation one month before the work commences, you have to serve Party Structure Notices two months before, unless express consent is granted by the adjoining owner.
What to Include in a Party Wall Notice
You should include the following information in a Party Wall Notice intended for adjoining owners:
- The nature of the work you intend to do to the party wall
- Your proposed start date for the construction
- Information about whether the work requires special foundations
- Notification that you’ve appointed a surveyor
- An acknowledgement of the Party Wall Notice
There are further requirements for information to include in the notice depending on the type of works you propose to undertake.
Do Party Notices Have a Set Format?
Yes, and no. A Party Wall Notice is basically a letter informing the adjoining owner of a building owner’s intention to carry out construction work on a party wall. Therefore, you can structure yours as such. The key consideration to make is to include the information in the above section.
Types of Works You’ll Need to Notify Your Neighbours About
You’ll need to give your neighbour a Party Wall Notice if the work you plan on doing involves one of the following things:
- Cutting into the party wall
- Demolishing and rebuilding a party wall
- Raising or shortening the party wall’s height
- Removing a chimney on a party wall
- Underpinning a party wall
- Constructing a new wall at the boundary
- Excavating near to an adjoining owner’s structure
- Carrying out works to a party fence wall (i.e. shared wall with no building attached)
Serving a Party Wall Notice
You can serve your neighbour the Party Wall Notice in person. If that’s not possible, you can serve them the notice by post or email. Note that sending a Party Wall Notice by email is contingent on the adjoining owner agreeing to receive the notice in this way and providing their email address for that purpose.
My Neighbour Has Agreed to the Party Wall Notice: What Happens Next?
Once you receive your neighbour’s consent in writing, you’re all set to begin construction work. Again, you shouldn’t face any issues as long as you keep the disturbance to a minimum and protect your neighbour’s property and possessions from damage caused by the construction. You should however, undertake a schedule of condition of your neighbour’s property as this will protect against unjustified claims for damage upon completion of your works.
My Neighbour Has Refused the Party Wall Notice: What Now?
If your neighbour dissents to the Party Wall Notice, a dispute has arisen. We go into more detail about disputes below, but the first step to resolving party wall disputes is for both parties to appoint either their owner Surveyor or jointly select an Agreed Surveyor.
Can One Party Notice Cover Several Types of Work?
No. You should send your neighbour a separate Party Wall Notice for every type of work you intend to do on the Party Wall. For example, if you plan to demolish a wall and build a new one, each action will require a separate notice i.e. it is likely a Party Structure Notice and a Notice of Adjacent Excavation will need to be served.
What to Do if Neighbours or Adjoining Owners Ignore Your Party Notice
If your neighbours don’t respond to your Party Wall Notice within 14 days, the Party Wall Act will deem a dispute to have arisen.
Party Notice Disputes
If no response is received, a 10 day reminder letter should be served and if there is still no response, then your Surveyor will appoint a Surveyor to act on behalf of the adjoining owner. Following this, the two Surveyors will agree an Award in the usual manner. The Award is a legal document setting out the timing and manner the proposed works are undertaken.
The next time you want to do construction work on a party wall, ensure you prepare a Party Wall Notice first. As mentioned above, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 requires you to give your neighbour the notice. These documents are important, and you might expose yourself to legal liability without them.
We can help you draft a Party Wall Notice. If you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.