An Introduction to the Part Wall Act 1996
The Party Wall Act 1996 gives rights to developing property owners and safeguards adjoining owners, creating a framework to prevent and resolve any arising disputes which arise from party and boundary walls and relating to excavations which take place near neighbouring buildings. The owner of the building who is proposing to start work which is covered by the this Act must give notice of their intentions to adjacent property owners, in a prescribed manner defined in the Act, with jurisdiction within England and Wales.
What work is covered by The Party Wall Act 1996?
- Any construction work that is going to be carried out to an existing party wall or other structure.
- Any new construction at or which is astride the boundary line between properties.
- Any excavation to be carried out between 3 m to 6 m of any neighbouring building or other structure. This is influenced by the depth of the excavation and of the proposed foundations.
Not covered by The Party Walk Act 1996.
As is typical, the detail is key. Minor work, for example low impact drilling into a part wall to fix for example (indicative, not exhaustive) shelving or a picture, the concealing of electrical cabling or replastering are works which would probably in normal circumstances as minor works, with no need to serve notice under the Act.
How are owners of neighbouring properties informed?
With no specific layout or form laid down within the Act, key information is a minimum requirement.
You name and correspondence address, which must include the names of all joint owners of property.
The address clearly identifying the building where the work will be carried out.
There must be a full description of the work proposed to be undertaken.
Clarification of the proposed date the work is due to commence, which must be planned to allow for the lapse of the relevant notice period has been completed).
The notice must be dated, giving total clarity as to the fact that that the document is notification under the Party Wall Act 1996. There is no requirement for you to notify a local authority (although this may be required under say Building Regulations or other matters).
So how much notice needs to be to be given?
A minimum of two months’ notice of the proposed date for the work to the party wall to comment. The notice is valid for 12 months, so should not be served too early.
With the Notice Served, what happens next?
Following the service of the Notice, if you fail to reach agreement with the owners of the adjoining building, you should look to agree with the neighbour, to appoint what is referred to within the Party Wall Act 1997 as an Agreed Surveyor, to draw up an “Award.”
An alternative approach is that each appoint a surveyor to act on their behalf to drawn up the Award together, with the two individually appointed surveyors selecting a third surveyor, who would be called upon if the two original surveyors are unable to reach agreement.
So what is the surveyor actually required to do?
The surveyor or surveyors will draft a document known as a Party Wall Award, which must:
Sets out clearly sets out details of what work is proposed and how it will be undertaken.
Additional information about any additional work (say to protect buildings / other areas from damage whilst the work is undertaken).
Plans should show the work that is proposed, details and location of proposed excavations and depth of the foundations.
The Party Wall Award needs to contain a clear record of the condition of the adjacent building before the work starts (this is in order to assess any damage which may be caused to that this can be rectified).
Access must be allowed for the involved surveyors to carry out appropriate inspections as the work is undertaken (to ensure that this work complies with the information within the Party Wall Award.
Even once the work is done it is prudent to retain a copy of the Party Wall Award with your property deeds and records.
Who is responsible to pay the Surveyor’s fees?
Unless otherwise agreed between the parties the instructing Building Owner will be responsible for the drawing up of the Party Wall Award if the proposed work to be done is for their benefit alone.
Is a Surveyor’s award a final decision?
Yes, absolutely the final word and is fully binding unless a Court makes a judgement with other findings, with each party having only 14 days to make an appeal to the Court against findings in the award.
Do you have to wait until the end of the period of notice before work is commenced?
Providing the parties agree, with this evidenced in writing, the answer is no, it can be started immediately.
The integrity of the structure and its ability to support is a key consideration, with all consequences needing to be fully considered. Taking professional advice when you are in your planning and preparation phase is recommended. We can advise on your obligations, options and responsibilities, under The Party Walk Act 1996, discuss risks and advise as needed.
“If you are planning work that involves or might impact a party wall ensure, that you proceed correctly. Talk to us at your planning stage.”
Rupert Hambly | Director | Peninsula Management
From our offices near Barnstaple, North Devon we operate throughout Devon including Exeter, Tiverton, Plymouth and Torquay, Cornwall and Somerset including Bristol. If your property is in England and Wales feel free to call us to discuss your situation.