What’s the Party Wall Act for?
The UK Party Wall Act was created to set out principles for negotiating construction work on boundaries; both to ensure building owners are not prevented from carrying out lawful work and to avoid damage being done to neighbouring properties.
What does it cover?
The Act covers three distinct types of work:
- Alterations to a shared wall (referred to as a Party wall)
- The construction of new walls on a boundary
- Excavation of ground close to neighbouring properties. This third category is often overlooked by owners planning to extend.
This can include extensions to properties, loft conversions, basement conversions and the removal of chimney breasts. If you live in a semi-detached or terraced property then in most normal circumstances the wall you share with your neighbour is classed as a party wall.
If you are proposing a loft conversion your builder will probably need to install steel beams into the party wall to support a new suspended floor. Most loft conversions therefore fall under the terms of the Party Wall Act.
Extensions may fall under the Party Wall Act regardless of whether you live in terraced, semi-detached or detached premises. This is because almost all ground floor extensions require new foundations which will often be deeper than the older, existing foundations of the neighbouring property (assuming that the neighbour does not already have an extension themselves). If the new foundations are to be within three metres of the adjoining owner’s foundations it is highly likely that the works fall under the Party Wall Act.
Another situation where the Act applies is with multiple flat units where one owner wishes to carry out alterations to their flat and will therefore need to serve notice on the flats above, below or to either side.
In either of the above situations a building owner has a legal obligation to serve the correct party wall notice on any adjoining owner who may be affected by the works. We can assist in this process, setting out full details of the work to be carried out and liaising with both sides.
In most cases it is mandatory for a Party Wall surveyor to be appointed. Either the owner can appoint a joint surveyor in agreement with their neighbours or each side can appoint their own Surveyor, always at the expense of the owner. Once a Surveyor (or surveyors) is appointed they have a duty to act in an entirely impartial manner.
The required impartiality of Surveyors can be hard for owners to swallow, especially if they appointed the Surveyor and as they’re paying for their service. It might be tempting for a building owner attempt to replace an intransigent surveyor but under the Act this is not possible. Once a Party Wall Surveyor has been appointed that appointment cannot be rescinded unless the surveyor in question declares himself incapable of acting or dies.
Liaising with Adjoining Owners (your neighbour)
It is by far the best advice to speak to your neighbours rather than just send them a Party Wall Notice so they feel “in the loop” and feel their concerns are heard. They are then much less likely to insist on their own surveyor and unnecessarily run up a large bill for fees. Additionally, if the neighbour gives their written consent to the works the Party Wall Act does not apply and the works can proceed without the need to appoint surveyors or draw up an Award.
If no informal written consent is received the owner must appoint a Party Wall Surveyor. Unfortunately, often an Adjoining Owner only becomes aware of their neighbour’s plans to extend when they receive a Party Wall Notice.
Once a notice is issued by the owner’s Surveyor the neighbour has the option to either consent or dissent to the proposals. If no response is made within 14 days the parties are deemed to be in dispute under the Act. Where a dispute arises the neighbour must also appoint a surveyor under section 10 of the Party Wall Act so that a Party Wall Award can be agreed.
How we can help
Many urban projects are affected by the Party Wall Act and if these matters are not dealt with correctly then delays and extra costs can occur.
We aim to become a trusted and proactive part of your design team whether you are a home owner carrying out alterations, a property owner who has been served notice or a developer. We will ensure the party wall process is easy and straightforward, with no hidden costs to you, working with you to provide party wall solutions in plain English.
The process usually involves visiting both properties to establish what work is being done. We then carry out a condition survey on the adjoining owners, which becomes the basis for resolving any future remedial works should they be necessary.
For initial consultation with a party wall surveyor or to get the party wall process underway immediately, call us now, on 01604 622226 or email your enquiry to us.
We are located in Acton, West London, and cover the whole of the London area.
To find out more about your rights and obligations as a building owner or an adjoining owner you can download the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 explanatory booklet from the DCLG’s Party Wall etc Act 1996: guidance.