Party Wall FAQs 1
What is a Party Wall?
A Party Wall (which can also referred to as a party structure) is a structure that straddles the boundary between two properties. This can be both vertical as in a typical semi-detached property or horizontal as in the floor of a first floor flat. It can also be a wall which stands solely on the land of one person but is used to separate the adjoining property.
Why do we need a Party Wall Act?
Up to 1996 if you did not live in the London area and you wanted to work on a party wall, you had to get specific approval from your neighbour to enable you to work on the full thickness of the wall. Without that approval, if you encroached over the boundary (normally halfway through the wall) then you could be sued for trespass.
What is the Party Wall Act 1996?
It is an Act that enables one person who shares ownership of a wall to work on the full thickness of the wall without trespassing on the Adjoining Owner’s property. The Act takes over the common law assumption that you can work only up to half of thickness of the wall at any one time. Effectively both parties can work on the full thickness of the wall providing that the Act is implemented and the Adjoining Owner is protected. The act also covers excavation and other works close to a boundary but this is not covered in this commentary.
Who is involved in a party wall agreement?
The “Building Owner” is the person who has partial ownership of the wall and wishes to undertake works to the wall.
The “Adjoining Owner” is the neighbour who is not proposing to undertake any works themselves.
The “Building Owner’s Surveyor” is a Surveyor appointed by the Building Owner to represent them in the implementation of the Party Wall Act.
The “Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor” is the Surveyor appointed by or appointed on behalf of the Adjoining Owner to represent their interests in the implementation of the Act.
The “Third Surveyor” is a Surveyor agreed between the Building Owner’s Surveyor and the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor as an independent arbiter in the event of a dispute. Any party, be it Owners or Surveyors, can refer the case to the Third Surveyor at any time.
What is a party wall dispute?
A dispute is where the Building Owner serves a notice on the Adjoining Owner that they intend to undertake building works under the Act but the Adjoining Owner objects to the work or fails to respond to the notice. In this latter case it is referred to as a “deemed dispute”. Sometimes the Adjoining Owner is happy for the work to be undertaken but wants the protection of the Act and so will dispute the works. It is quite possible under the Act to have a very amicable dispute between the two parties.
Even if the Adjoining Owner agrees to the works, the matter does not stop there. If there are subsequent issues with the work, the Adjoining Owner can raise a dispute at any time and both parties then appoint a Surveyor and the matter is dealt with under the Act like any other dispute.