Between 2020 and 2021, the first year of the pandemic, a total of 48% of Brits took on a home improvement project. Around one-third of those made major improvements close to or adjoining a boundary on the property. If you are planning a new development on your property or land you need to consider whether or not you need to comply with the Party Wall Act. This applies equally to residential and commercial properties.
A party wall is a wall which divides two separate owner’s properties, built on the line of junction. This might be a wall dividing semi-detached and terraced houses, or a wall held in common (i.e both owners have equally measured ownership of a wall) between the owners on either side, or it could be a structure in the garden.
The Party Wall Act 1996 was created to provide a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations within three and six metres of a boundary. The Act applies in England and Wales.
Anyone intending to carry out work within the vicinity of the boundary, where the Act applies, must give adjoining owners notice of their intentions. The Party Wall Act also applies to Crown, Government and Local Authority owned property.
The Party Wall Act covers three main types of work:
You don’t need to tell your neighbour about minor changes, e.g. plastering, adding or replacing electrical wiring or sockets, or drilling to put up shelves or cabinets.
Depending on the type of works being done, you will need to serve appropriate notice on your adjoining neighbour.
There are different types of notice which can be given depending on the works proposed:
All notices need to be in writing and clearly state what work is intended. A surveyor will be able to help in choosing the best option if you are unsure.
Any adjoining neighbour served with a Party Wall Act notice will have fourteen days to respond, either agreeing to the works in writing, serving a counter notice requesting additional works, or refusing consent. If no response is received then it will be deemed to be disputed.
If agreement between the two parties cannot be reached this begins the dispute resolution process. This will require you to appoint a surveyor to act on your behalf to determine a Party Wall Award. Depending on whether or not your neighbour has responded, you may be able to agree the appointment of a joint surveyor. Otherwise each party will have a surveyor to act on their behalf.
The appointed surveyors will draw up a Party Wall Award.
The Party Wall Award is a legal document which says:
If each side’s surveyor still cannot agree on a Party Wall Award, you will have to pay for a third surveyor to adjudicate.
You can appeal against an Award at a County Court, but it must be within 14 days of it being served. You will need to file an appellant’s notice at the County Court, explaining why you’re appealing. It is sensible for solicitors to advise you on any such appeal and to prepare the application for you.
On appeal to the County Court, the Court may rescind or modify the award, and can make an order to cover any costs that may have occurred.
Without a Party Wall Notice, you can question all sorts of aspects of the building project including the quality of the trades people chosen, the disturbances caused by noise nuisance from drilling, dust and mess from demolition works and much more.
There are two options. One is the softer approach and is the most often advised in the first stages.
Talk to your neighbour yourself. Ask them about their plans and when they intend to submit a Party Wall Notice. This isn’t an approach which will suit everyone, but it will maintain your relationship with your neighbour.
If your neighbour still takes no action and you are certain that they are acting in a way that requires the service of a Notice under the Party Wall Act but have not done so, you could seek an injunction from the County Court. Solicitors can be instructed to obtain an injunction to stop works from carrying on.
Lodders have a considerable specialist Property Dispute Resolution Team who can advise you on party wall issues. In particular if you are in dispute with your neighbours, if no notice has been served, or if you wish to appeal an award, we are very happy to assist. If you are having difficulty resolving a dispute, our property dispute resolution team can advise you on how the Act should be applied in your situation.
If you require bespoke advice in relation to your specific party wall situation, our expert solicitors can assist you. For more information, or for an initial chat, please get in touch with the property dispute resolution team or fill out the form below.
The answers on this page should not be considered as formal legal advice as the background of any situation may affect the advice that we give.
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