What is a Party Fence Wall?
A Party Fence Wall is a structure, usually built with bricks, that separates the boundary land of adjoining owners. Contrary to their namesake, they do not include hedges, timber or concrete fences. In most English cities, the simplest example can be found in a row of terraced houses, be they, Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian. Party Fence Walls act as a boundary to separate the gardens of adjoining owners and can be found in both the front and rear of the properties. The responsibility for the upkeep or repair of such walls is, subject to any agreement to the contrary, shared equally between the adjoining owners.
Common Causes of Damages to Party Fence Walls
The foundations, upon which Party Fence Walls are built in any pre-1950s building, are generally very shallow in comparison with those of the actual building. It is, therefore, more likely than not to find mature vegetation in the form of large bushes and old tall trees, in close proximity. Landowners are then faced with the problems that arise from such vegetation. An example most commonly found is damage to a Party Fence Wall that has been caused by the roots of a mature tree, many of which are now protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).
What can Owners Faced with a Damaged Party Fence Wall do?
Icon Surveyors would advise that the first thing to determine is where the responsibility for the damage lies. As stated above, the liability for the upkeep and repairs of an adjoining wall generally lies jointly in equal shares with the Party Fence Walls owners. However, if a building owner has carried out works to their property and caused damage to the Party Fence Wall, or, a tree or mature bushes firmly rooted in you adjoining owners garden has caused the damage, or, the deeds to your property provides that the responsibility lies wholly or partially with another owner (i.e. freeholder), the liability for the repairs may not be yours to bare.
Whether the responsibility lies in equal shares or otherwise, Icon Surveyors suggest the simplest of solutions is to speak to your adjoining owner with the intention of coming to an agreement that is to the satisfaction of both parties.
That is to say;
1) the extent of the damage caused;
2) the cause of the damage;
3) the repairs that need to be carried out;
4) liability of costs for the repairs;
5) agreement as to the tendering of and contracting out of the repairs.
As we all know from life’s experiences, reaching an agreement may not always be possible, whether that is as a result of a neighbour disputing the need for any repairs, the costs of the repairs or indeed their liability for such repairs or maintenance.
The repairs to and/or building of, Party Fence Walls, are dealt with under section 1 and section 2 of the Act. However, under section 3 of the Act, a building owner who wants to repair or rebuild a Party Fence Wall without coming to an agreement with an adjoining owner must, at least 1 month prior to any works being carried out, serve the adjoining owner with a Party Wall Notice.
Once the adjoining owner has received the Notice s/he has two options.
The first is to agree,
1) that the works need to be carried out
2) when the works will be carried out,
3) by whom and,
4) liability to costs as stated in the Notice.
The second would be for the adjoining owner to dispute all and/or part of the contents of the served Notice.
If this scenario should arise, section 4 of the Act provides that a Party Wall surveyor will need to be appointed in order to determine the cause, liability and costs of the damage to the Party Fence Wall. Thereafter, the surveyor will draw up a Party Wall Award to resolve the issue. It should be noted that any costs for the Party Wall surveyor’s role will be attributed to the surveying costs as stipulated in the Party Wall Award.
Icon Surveyors would like to thank you for visiting our blog and remind you that we are here to assist you if and when you so require the assistance of experienced Party Wall Surveyors.