The Party Wall etc. Act 1996, came into force on, 1 July 1997. The Act only applies to those owners whose properties are located in England and Wales. It was enacted to both protect adjacent owners from any damage that may arise as a result of a neighbouring owner carrying out any works associated with excavation, boundary or party walls, and, to provide a resolution for any disagreements and/or damage that may arise from such works being carried out.
Protection Against Damage
The Act provides that any owner who intends to carry out certain works to areas of their property that are located within a certain distance of boundary lines and/or boundary/party walls, must, at least one month and, in certain cases, two months prior to any works commencing, serve a party wall notice on the adjacent owner(s) detailing the intended works being carried out together with any required information as provided by the Act. Within the notice, the adjoining owner(s) will be asked to reply within 14 days as to whether they consent to the works commencing. If an adjoining owner(s) fails to consent or to respond within the statutory time frame, the Act provides that a dispute will be deemed to have arisen between the parties.
How the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 Defines a "Party Wall"?
In simple terms, a Party Wall may be described as a wall that divides the land or buildings owned by two or more different parties. The Act defines 3 types of Party Walls these are:
- Party Wall Type A: This is a wall that stands on adjoining land owned by different parties which forms part of a building. In other words, the wall straddles the boundary and therefore sits on land belonging to more than one party. It can also be a wall that stands on a single owners land but has the potential to affect another owner's land. An example of this type of wall is a wall that forms part of a semi-detached or terraced house.
- Party Wall Type B: This is a wall that is used by more than one owner to separate each owners building, but stands entirely on one owners land. An example of this type of wall could be a wall that forms part of a garage that is positioned against a wall that is owned by a different party. It is important to note that the only part of the wall that is considered a Party Wall in these circumstances is the part of the wall that separates the two structures.
- Party Wall Type C: The third type of party wall is a ‘Party Fence Wall’ which does not form part of a building. It is an independent wall that straddles the boundary line of two or more owners of land and is primarily used to divide the land, for example a garden wall. (Timber fences are not included in the Act).
The Act refers to ‘Party Structures’ which can be...
- a floor or wall separator; or
- a structure detaching sections of buildings; or
- Buildings in differently owned properties such as flats
Party Wall Construction Works Covered By Party Wall Act
The Act covers the following:
- New structures at the edge of two properties
- Excavation works below or adjacent to the base of close buildings
- Work on a current party structure or wall
These Works Include:
The first part of the Act deals with the Construction and Repair of walls on the line of junction (i.e. the boundary line). In other words, where the lands of different owners adjoin and a party wall or party fence wall does not exist and either party wants to build a wall and/or party fence at the boundary line, the provisions of the Act apply. An example of the works included under section 1 of the Act might be;
- Construction of a new wall at the boundary of two or more properties, or
- Construction of a new party wall fence at the boundary of two or more properties
The provisions under section 2 of the Act also apply to any repairs or demolition and rebuilding works that a landowner has the statutory right to carry out. However, notices pertaining to such works are, under the Act, deemed as ‘Party Structure Notices’ and must be served, at minimum, two months prior to the commencement of any works. These works include;
- Extending or reducing a party wall
- Cutting into a party wall
- Flattening and reconstructing a party wall
It should be noted that section 2 of the Act also states that “A party wall may not necessarily have a boundary running through its centreline for the whole of its length but for only part of its length.” Therefore, if the proposed works are to be conducted on an already existing party wall, the structure owner should issue a notice stating that the work will not surpass the party wall centre line.
The provisions under section 6 of the Act apply to any excavation and construction works being carried out by an adjoining landowner. Notices under this part of the Act must be served at least one month before any works begin. Again, if an adjoining owner does not consent or fails to respond within the set time period of 14 days, a dispute between the parties regarding the proposed works is deemed to have arisen. Examples of these types of works include;
- Excavating below the base of an adjacent property
- Detaching chimney cavities from a party wall
As stated above, any party wishing to conduct any of the above-stated works under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, should notify adjacent neighbours about their plans. The neighbours can either support or oppose the plans. In the case of a disagreement, the parties can obtain the services of a party wall surveyor to resolve any confirmed party wall disputes.
What is the Impact of the Party Wall Act on Your Renovation Plans?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996, may or may not affect your renovation plans. This depends on the location of your home.
For example, if your home is a flat or a detached property that is close to a neighbour’s property, the Act may apply. To determine this, you should identify if the proposed works are works that are included under the Act, and if so, whether any of the walls would qualify as being party walls.
Walls and other built structures include:
- Ceilings and floors between flats
- Walls standing at the boundary
- Common boundary walls, as are found between terraced and semi -detached homes
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 does not include:
- Fitting of shelves
- Electrical rewiring
- Wallpaper Installation
Please note that the Party Wall Act is different from acquiring planning or building consent. If your proposed work requires planning permission and/or building consent, this must be obtained before any Party Wall Notice under the Act is served.
Resolution for Disagreements or Damage Caused
Under section 10 of the Act, should a dispute arise a surveyor must be appointed to resolve any dispute? This can be in the form of an agreed surveyor acting on behalf of both parties, or two surveyors, each acting on behalf of individual owners who in turn will appoint an agreed third surveyor to resolve any disputes. Under the Act, a surveyor is given the power to make any reasonable award on behalf of a party or parties. The Party Wall Award is conclusive and may not be questioned in any court.
For this reason, working closely with a Party Wall Surveyor is critical if you are not conversant with this Act. Remember, before conducting any proposed works that are covered by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, you must notify your neighbours who can either approve or reject your proposal.