This blog is not an authoritative interpretation of the law; it is intended as a general guide.
In this blog Icon Surveyors will be considering what a Party Wall Agreement is and when one might be required.
What is a Party Wall Agreement?
A ‘Party Wall Agreement’ is an agreement between two or more owners of land and/or buildings for proposed works to be carried out to existing party walls and/or the building of new party structures/walls. A building owner who intends to carry out works that may and/or will affect any boundaries they may share with an adjoining neighbour must notify their adjoining neighbour of the intended works. There is a statutory framework for such works to be carried out provided under the provisions of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. It should be noted that statutory provisions under the abovementioned Act only apply in England and Wales.
When is the Agreement Formed?
An adjoining owner may consent to the ‘Notice’ in which case a ‘Party Wall Agreement’ will have been formed. Alternatively, the adjoining owner may agree to the works after negotiating some changes to the proposed works are to be carried out again this would constitute a ‘Party Wall Agreement’. If however, an adjoining neighbour refuses to agree to the proposed works being carried out, the Act provides that a third party surveyor, or in some cases two or three surveyor’s will draw up an agreement in the form of a Party Wall Award.
What Sections of the Act Apply to a Party Wall Agreement?
Under sections 1,3 and 6 of the Act any building owner who intends to carry out works that are stipulated under sections 1 or section 2 of the Act has a statutory obligation to serve all and/or any adjoining neighbour with a statutory notice of the proposed works to be carried out. Under the above stated sections of the Act there are certain requirements as to what must be included within the Notice.
For example, any Notice to be served on an adjoining neighbour under section 1 of the Act, that is to say a building owner who wants to build a party wall or fence, must include within the Notice their desire to build the wall together with a description of the proposed party wall or party fence.
Section 2 of the Act specifies the types of works that obligate a building owner to obtain consent from an adjoining owner to carry out the works. Some of these works include;
Works that include intervention with a shared wall including building a new wall that butts up to or onto and existing wall; semi- detached and terraced houses; Any work that involves party structures that are shared, such as floors and ceilings and/or chimney breasts; Any works to garden walls; Excavation works; Loft conversions; damp proofing; widening or heightening walls; building upper floor and basement extensions.
Under section 3 of the Act a building owner who proposes to carry out works that create a structure must serve all or any adjoining neighbour with a ‘Party Structure Notice’, included which must provide “the nature and particulars of the proposed work including, in cases where the building owner intends to construct special foundations, plans, section and details of the construction of the special foundations together with reasonable particulars of the loads to be carried thereby.”
Under section 6 of the Act a building owner who intends to carry out an adjacent excavation and construction that falls within the specified section 6 distances, is required to serve a ‘Notice’ included in which must be a statement as to whether underpinning or other form of strengthening or safeguarding the foundations of the building or structure of the
In answer to the question, if a building owner is exercising their rights as conferred under section 2 of the Act to carry out specified works, a ‘Party Wall Agreement’ must be obtained prior to any works commencing. If a building owner fails to comply with their obligations under the Act, it will amount to a breach of a statutory duty. In Icon Surveyor’s experience, this can result in a building owner incurring hefty costs for damages and repairs that may be imaginary or otherwise as without an agreement in place it is difficult for a building owner to prove the pre-works state of an adjoining owners land or buildings.
In addition, an adjoining owner has a statutory right to seek injunctive relief and thus halt any works that have commenced and/or request any completed works be destroyed, costing both time and financial penalties.
Icon Surveyors are happy to provide a free consultation to any building or adjoining owners who may be affected by the subject matter raised in this blog.