WHAT IS A PARTY WALL?
If you live in a semi-detached or terrace house you share a wall (or walls) with your neighbour – that is known as the party wall. It separates buildings belonging to different owners. Where a wall separates two different size buildings, only the part that is used by both properties is considered to be a party wall. The rest belongs to the person on whose land it stands. You must get your neighbour’s agreement before you can start any building work such as:
- – Extensions
- – Damp proofing works
- – Some internal refurbishment
- – Structural alterations.
In some cases, excavating or constructing foundations for a new building within three or six metres of neighbouring properties will also need written agreement.
THE PARTY WALL etc ACT?
Since the Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force, homeowners in England and Wales have had a procedure to follow when building work involves a party wall or party fence wall. The Act is designed to minimise disputes by making sure property owners use a surveyor to determine the time and way in which work is carried out. You can use an ‘agreed surveyor’ to act for both property owners should problems arise. The Act allows you to carry out work on – or next to – a shared wall. At the same time protecting the interests of anyone else who might be affected by that work.
- What is covered by the Act? There are some things that you can only do to a party wall with the written agreement of the adjoining owner including:
- Cutting into a wall to take the bearing of a beam, e.g. a loft conversion
- Inserting a damp proof course all the way through a wall
- Raising the whole party wall and, if necessary, cutting off any objects stopping this from happening
- Demolishing and rebuilding the party wall
- Underpinning the whole or part of a wall
- Protecting adjoining walls by cutting a flashing into an adjoining building
- Building a new wall on the line of the junction between two properties
- Excavating foundations within three metres of an adjoining structure and lower than its foundations
- Excavating foundations within six metres of an adjoining structure and below a line drawn down at 45o from the bottom of its foundations.
- What doesn’t the Act cover The Act doesn’t cover everyday minor jobs that don’t affect the neighbours’ half of a party wall including:
- * Fixing plugs
- * Screwing in wall units or shelving
- * Adding or replacing some recessed electrical wiring or sockets
- * Replastering your walls.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I WANT TO CARRY OUT WORK COVERED BY THE ACT?
If you intend to do any of these things, you must give written notice to your neighbours at least two months before starting any party wall works. Or one month for ‘line of junction’ or excavation works. If a tenant or leaseholder is in the building next door, you will need to tell the landlord, as well as the person living in the property, that you want to carry out building work to the party wall. Where there is more than one owner of the property or more than one adjoining property, you must let them know too. Don’t forget to give written notice to the owners and occupiers living either above or below your property. If possible, talk to your neighbours in detail about the work you want to do before giving them an official written notice. If you can sort out any potential problems in advance, they should give you written agreement in response to your notice, which they must do within 14 days.
WHAT IF THERE’S A DISPUTE?
The solution the Act provides is for both parties to each appoint a surveyor or ‘agreed surveyor’ who will act impartially. The surveyor will draw up a document called an ‘Award’. This details the work to be carried out, when and how it will be done and records the condition of the adjoining property before work begins. It may also grant access to both properties so the surveyor can inspect work in progress. The Award will determine who pays for the work if this is in dispute. Generally, the building owner who started the work pays for all expenses.