The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 ('the Act') came in to force on 1st July 1997 and governs the procedure and legal protocol to be followed in the carrying out of any works falling under the Act throughout England & Wales. The Act applies to all 'notifiable' works in both residential and commercial property.
This includes excavation for foundations, within a specified distance from a neighbouring property, and certain works affecting Party Walls and Party Fence Walls. The Act also covers proposed works to construct a new wall at the line of junction between two properties, if not already built upon.
UPDATE: Planning legislation to be relaxed...... but the Party Wall etc. Act still applies!
The recent government anouncement that planning legislation will be relaxed for residential extensions means one less statutory hurdle for Building Owners to overcome. However, the Party Wall etc. Act still applies where the proposed works meet the Act's 'notifiable' criteria. Building Owners should therefore be careful to ensure they don't fall foul of Party Wall legislation even though planning permission may not be needed.
What is a Party Wall?
In simple terms, a wall that divides two properties in separate ownership. A Party Wall may be built astride the boundary, and is thus partly on the land of each owner (Type 'A'); or it may sit entirely on the land of one owner, but still separates the two properties (Type 'B'). A Party Wall is therefore in shared ownership; this means that certain works, deemed to be 'notifiable' under the Act, will require the Building Owner's service of prior notice upon the Adjoining Owner before works may start. The Act details the requisite notice periods applicable in each situation. In the event of a 'dispute' in response to the notice(s), the parties must either each appoint their own Surveyor, or concur in the appointment of a single Agreed Surveyor in accordance with Section 10 of the Act. The purpose of this appointment is the resolution of the dispute by way of a Party Wall Award.
Are my proposed works 'notifiable'?
If you are a Building Owner intending to carry out works to modify or extend your property, you should consider the nature of the proposed works in relation to the Act to ascertain whether you need to serve prior notice on your neighbour (the 'Adjoining Owner'). Whilst you may have Planning Permission and Building Regulations approval, the works may not proceed unless you have notified the Adjoining Owner under the Act on the basis:
- You will be excavating your land to form foundations if those excavations fall within a specified distance (as defined by the Act) from the Adjoining Owner's property;
- You will be undertaking certain works to a Party Wall;
- You will be building a new wall at, or astride the boundary ('line of junction') where a wall does not currently exist;
- You will be removing, raising, lowering or building off a Party Fence Wall.
What is a Party Wall Award?
A Party Wall Award (often incorrectly called a Party Wall Agreement) is a legally binding document drafted and served by the appointed Surveyors, or Agreed Surveyor, to resolve the dispute between the parties. This sets out the nature of the proposed works, together with details as to who is responsible for the cost of the works and any associated fees. The Award will usually contain a Schedule of Condition to evidence the condition of the Adjoining Owner’s property prior to commencement of any works; this may be needed for later referral in determining the extent of any damage claimed by the Adjoining Owner to be a direct result of the awarded works. The Award will usually also state which party is responsible for implementing any remedial works in the event of resultant damage.
The Party Wall Consultancy provides expertise in this complex area of law in both residential and commercial property. For more information on The Party Wall Consultancy, click on About Us or download our Factsheet.