Dealing with party walls and neighbours are often not considered by homeowners when they are planning works, renovating or have a project on the go. Most people know they will need planning permission and building regs/control, but many haven’t heard of party wall notices and agreements, never mind when they are required.
This article explains some common examples where party wall agreements are usually needed.
First, what is a party wall?
A party wall can be defined as one of the below:
- A wall that ‘straddles’ the boundary line between two premises is a party wall, even if it has not been built against and does not form a part of the neighbour’s building.
- A wall that divides two premises and forms a part of the structure of both is a party wall. This applies even if only part of the wall forms a part of the structure.
- A flank wall of a building that has been built against is a party wall to the extent that both premises use it. This means part of the wall can be a party wall and part might not be. This is the case even if the enclosure was done after the building was originally built.
- A garden wall straddling the boundary is called a Party Fence Wall — repair costs will be shared under the Act.
- Other parts of a building may be party structures and need similar process and notices — for instance the floor between two flats is a party structure.
Examples where party wall agreement may or may not be needed
There are a number of categories that party wall work falls into and examples are given here to show where party wall notice and agreements may or may not be needed.
Works on an existing party wall
- Inserting a chemical damp proof course (DPC) into the party wall: YES, the wall is party to its full thickness and you are drilling into it to inject a damp-proof course.
- Hacking off plaster from a party wall: NO For a small patch, YES for a whole wall this is usually necessary
- Taking out a chimney breast: YES, if it’s on a party wall. Read ‘Removing a chimney breast’.
- Demolishing a party wall and rebuilding it: YES.
- Fixing shelves, kitchen units and cupboards to a party wall: NO.
- Drilling into it to hang pictures: NO.
- Chasing into the wall to insert electrical cables: YES.
- Putting a steel beam into the party wall: YES.
- Making the party wall higher (building a loft conversion for instance): YES.
- Cutting or demolishing a partition projecting from a party wall: YES.
- Underpinning a party wall: YES.
Work on an existing party structure
This does not necessarily have to be a wall – it could be a floor or ceiling between flats.
- Taking down and replacing the ceiling: YES.
- Taking down a supporting wall and fixing a steel beam to support the floor: YES.
- Cutting through joists to fix waste pipework: YES.
- Laying new floor coverings – carpets, tiles, laminate etc: NO.
- Replacing floorboards: NO, unless it is large areas / whole rooms.
- Fixing light fittings: NO.
Excavating near your neighbour
Excavations will include foundations, lowering your garden, building a basement, underpinning, some forms of piling, forming drainage runs.
You WILL need to seek party wall agreement if you are digging deeper than the bottom of their foundations and within 3m of those foundations. Remember, as well as the main buildings, this could include garages, sheds, garden walls, some patios and walls within the garden.
An unusual example of an excavation is a modern wine cellar. Read ‘Party wall agreement for a wine cellar’.
Building on the boundary
- Taking down and replacing a fence: NO.
- Taking down a fence and building a wall: YES.
- Building a wall up to the boundary: YES.
- Building a wall astride the boundary as a party wall: YES (you can only do this with the express agreement of your neighbour).
- Taking down a neighbour fence to build a wall: YES.
- Demolishing a wall on the boundary: YES.
- Putting a flashing into my neighbour’s independent wall: YES.
- Putting up a scaffold on or over next door’s land and buildings: NO – this usually needs a separate scaffold licence.
- Painting the face of a wall owned by you that is on the boundary and faces your neighbour: NO – this is not a party wall matter and falls outside the Party Wall Act.
- Cutting my neighbour’s trees and plants: NO – this is not a party wall matter and falls outside the Party Wall Act.
- Replacing my roof tiles: NO.
Typical residential alterations
- Knocking through two rooms and putting in a steel beam: YES. If the steel beam needs to sit on or in the party wall, sometimes this type of work also requires a small pad foundation under the wall or a supporting pier and this may need agreement.
- Converting a loft: YES, if the supporting steel beams bear on a party wall and/or if a dormer is being built on the party wall. Read ‘Planning a loft conversion’.
- Building an extension: YES, if you are excavating for foundations within 3m of your neighbour’s building, garage, garden wall or other structure; if you are building in the boundary line; if you are forming an opening and putting a beam in that bears on the party wall; and/or you are fixing structural components to the party wall.
- Building a new house or building: YES, if you are excavating for foundations within 3m of your neighbour’s building, garage, garden wall or other structure and/or you are building in the boundary line.
- Building a garden room: YES, if you are excavating for foundations within 3m of a neighbour’s building, garage, garden wall or other structure and/or you are building in the boundary line.
- Creating a basement: YES, if it is within 3m of your neighbour’s structures and/or you need to underpin the party wall. Read: ‘Adding a basement’.