Work on party walls & structures — issuing a Party Wall Notice and avoiding a dispute
What are my rights under the Party Wall etc Act?
The Party Wall Act offers rights that allow a building owner to carry out a wide range or works to an existing party wall, party fence wall or party structure. The full list of rights is set out in section 2 of the Act, but the most commonly used are:
- To cut into a wall to take the bearing of a beam (for example for a loft conversion), or to insert a damp proof course all the way through the wall.
- To raise the whole party wall and, if necessary, cut off any projections which prevent you from doing so.
- To demolish and rebuild the party wall.
- To underpin the whole wall for structural repair.
- To protect two adjoining walls by putting a flashing from the higher over the lower.
- To build against a party wall.
- To underpin a party wall for a basement.
What must I do if I am planning building work?
If you intend to carry out any of the works covered by the Act, you must inform all adjoining owners by sending them a notice. You must not even cut into your own half of the wall without telling your neighbour of your intentions.
The Act sets out the precise information you must tell your neighbour. You must tell your neighbour in writing and it is common to use a standard Party Wall Notice to make sure that this is done. You can serve your own party wall notice, but you may feel happier appointing a party wall surveyor to do this for you. Collier Stevens has a competitive fixed fee service which includes serving the correct notices.
Whilst the Act contains no enforcement procedures for failure to serve a notice, if you start work without having first given notice in the proper way, your neighbour may seek to stop your work through a court injunction or seek other legal redress.
Your neighbour cannot stop you from exercising the rights given to them by the Act, but he can ask for a party wall surveyor to agree an award that sets out the rights you are exercising and your responsibilities in return for those rights. This may include directions as to how work is done or when it is done.
The Act says that a building owner must not cause unnecessary inconvenience when he does his works. The building owner must provide compensation for any damage or make it good at his expense.
What about minor works like fixing shelves?
Minor works on a party wall are usually considered to be too trivial to come under the Party Act. Examples of minor works include:
- Drilling into your own half of a party wall to fix plugs and screws for ordinary wall units or shelving.
- Drilling into your own half of a party wall to for recessed electric wiring and sockets.
- Replastering – unless the old plaster is to be removed mechanically.
If you are in doubt, contact us. It is your responsibility to check whether your work falls within the provisions of the act.
Who is a neighbour or adjoining owner?
An adjoining owner is anyone with an interest of greater than 12 months in the adjoining property. If the next-door property is occupied by a long-term tenant or leaseholder, it will be necessary to notify the landlord or freeholder as well. Where there is more than one owner of the property, or more than one adjoining property, it is your duty to notify all of them. For a property divided into flats, that means all flat owners and the freeholder may need to be served with a notice.
How do I serve a notice to my neighbours?
You do not need to appoint a Party wall Surveyor to prepare and serve the notice but it must be correct.
There is no official form for giving notice under the Act, and you can do it with a letter. Your notice must include the following details:
- Your own name and address.
- The building’s address (if different).
- A clear statement that your notice is a notice under the provisions of the Act (you should mention the section(s) concerned).
- Full details of what you propose to do (including plans & sections where appropriate).
- When you propose to start.
You may deliver the notice in person or send it by post. Where the neighbouring property is empty, or the owner is not known, you can address the notice to ‘the owner’ of the premises and fix it to a conspicuous part of the premises. You can sometimes find contact details at Land Registry or at Companies House if the building is owned by a company.
When do I serve a notice to my neighbours?
At least two months before the planned starting date for work to the party wall and one month for work on the boundary or for nearby excavation. The notice is only valid for a year, so do not serve it too long before you wish to start.