Can I start work before the Party Wall Notice has expired and other common queries
Does the Party Wall Act change who owns a wall?
The Act does not change the ownership of any existing party wall, party fence wall (shared garden wall) or party structure. Neither does it change the position of any boundary. Boundaries can still run through the centre of a wall, and each owner will technically own part of a wall each — usually half.
BUT, if two neighbours agree that one can build against the flank or garden wall of another, then that part of the wall used will be considered a party wall in the future. This does not alter the boundary position, so the boundary may still run along the face of the wall. It does mean that a neighbour will acquire rights under the Party Wall Act to that part made use of.
Can I use the Party Wall Act to resolve a boundary dispute?
No. The Act does not contain any provision, or means, to settle a boundary line dispute.
Such disputes can be resolved through the courts or sometimes using alternative dispute resolution procedures (which may be more straightforward, quicker and cheaper)— for example, mediation, decision by an independent expert, or arbitration.
Be warned — boundary disputes can be long, bitter and very, very expensive.
Approach with care.
Does the Act override my other common law rights?
Yes, but only in relation to works covered by the Party Wall Act.
Can I start work before the Party Wall Notice has expired?
You have to serve a notice two months before you plan to start work. You should not expect to begin work before the notice period has expired. BUT, so long as your neighbour (the adjoining owner) agrees, in writing, to work starting earlier and there is a Party Wall Award in place, you can usually get underway. You can begin any work unrelated to the party wall and work somewhere else on the site.
Can I use a wall that is not a party wall or structure?
No, there is no right to make use of a wall that is not a party wall, party structure or a party fence wall.
But, you can ask for your neighbour’s consent to use their wall, but they do not have to give it. If they do not give consent, you will need to build your wall next to theirs. If the new wall needs a foundation, you will probably need to serve a notice for adjacent excavation. The act does grant a right to cut a flashing into your neighbour’s wall, and if you intend to do this, you must serve a party structure notice.
Be aware that if you agree to your neighbour using your wall, then that wall will become a party wall where it has been used, and your neighbour will have acquired further rights over that section that has been enclosed upon.
Can I build up to an existing party wall that hasn't been built against?
Yes, a neighbour can make use of a party wall. If the wall has not been built against, then the person doing the building work may have to pay a compensation sum to next door for using the wall. This is to reflect the cost-saving made by using the wall that was constructed at the expense of next door. The Party Wall Surveyors will usually calculate and agree on the figure, and this will be included in the Party Wall Award or Party Wall Agreement.
Can I stop my neighbours work because I don't like it?
The Party Wall etc. Act grants your neighbour various rights. If your neighbour is building within those rights, you cannot use the Act to stop your neighbour’s building works. If you don’t like the size or design, then you will usually have an opportunity to object when a planning application is submitted.