Our home should be our haven, and harmonious relationships with our neighbours are, for many of us, an important part of feeling comfortable when we’re relaxing at home.
If you are planning building works that will impact a wall shared with a neighbour – a Party Wall – you will want to make sure that you manage the process correctly and considerately.
In this article, Westville Associates, the experienced and forward-thinking Surrey-based surveyors, explains all you need to know about Party Walls.
We are experts in this area and can steer you confidently through the process.
A Party Wall is the wall that separates the land or the buildings of two or more owners. It can be astride a boundary, which is known as a Type A Party Wall, or it can be built wholly on the land of one of the owners, which is known as a Type B Party Wall.
The most obvious example of a Party Wall is the central wall dividing two semi-detached houses. The two neighbours, either side of that central wall, both have equal rights that they can exercise over that shared wall.
As long as they have planning consent, either neighbour may also have the right to build a new Party Wall to accommodate an extension to their property.
On 1st July 1997, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 came into effect in England and Wales. This Act is intended to facilitate development on properties whilst protecting the rights of the Adjoining Owners and occupiers.
It puts the obligation on the owner wishing to undertake the work to notify their neighbours, in writing, about what they are proposing. In fact, they’re not only required to notify their neighbours of their plans, but to ask their permission. Their neighbour can choose to consent or to challenge the proposed development.
If necessary, the Act then provides statutory procedures for appointing surveyors who then resolve matters through what is known as an ‘Award’.
There is an extensive list of works notifiable under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, but the most common and straightforward cases that come up are the following three development initiatives:
A Party Wall Notice is the official document sent by the property owner wishing to undertake building works to their neighbour, the ‘Adjoining Owner’, informing them of their proposal. This Notice must include certain details and be correctly administered.
A homeowner has to give two months’ written notice on building works which affect a Party Wall or boundary, and one month’s notice for excavations. Planning permission is not needed in order to serve a Party Wall Notice and, once notice has been served, the homeowner has up to a year to start the building work.
Our expert team at Westville Associates can draw up and serve these notices on your behalf, or advise you on how best to do it yourself if you prefer.
It is helpful if you have the opportunity to discuss your plans with your neighbour before you send them the Party Wall Notice, so that there are no surprises. It could also improve your chances of them agreeing to your plans.
If your neighbour consents to your plans, then you are free to go ahead with your building works.
We strongly recommend that, before you start the building work, you arrange for a surveyor to inspect the Adjoining Owner’s property and record its condition, including clear photographs. Known as a ‘Schedule of Condition’, this document could prove to be invaluable evidence and head off a potential dispute if your neighbour brings any claims of damage during or after the building work.
For example, if you are proposing a small ground floor extension, a surveyor will inspect the neighbouring property and take photographs of its current condition and any existing damage or defects. A report, including the photographs, is compiled and given to both neighbours as a useful reference document to be used as a comparison against its future condition.
If your neighbour claims that damage has been caused by the building works, it would be impossible to prove it one way or another without a Schedule of Condition being completed before the works started. It will clearly show who is at fault, and any new damage can be put right by the builders.
Your neighbour has the right to dissent to the works you are proposing in your Party Wall Notice. If this happens, you are then deemed to be ‘in dispute’ under the Act. This dispute then needs to be resolved, either by an ‘Agreed Surveyor’ – a surveyor who, as the name suggests, has been agreed on by both the homeowner and the Adjoining Owner or, alternatively, by two separate surveyors, who will put in place a Party Wall Award.
A Party Wall Award is the official term for the agreement drawn up between the Agreed Surveyor, or the two Party Wall surveyors, which resolves the dispute triggered by the Party Wall Notice not being consented to. It usually consists of three parts:
It will also clearly state the details of the two properties, their owners and their owners’ addresses, as well as full details of the surveyor/s involved.
In most circumstances, the party undertaking and ultimately benefiting from the building works will be responsible for paying all the costs incurred during the Party Wall process – including surveyors’ fees for both the homeowner and the Adjoining Owner.
There is no formal sign-off procedure for Party Wall works within the Act, but we do recommend that you, as the party responsible for the works, check that your neighbour, the Adjoining Owner, is happy when the work is completed.
Comparing the current condition of the area against the Schedule of Condition that was carried out before the works started is a good way to do this.
We are accredited members of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors. This means that we have been screened and interviewed to prove our expertise in Party Wall matters and the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, to meet the exacting standards required for membership of the Faculty.
As accredited experts in Party Walls, we are pleased to offer you a free, no obligation, 15-minute consultation to discuss any queries you may have about Party Walls, and to talk you through the process.
We are, of course, also happy to talk with you about any survey-related property matters that you are dealing with.
Email us at email@example.com or give us a call on 01932 864375 and one of our helpful, friendly and experienced surveyors will be delighted to help you.