In 1997 the Government introduced party wall legislation across the whole of England & Wales in the form of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
Does the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 affect me?
DO YOU INTEND TO CARRY OUT WORK WHICH INVOLVES:-
- Work on an existing wall, ceiling or floor structure shared with another property?
- Building on or at the boundary with another property?
- Excavating near a neighbouring building or structure?
If so you must find out whether the work falls within the scope of the Party Wall Act. If it does you must serve the statutory Notice on all those defined in the Act as ‘Adjoining Owners’. This is an act of Law and, where necessary, must be followed – know as the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
Determining if a particular building project is within the scope of the Party Wall Act is often more complex than simply checking the general criteria stated above. Failure to correctly identify the status of your project could result in the building works being unlawful. If you are in any doubt you should always seek professional advice. Not every project necessarily falls within the Party Wall Act, again this must be assessed to fully understand your Legal obligations.
In its overall drive, the Party Wall Act is designed to assist Building Owners to develop/alter/extend their buildings by giving them certain rights. Its provisions are not intended to restrict and hinder them.
In return for these rights, before implementing them, the Building Owner must communicate formally their intentions to their neighbours (the Adjoining Owner). This formal communication is achieved via a system of Notices served on those holding legal interests in the neighbouring properties.
The Procedures under the Act?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 states that it is the responsibility of the Building Owner to serve the necessary Notices on those with an interest in the relevant walls, structures or land before carrying out any works.
Notices will be invalid if they are served on the wrong person or by the wrong person. Correct service is very important if the Building Owner wishes to claim rights under the Party Wall Act. Without claiming correctly such rights, a risk of trespass will arise if work is then executed. Your neighbour could then seek an injunction to halt the work until proper Notices and procedures have been followed.
The Types of Notices
If the Building Owner wishes to build a wall immediately alongside the line of junction of the neighbour’s property, then at least one month before doing so a notice must be served on the neighbour. The notice must describe the intended wall and is usually done by attaching drawings.
Generally speaking these are alterations to the party wall itself and include common jobs such as cutting holes to insert beams and padstones, cutting in flashings and removing chimney breasts.
The notice should indicate whether or not the Building Owner proposes to underpin, or otherwise strengthen or safeguard the foundations of your building or structure. The notice must be accompanied by plans and sections showing the site and depth of the proposed excavation and also the site of any building that the Building Owner proposes to erect. If you contest the need for underpinning then a dispute arises.
A Section 6 Notice should be served if:-
- Excavating within 3 metres of your neighbour’s building and to a depth lower than the bottom of their foundations.
- Excavating within 6 metres of your neighbour’s building, if any part of that excavation intersects with a plane drawn downwards at an angle of 45 degrees from the bottom of their foundations, taken at a line level with the face of their external wall (this will normally mean that you neighbour is using piled foundations)
Schedules of Condition and Party Wall Awards
Following appropriate notification, the project will lawfully be allowed to start. Nevertheless, a Party Wall Award might need to be prepared at the same time. Such a process primarily involves a schedule of condition being prepared to neighbouring areas being affected by the works.
Essentially, this condition survey will benefit both the neighbour as well as the person undertaking the works – the condition will be officially recorded by an independent qualified person. As a consequence, the neighbour cannot claim for defects that were already there. In addition, it forms a good mechanism to avoiding disputes (which unfortunately can easily happen, even with the friendliest of neighbours!). You will likely be responsible for any existing defects should the Party Wall process not have been correctly followed.
PA Surveyors provides assistance in dealing with the Party Wall Act. Our Party Wall team will work with you and your neighbours throughout the entire process. We will manage the requirements of Notices, Schedules of Condition and Party Wall Awards.
You should note that the primary purpose of the Party Wall Act is to facilitate development. It aims to successfully allow building projects to be implemented close to neighbouring properties. PA Surveyors always aim to create good neighbourly relations, with any disputes being effectively resolved.
Our RICS Chartered Surveyors operate throughout East & West Sussex; to include Brighton, Hove, Portslade & Shoreham, as well as Crawley, Haywards Heath, Eastbourne and beyond. Our Award Winning Surveyors are here to help!
Contact PA Surveyors for free advice on Party Wall involvement – whether a Party Wall Award is needed, or Party Wall Notices or even to just assess whether your project falls within the Party Wall Act. We are happy to help.