A guide to The Party Wall Act

  • Do you own a building? Yes
  • Do you know what the Party Wall Act is? No

If you or your neighbours plan to undertake future building works (including repairs), please proceed with extreme caution!

Have you ever woken from a nightmare to the realisation that it wasn’t just a dream?

Our client owns a building, which he rents out and does not occupy.  Unbeknownst to him, our client’s neighbour planned to carry out significant structural work to his own property; which directly affected their Party Wall (the shared wall that forms the boundary between the two properties).

The neighbour either did not know about or chose to ignore the provisions of the Party Wall Act 1996 (“the Act”) and simply proceeded with his building works without any reference whatsoever to our client.  Unfortunately, for both parties, the neighbour’s builder wore a Stetson and spurs and quickly rode off into the sunset; but not before the partially completed works had caused a catastrophic failure of the building, leading to the entire front elevation being taken down (pursuant to a section 78 (Building Act 1984) notice issued by the local council).

Our client (and his tenant) now face many months of inconvenience and a repair bill in excess of £60,000; together with significant additional costs; recovery of which will be sought from his neighbour.  It is pretty easy to appreciate; therefore, that both the building owner and our client now find themselves in a situation they would desperately have liked to avoid.

The Act provides for notice periods (between the building owner carrying out the work and any affected adjoining owners) depending upon the nature of the proposed works; one month for adjacent excavations or new walls built at the Line of Junction and two months for works that directly affect a party structure.

The building owner must serve notice on all affected adjoining owners in regard to any work falling within the scope of the Act. These notices give the adjoining owner(s) details of the proposed works and an opportunity to analysis and deal with any issues affecting the adjoining property and to put any necessary safeguards in place.

The adjoining owner(s) either consent or dissent (thereby putting the owners in dispute under the Act) to the proposed works.  All of the owners then appoint a party wall surveyor each or agree to appoint the same surveyor.  The appointed surveyor(s) then produce a party wall award which deals with the issues and resolves the dispute; following which (provided both owners are in receipt of the award) the building owner is free to commence the works (in accordance with the provisions of the award).

If the building owner fails to serve the requisite notice under the Act, the affected party can apply to the court for an injunction to stop the work proceeding and to enable the Act to be invoked; which will usually become the liability of the building owner (although all of the legal costs will initially have to be met by the adjoining owner).

If you are planning to carry out building works that you believe might affect a party wall or you become aware that your neighbour is planning to do so, it is imperative that you take following action:-

As a building owner planning to carry out works:

  1. Speak to a specialist solicitor and / or appoint a party wall surveyor before any work is carried out;
  1. Ensure that all requisite notices (as required by the Act) are served on all affected adjoining owners before any work is carried out;
  1. Where necessary, make sure that a compliant party wall award is produced and served on all affected adjoining owners before any work is carried out;
  1. Where works are agreed with adjoining owners, make sure that your builder is aware of them and follows the agreement precisely;
  1. Where a party wall award is produced and served, make sure that your builder is aware of it and follows it precisely;

 

As a potentially affected adjoining owner who becomes aware that your neighbour plans to carry out building works:

  1. Immediately speak to your neighbour and refer him to the Act before any work is carried out;
  1. If your neighbour indicates he intends to proceed without complying with the Act, appoint a specialist solicitor and party wall surveyor before any work is carried out;

 

As a potentially affected adjoining owner whose neighbour begins to carry out building works before you become aware of them:

  1. Immediately speak to your neighbour and ask him to stop working until the Act has been considered and, where applicable, adhered to;
  1. Appoint a specialist solicitor and a party wall surveyor;
  1. If your neighbour refuses to stop working, you may need to obtain a court injunction to force him to do so.

As an adjoining owner you remain liable to deal with any issues arising from the condition of your own building, even if it has suffered damage solely due to works carried out by your neighbour.  This can include responsibility for any injuries caused to third parties, as well as financial liabilities for repairs and damage.

The golden rule for both building owners and adjoining owners is whatever else you decide to do, NEVER, EVER, IGNORE THE PARTY WALL ACT.

 

If you would like to receive a quotation or require further information then please do not hesitate to call our friendly team on 01785 223440.