Party Wall Agreements
A party wall agreement is there to stop boundary and wall disputes between owners of neighbouring properties. The section of property covered by the act is, not surprisingly, a party wall; it can be a shared internal wall or a garden wall, or even a floor in a block of flats. In short, the Party Wall Act 1996 means that your neighbour cannot bang and thud away against a structure that divides both your properties without consulting you.
A party wall is the internal wall between two adjoining houses, right?
Yes, if you’re talking about terraced houses, where there are two party walls. However, if your house is semi-detached, then the Party Wall Act also covers the boundary line between your land and that of the neighbour with whom you don’t share an internal wall.
Party wall notice, or agreement: what’s the difference?
In order to secure a party wall agreement, a party wall notice should be served.
The property owner whose building project affects a party wall (covered in the Party Wall Act) should give all adjoining owners a written party wall notice. Adjoining owners can be the freehold or leasehold owners, as well as long-term tenants.
Usually, you should issue the notice two months before you intend to start work; the notice period differs for excavation work. This first step, if acceptable to the adjoining neighbours, is the cheapest option to securing an agreement: a party wall agreement.
What to include in a party wall notice
A party wall notice is a letter that you can write yourself or download a template for. You can post the notice to adjoining owners, or hand it to them personally. A very basic notice must include details such as your name and address, what the proposed work is, how it will be carried out, and a start date.
There are three types of notices covered by the Party Wall Act. Be sure to include the correct information in your notice whether it is a party structure notice, a notice of adjacent excavation, or a line of junction notice.
- Party structure notice: alterations for work on the party wall itself, such as beam insertion and the removal of chimney breasts.
- Notice of adjacent excavation: if work is within 3 to 6 metres of an adjoining owner’s building.
- Line of junction notice: where a new wall is to be built adjacent to a boundary line, or astride the boundary.
From the date you issue notice of the proposed project, you have 12 months to start the work. (Notice is not needed if you are drilling for new shelves or minor electrical work, but it’s common courtesy to let your neighbours know …)
Obtaining a party wall agreement through a party wall award
Once you have issued a party wall notice, your adjoining neighbour has 14 days in which to respond. They can either accept or reject the notice in writing. If they don’t respond, this means your proposed project is now ‘in dispute’. Therefore, you will need to pay for a surveyor to resolve the issue and secure a party wall agreement through a party wall award.
A party wall award is a legal document drafted by a surveyor. It establishes the rights and responsibilities of both the owner wishing to carry out building work (on a party wall or party structure) and those of any affected adjoining owners. The award clarifies how and when the work is to proceed with relevant drawings and plans. The award also comprises a ‘schedule of condition’ which describes the condition of the adjoining owner’s property so that any damage caused during the build can be assessed fairly.