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  • Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement?

    10th October 2018

    Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement?

    We’ll start with the basics as we always do and build up the detail. Let’s start with what a party wall or party structure is, what types of work are and are not covered then look at when you need a party wall agreement or party wall award.

    What is a party wall?

    What is the Party Wall Act 1996?

    What typical works are covered by the party wall act?

    When do I need to provide notice and how should I provide notice?

    Reaching an agreement with your neighbours after serving notice

    Disagreeing with a Party Wall Award

    Starting Works and Paying for Works

    Common Party Wall Mistakes

    Party Wall Act Timelines

     

    What is a party wall?

    The most common party wall is a wall that is shared between two properties dividing the homes of the two separate owners / occupiers. For example this is the wall between two terraced houses or between the two houses in a semi-detached property. It also includes floors and ceilings between flats in a block (known as party structures).

    diagram of party wall, boundary lines, party wall structures, garden wall, flats, semi-detached houses
    Source: McCarthy Partnership Ltd

     

    What is the Party Wall Act 1996?

    The Party Wall Act of 1996 means your have rights and responsibilities as an owner or neighbour to works that affect a jointly owned party wall or structure. The Party Wall Act doesn’t affect planning permission or building regulations approval but is designed to ensure neighbours are correctly notified of any potential works and an agreement is in place as to how and when works are carried out.

     

    What typical works are covered by the party wall act?

    The Party Wall Act generally covers any works affecting the strength and stability of a party wall or party structure as damage could be caused to the neighbour’s home. Typical works are:

    • Cutting floor joists in to a party wall as part of a loft conversion
    • Removing chimney breasts that are attached to a party wall
    • Excavating for the foundations to a new extension within 3m of a neighbouring or shared structure
    • Underpinning a party wall to facilitate a basement extension

     

    What typical works aren’t covered by the Party Wall Act 1996?

    You don’t need to tell your neighbour about minor changes:

    • Re-plastering
    • Adding or replacing electrical wiring or sockets
    • Drilling to put up shelves or cabinets

     

    When do I need to provide notice and how should I provide notice?

    If you’ve established the works you are doing are covered by the Party Wall Act, you must give your neighbour between two months (for party wall and one month for excavations) and a year before you plan to start any building works and you must include what you plan on doing. Serving a notice can be done for free and you can find template notice forms on the government website. You can alternatively ask a party wall surveyor to produce one for you typically for a flat fee. A letter of acknowledgement is usually provided for the neighbour to complete. You do not need planning permission to serve a Party Wall notice.

    There are three types of notice you can provide.

    Party Structure Notice – used if you are cutting into, removing, exposing or repairing a party structure or party fence wall. Examples are cutting into a party wall to insert beads for a loft conversion.


    Notice of Adjacent Excavation
    – if you are going to be excavating the ground within 3 or 6 meters of a neighbouring structure you may need to serve this notice.

    3m notice: if you are excavating within 3 meters of a neighbouring structure and your plan your foundations will be lower than the existing foundations. If you cannot confirm the depth of the neighbours foundations caution should be exercised and notice given. Notice is required for trail holes as well as substructure works.

    6m notice: if you are excavating within 6 meters of a neighbouring structure, if any part of the excavation intersects with a plane drawn downwards at an angle of 45 degrees from the bottom of their foundations then a 6m notice should be given.

    6m party wall notice diagram
    6m Notice – Source: mypropertyguide.co.uk

     


    Line of Junction Notice
    – if you are intending to build to the line of junction (the line dividing your land and your neighbours land) either solely in your land or astride the boundary line, a line of junction notice should be served where the line of junction is not currently built upon. A common example: building a new extension where the face of the external walls will either represent or be astride of the boundary line.

    We recommend that you meet and speak with your neighbour ahead of sending a notice so they understand what you are looking to do and are not just surprised when a letter lands on their doorstep.

     

    Reaching an agreement with your neighbours after serving notice

    Once you have given notice your neighbour has a few options:

    1. Give consent in writing (called Assent) – this must be within 14 days
    2. Refuse consent – either in writing or by not consenting within 14 days. This starts the dispute resolution process (below).
    3. Service a counter notice requesting additional works to be done at the same time (although they will have to pay for these if they also benefit from these works). This must be served within 1 month of your notice.

    Your neighbours cannot stop you from making changes to your property that are within the law, but they can affect how and when your works are carried out.

    Gaining Assent (Consent)

    The most ideal outcome is that the neighbour responds in writing within 14 days of your notice giving consent to the works providing the homeowner will put right any problems. In more straightforward scenarios there is no need to appoint a party wall surveyor or have a Party Wall Award (see further on in the article)

    The homeowner should take dated pictures of the party wall and ideally have agreed written notes of any cracks or damage with copies provided to each party. Alternatively, a surveyor could be appointed to assess the shared wall and prepare a schedule of condition outlining the condition of both properties to minimise the risk of disputes following any works. This should be done shortly before works start so as to be as accurate as possible.

    You can’t agree (Dissent) – a Party Wall Award is required

    You will need to appoint a surveyor where you cannot come to an agreement within the 14 day period with your neighbour. You can each appoint your own surveyor or save costs by appointing one surveyor. The surveyor has to act impartially therefore can act for both parties. You could wait to see who the neighbour wants to appoint and then ask them to act for you too rather than appointing your own and your neighbour refusing to use them – beneficial as you will have to pay for your neighbours surveyor. You can appoint a surveyor if you neighbour refuses. This usually happens within 10 days. Once a Party Wall Surveyor has been appointed that appointment cannot be rescinded unless the surveyor in question declares himself incapable of acting or dies.

    A surveyor is considered any person who is not party to the works – a property owner cannot act for themselves but anyone else is permitted to take on the role, although, they should have experience in construction and have knowledge of procedures under the Act.

    Where two surveyors work together they will agree on a Party Wall Award.  This is a legal document which states:

    1. What work should happen
    2. How and when it will be carried out (working hours, control of dusk and excessive noise, measures to limit vibration, access to the neighbour’s land or property and security are examples)
    3. Who will pay for which parts and how much will be paid (inclusive of surveyors fees)
    4. Schedule of condition including pictures of the neighbour’s home

    A surveyor’s rate is usually between £150 – £200 per hour with the party wall award and costs around £1,000.

     

    Disagreeing with a Party Wall Award

    You have 14 days to appeal against an award at a county court. You will need to file an appellant’s notice outlining why you are appealing the party wall award.

     

    Starting Works and Paying for Works

    When carrying out building works you must avoid causing unnecessary inconvenience and protect your neighbour’s property from damage. Where any damage is caused you will need to fix or pay for it.

    You will need to pay for any building works and surveyor costs. You may be able to ask your neighbour to meet a share of the cost if the works are being done due to defects or a lack of repair or if the works are being carried out will benefit them. This will all be outlined in the Party Wall Award.

    Your neighbour must allow surveyors and workmen access to their property during usual working hours to carry out the building works. However, they must be given 14 days’ notice except in an emergency.

     

    Common Party Wall Mistakes

    a. not providing adequate notice to your neighbour(s)

    b. not informing all the affected neighbours. This includes the freeholder (if you are a leaseholder) and anyone with a leasehold longer than a year. If you live in a terraced house, neighbours on both sides may be affected depending on the works.  A homeowner living next to flats, may need to serve notice on a number of different people.

    c. failing to clearly describe the proposed work precisely enough or not including sufficient information. E.g. Notices about excavations need to include full structural details

    d. not using the standard notice, or using the wrong form of notice. The form of notice for excavating foundations is different from a party wall (see above)

    One building project may need more than one type of notice served on each affected neighbour.

     

    Party Wall Act Timelines

    Day 1: serving of the relevant notice(s) to all of the legal owners affected by the Party Wall Act stating when works will start and what the proposed works are (minimum 2 months notice).

    Day 15 (Day 1 + 14 days): Your neighbour(s) must have agreed in writing to your notice (assent). If they disagree (dissent) or fail to reply (have been deemed to have dissented) you should inform them in writing that they need to appoint a surveyor within 10 days or you will appoint a surveyor on their behalf.

    Day 26 (Day 15 + 10 days): If your neighbour(s) has not appointed a surveyor you can now appoint one on their behalf (but must not be the same surveyor you are using). As you pay for all fees it is in your interest to get your neighbour to agree.

    Day 27: the surveyor(s) take control and make a schedule of condition (assess and make notes of any issues with the neighbour(s) properties and provide a party wall award.

    Day 1 + 2 months: works can begin if you have a party wall award in place agreed by all surveyors (if more than one was used)

    Day 1 + 12 months: the works must have started by now or the party wall award will expire and you will need to restart the process