8 Important Party Wall Questions
Disputes over a party wall can be easily avoided if you know your facts. By nature, they can be a subject prone to confusion, however with the help of our simple party wall guide, you can make sure that you understand the basic rules and regulations surrounding party walls.
Question 1: What is a party wall?
It may seem obvious, but understanding the basic definition of what constitutes a party wall is extremely important. The main types of party walls are as follows:
- A wall that is on the land of two or more owners and forms part of a building.
- A wall that is on the land of one owner but is used by two or more owners to separate their buildings.
- A wall that is on the land of two owners but does not form part of a building, for example, a garden wall.
- A wall or floor partition that separates buildings or parts of buildings that belong to different people, such as flats. (Could be referred to as a party structure.)
Question 2: What does the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 cover?
The Act gives guidance on carrying out building work under the Act and what to do if a neighbour tells you they are going to carry out work that may affect you.
- New building on or at the boundary of two properties.
- Excavations near or below the foundation level of neighbouring buildings.
- Work to an existing party wall or party structure.
- This could include making a party wall taller, shorter, or deeper, cutting into the party wall, or building a new one.
Question 3: When should party wall notices be served?
It’s always better to start this process as early as possible, as with any planning application, delays can be caused by a number of different factors.
For the majority of buildings, notice can be served as soon as the decision is made to build, but its advised to serve the notice at least two months before. This is with the exception of work that includes excavation that is notifiable under the Act, as drawings will need to be provided.
Question 4: If an adjoining owner is served with a notice only a short time before they are due to exchange contracts on the sale of their property, do they have a duty to let the incoming owner aware of the notice, and is the incoming owner bound by the previous owner’s decision?
There is currently no guidance in the Act on how procedures are affected by a change in ownership of a property. Instead, case law is relied upon and the situation is judged by what the courts are likely to consider fair.
Regarding whether the new owner is bound by the previous owner’s decision, it will depend mainly on whether the work has commenced or not.
Question 5: How are disputes between adjoining owners and building owners resolved under the Act?
Adjoining owners can consent to building owner’s proposals or come to an agreement with them in the context of how the work is carried out. If a dispute arises about a new party wall, or there is no written consent to changes of an existing party wall within fourteen days of the notice being served, the Act provides for a surveyor to settle the matter.
Question 6: What kind of adjustments to a party wall don’t require a notice to be served?
There are some adjustments that can be made to a party wall that are considered too minor to that a notice under the Act would be considered as unnecessary. This could include:
- Removing old plaster and plastering.
- Repairing and replacing electrical wiring and sockets.
- Drilling into a wall to fix plugs and screws for shelves and units.
Question 7: What are the rights and duties of a building owner under the Act?
The Act provides a building owner with a number of rights that can be exercised if the owner wishes carry out work to a party wall. These include:
- Repairs made to a party wall.
- To alter the height of a party wall.
- To demolish and rebuild a party wall.
- To insert a damp proof course.
- To cut into a party wall to bear the weight of a beam.
Under the Act, the duty of a building owner is to inform all adjoining owners before work commences.
Question 8: Who counts as an adjoining owner and how are they to be informed?
An adjoining owner is anyone who has adjoining land, buildings or rooms to those of the building owner. The property may have a freehold owner or a leasehold owner, and it is the responsibility of the building owner to inform anyone connected. The best way to inform adjoining owners is to discuss the plans in person before professional notice in writing is served.
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