Trying to find the Party Wall Act put into layman’s terms online is quite like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Google turns up a few results, but they’re not exactly what you’re looking for. A downloadable explanatory booklet released by the government is among the results, however, you may not have time to read it. So without further ado, here are the main points of the Act.
Although it’s officially entitled as the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, it wasn’t enforceable until 1 July 1997. It doesn’t apply to all of the United Kingdom, only England and Wales.
Essentially the Act is a rulebook with the goal of avoiding disputes between property owners related to any work performed on or near party walls, party structures, and boundary walls. The golden rule is any Building Owner(s) planning work on or near a party wall (as described in the Act) must give the Adjoining Owner(s) notice in advance.
Definition of Party Wall
The Act defines two types of party walls.
Type A is a party wall which sits on the boundary line of land owned by two or more different owners. The wall could separate two or more buildings, be part of one building (think shopping centres), or be a “party wall fence” which isn’t a hedge or wooden fence.
Type B is a party wall which completely sits on one owner’s land but is utilised by a different owner. The wall separates the properties, and the other owner has built their property against it. Type B also consists of party structures such as walls or floor partitions separating differently owned property (think flats or apartments).
The owner(s) intending to have work done to the party wall is considered the Building Owner. They are the party in charge of having a notice delivered to the neighbouring owner(s), or Adjoining Owner.
A surveyor, or Party Wall Surveyor, is tasked with assisting owners in preventing and resolving disputes. Any person not involved or partial to the situation can be appointed as the surveyor. Both owners can use the services of the same surveyor (Agreed Surveyor), or they can hire separate surveyors.
Sections of the Act Explained
Section 1 pertains to work involving the construction of a new building on the boundary line between properties such as building a new structure on a previously empty lot.
Section 2 pertains to proposed work on an existing party wall, such as rebuilding a defective wall or modifying it. Working on electrical outlets, putting up shelving, or replastering doesn’t require a notice to the Adjoining Owner. Only work which potentially compromises the structural integrity of the party wall should be given notice.
Section 6 pertains to excavation work within 3 or 6 metres of a party wall such as laying new foundation or adding a basement to an existing structure.
One or all of these sections may apply to you. Determining whether or not you need to give notice to your neighbour might be difficult so it’s best to seek the assistance of a professional surveyor.