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The Party Wall etc. Act 1996

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The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 process explained

Party Wall etc. Act 1996

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is legislation created to allow homeowners to carry out works to their property that may affect the structure or the support for that structure that they share with an adjoining neighbour (Party Structure) via serving notice and obtaining a consent to the notice served before building works may commence. By serving a Party Wall Notice on adjoining neighbour (s) it not only complies with the correct lawful obligation of the homeowner proposing works but also fulfils the requirements of the Act by given an adjoining owner the opportunity to consent in writing to the works being proposed or dissent, where they dissent the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 then becomes a dispute resolution mechanism to resolve the dispute.

Commonly the homeowner proposing the works to their property is defined as a Building Owner and the neighbours adjoining where those proposals are being made known as the Adjoining Owner.

Proposals which are notifiable under Party Wall etc. Act 1996 are:
 

  • To demolish and/or rebuild a party fence wall at a new party wall.

  • To raise the height or increase the thickness of a party wall.

  • Cut into the party wall for the purpose of insertion of a damp proof course

  • Making incisions into the party wall for spreader plates/pad stones to support steel beams.

  • Underpinning a party wall.

  • Excavations within 3 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.

  • Excavations within 6 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below a line drawn 45° downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.

  • The building on the line of junction a wall wholly on the land of the building owner or with the adjoining owners consent a new wall sitting astride the line of junction.

  • To cut into the wall of the adjoining owner for the insertion of necessary flashing or weathering detail.

  • Cut back any overhanging projection into the land of the building owner.

  • To cut away chimney breasts from the party wall.

When any of the above common works (non- exhaustive) that fall within the jurisdiction of the Act and subsequently notice is served upon the affected adjoining owner (s) and a consent is not received consenting to the building owner's proposals set out in that notice within 14 days both the building owner and the adjoining owner will be in dispute’ under the Act and party wall surveyors must then be appointed so that the dispute can be resolved by way of a Party Wall Award often referred to as a Party Wall Agreement. 

Once both the building owner and the adjoining owner have jointly appointed an agreed party wall surveyor or alternatively if two party wall surveyors are appointed on behalf of the building owner and the adjoining owner respectively then both party wall surveyors will join to implement the legislation of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and resolve the dispute via a Party Wall Award.

 

One of the first steps will then be for the two party wall surveyors to select a Third Surveyor who may be brought into the process via a referral to offer guidance or if needs be a determination on the point or points the two party wall surveyors cannot agree upon. Referrals to the Third Surveyor are rarely necessary and a Third Surveyor is not selected in the instance that there is a singerly appointed agreed surveyor only. 

It is also required for the two surveyors or the singerly appointed agreed surveyor to have been appointed in writing to act as the surveyor (s) pursuant to section 10(1) of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

A party wall award is a legally binding contract that sets out the rights and responsibilities of both owners in relation to the notifiable works being proposed, other important details included in the award include who the parties to the dispute are,  details of the proposed notifiable works and what safeguards and supports have been agreed to ensure that those works are undertaken with the minimum of risk to the adjoining owner and without causing unnecessary inconvenience to that same adjoining owner. 

Some of the clauses included within a party wall award will cover:

  • Working hours which are usually dictated to by local building control.

  • The control of dust and debris during the works.

  • Protective measures and supports

  • Access to the adjoining owner’s land or the building owners land.

  • Security during the course of the works.

  • Making good damage to the adjoining owners property.

  • Due Diligence 

Prior to the party wall award being agreed the party wall surveyor or party wall surveyors will attend the adjoining owners property to carry out a schedule of condition survey of the areas considered to be adjacent the notifiable works and at risk of being affected by those works, This should be undertaken by a fully qualified Party Wall Surveyor (s) which will include a written report with supporting photographs that is a record of the properties condition prior to the works commencing and can be referred to if accidental damage is caused by the works. It is also a reference document to help avoid disputes or potential false claims for dilapidation thus protecting both owners.

Once the schedule of condition survey is complete and copies of all relevant drawings and method statements are in order then the party wall surveyors will agree the terms and wording of the party wall award, sign off and serve the final agreed party wall award package, this will include a copy of the party wall award, schedule of condition write up and all associated drawings and method statements. 

 

Usually the building owner being the party carrying out the works and who serves notice thus initiating the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 will be responsible for the reasonable costs of both their own and the adjoining owner’s surveyor.  Although this is not stated in the Act so the surveyor (s) making the award can award the reasonable costs as he/they determine, there are cases where an adjoining owner may purposely obstruct the process and make many requests to the surveyors (s) in order to incur their time and increase the fee they think is payable by the building owner, in such a situation the party wall surveyors may determine to award part of their fee against the adjoining owner. 

 

If the two party wall surveyors fail to agree upon a reasonable fee they can refer the matter to the Third Surveyor who will usually offer guidance or if needs be a determination to settle any dispute on what is the surveyors reasonable fee. 

The surveyors do not have any jurisdiction over planning or the design aspect of the building owners works nor can they be involved on any potential loss of light or boundary dispute. Rights of lights, the dimensions of the build, height/length etc. will be addressed during the process of application for planning approval. 

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Party Wall Surveyors Party Walls

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