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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

In and around London, our high-density residential housing means that party wall issues are common. But, there are set measures in place to enable both building home owners and adjoining home owners to fully enjoy their property without undue disruption.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding party walls and procedures under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, as well as guidance for the issues we most often help our clients with. If your particular problem isn’t covered below, feel free to contact us on 0203 239 8666 for specific advice on any party wall related matter.

What is a Party Wall?

A Party Wall (which can also be referred to as a party structure) is a structure that straddles the boundary between two properties. This can be both vertical as in a typical semi-detached property or horizontal as in the floor of a first floor flat. It can also be a wall which stands solely on the land of one person but is used to separate the adjoining property.

What is the Party Wall etc Act 1996?

Since the Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force, building owners in England and Wales have a legal procedure to follow when building work involves a party wall, party fence wall, excavations or building on the line of junction.

What doesn’t the Act cover?

The Act does not cover every day minor jobs such as fixing plugs, screwing in wall units or shelving, adding or replacing recessed electrical wiring or sockets or replacing internal wall plaster. It also doesn't cover timber fencing between properties.

If I start work without serving notice, what are the implications?

The immediate implications are that the adjoining owner could apply for an interim injunction at court to stop you proceeding with notifiable works. You would have to comply with the injunction and stop work. Failing to comply with an injunction could result in a fine or even committal to prison.

Is an 'agreed surveyor' impartial?

Yes. A surveyor’s appointment is a statutory appointment under the Act. Surveyors are appointed to administer the provisions of the Act, and the owners are ‘appointing owners’ under the Act and not the surveyor’s clients. Surveyors must administer the Act in an impartial way.

What happens if I do not serve a notice as required under the Act?

The Act carries no fines or penalties but it is possible that the adjoining owner may apply to the court to have an injunction served in order that you will stop work.

What happens if the adjoining owner does not reply to the notice within 14 days?

Under section 1 of the Act, where you wish to build a new wall on the line of junction, you will have the right only to build on your own land.
In respect of a notice served under sections 2 and 6 of the Act, if there is no reply to the notice after 14 days then a dispute is deemed to have arisen and you and your neighbour must appoint a surveyor. If your neighbour still fails to respond, then after giving a further ten days to reply, you may appoint a surveyor on his behalf.

What do the surveyors do?

The surveyors prepare the award, which is a legal document between the two owners. The surveyors normally meet at the property and prepare a schedule of condition (although not a requirement of the Act). The schedule of condition assists all parties as any damage that may be caused can be checked against it and compensation awarded if required.

Who pays the surveyors' fees?

Under normal circumstances the building owner would pay the fees, (known as costs) as he is the one undertaking the works, usually for his benefit. However, the surveyors will make the final determination.

What if I do not agree with the contents of the Award?

Both the building owner and the adjoining owner can appeal the award in the County Court within 14 days of being served the award. You should probably, of course, speak with your appointed surveyor on the matter before doing so, as he is likely to be able to answer your query.

What is a Schedule of Condition and why is it recommended?

A Schedule of Condition (which is not mentioned in the Party Wall etc. Act) is a report recording the current condition of a property. The Schedule of Condition will often include a photographs record. We will encourage the building owners to have a Schedule of Condition of the adjoining owner's property undertaken prior to the commencement of works in order to ensure that the condition of the property is agreed. This will thereby safeguard the interests of both parties.

Can I have access to my neighbour’s property to carry out work?

The Party Wall Act permits access to an Adjoining Owners property during working hours. The access is granted only for the purpose of the notifiable work.

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