Party Wall

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The 'Party Wall etc. Act 1996' is an enabling piece of legislation, designed to resolve disputes and allow projects to proceed with building works.

Building works which usually fall under the Party Wall Act: building a new wall, rebuilding an existing party wall, excavation/digging for a foundation near a neighbour’s party wall, inserting a steel beam for a loft conversion, chimney breast removal, inserting a damp proof course, etc.

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Schedule of Condition Report

A Schedule of Condition report is a document that records the condition of a building or structure before construction work begins. It is usually carried out to prevent disputes between parties during and after the construction process. The report documents any existing damage or defects, and it can be used as evidence when assessing any new damage that may occur during the construction process.

Party Wall Award

On the other hand, a Party Wall Award is the document that is produced by appointed surveyor/s to resolve a dispute between owners where there has been a dissent to the party wall notice(s). A Party Wall Award is a legal agreement that is made between two or more parties before construction work begins. It is designed to protect the rights of all parties during the construction process and to ensure that any damage or disruption is minimised. The agreement is usually made under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and it sets out the rights and obligations of each party. It will typically include a Schedule of Condition report, which will form part of the agreement, and will be used as evidence of the condition of the property before work begins.

What's the benefit of having a Party Wall Award as opposed to just a Schedule of Condition Report?

Having a Party Wall Award, also known as a Party Wall Agreement, provides several benefits compared to just having a Schedule of Condition report. Here are some advantages of having a Party Wall Award:

Legal Protection: A Party Wall Award is a legally binding document that outlines the rights and obligations of both the building owner and the adjoining owner. It ensures that both parties comply with the requirements of the Party Wall etc. Act and helps prevent disputes or conflicts in the future.

Clear Rights and Responsibilities: The Party Wall Award clearly defines the rights and responsibilities of each party involved in the construction project. It specifies the extent of the notifiable works, access rights, working hours, and other important details. This clarity helps minimize misunderstandings and potential conflicts.

Dispute Resolution Mechanism: The Party Wall Award provides a framework for resolving disputes that may arise during or after the construction process. It outlines the procedure for resolving disagreements, appoints an impartial surveyor or surveyors, and specifies how disputes will be handled, including the process for appeals if necessary.

Protection of Adjoining Owner's Property: The Party Wall Award ensures that the adjoining owner's property is adequately protected during the construction process. It may include provisions for necessary precautionary measures, such as additional supports, monitoring of potential damages, and the rectification of any damages caused by the works.

Financial Compensation: In case damages occur to the adjoining owner's property as a direct result of the notifiable works, the Party Wall Award can specify the provision of financial compensation or the payment of necessary repairs by the building owner.

Preservation of Evidence: While a Schedule of Condition report provides a record of the existing condition of the adjoining owner's property before the works, a Party Wall Award includes the Schedule of Condition report as part of the legal agreement. This preserves the evidence and ensures its admissibility in case disputes arise in the future.

In summary, a Party Wall Award offers legal protection, clearly defines rights and responsibilities, provides a mechanism for dispute resolution, protects the adjoining owner's property, allows for financial compensation, and preserves evidence. These benefits help safeguard the interests of both parties involved in the construction project and minimise the risk of conflicts or disputes.

Works covered by the Act include:

  • Cutting into a wall such as inserting a beam.
  • Inserting a damp proof course all the way through a wall.
  • Raising the entire party wall, including cutting off any parts of the adjoining owner’s building which would otherwise prevent this being carried out.
  • Demolishing and rebuilding the party wall.
  • Underpinning the whole or part of the wall.
  • Building a new wall on the line of junction between two properties.
  • Excavating foundations within three metres of an adjoining structure and to a lower depth than the adjoining structure.
  • Excavating foundations within six metres of an adjoining structure and below a line drawn at 45 degrees from the bottom of its’ foundations.
  • Where it is intended to build a new wall tight up to or astride the boundary line.

Serving Notices

Building works require a written ‘Notice’ to be served by or on behalf of the building owner.

The building owner must either receive written consent from the adjoining owner or settle any dissent or dispute by way of an award.

Surveyor Types

Both owners can agree on appointing one ‘agreed surveyor’ as this will speed up the resolution process and is more cost effective. Alternatively, each owner can appoint their own surveyor to resolve the dispute. Where two surveyors are appointed they must forthwith select a third surveyor.

Section One, Section Three & Section Six

A section one notice deals with new building on the line of junction (boundary line). Party structure notices are served under Section three and deal with works to an existing party wall, fence wall or party structure.

Section six notices deal with adjacent excavations, within three metres or six metres of the adjoining property. The notice is the mechanism by which the workings of the Act are engaged.

Section Ten – Dispute Resolution via an Award

Section ten provides the mechanism by which disputes are resolved. If a dispute has arisen, an award if prepared by a party wall surveyor and sets out the terms under which work can proceed. It is advisable for the adjoining owners surveyor to prepare a ‘Schedule of Condition’ before the works begin.

It is important that any surveyor appointed has a good working knowledge of the Party Wall Act, and a good knowledge of construction detailing and practice.