PARTY WALL EXPLAINED

Purpose of the Act

The purpose of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is to enable works to proceed and progress properly and is certainly not meant to hinder or cause a stumbling block in any way.

If the Act is properly used it should take away the need to resolve matters through the courts if something goes wrong.

Before the introduction of the Act the only redress for action was at Common Law, which  is still applicable if the Act is not invoked.
 
The solution that the Act provides is to enable works to be undertaken easily for the Building Owner and with little inconvenience for the Adjoining Owner.

Its works by each building owner appointing their own surveyor or by both building owners appointing one surveyor called the Agreed Surveyor to act impartially to resolve any dispute between the Owners.

How Does the Party Wall Act Work?

The Act is simply invoked by the service of a Notice.

The purpose of the Notice is for the Building Owner to notify the Adjoining Owner of their intention to undertake those works that are covered by the Act.

There are three sections that Notices are served under, namely Sections 1, 2 and 6. 

Section 1 deals with works that are built on or astride the line of junction, where there is no existing structure built either side of the line of junction and requires a notice period of one month.
 
Section 2 deals with works that affect the party structure between different owners. The section lists 13 sub-sections covering various types of works that affect a party wall or in some cases a party floor and requires a notice period of two months.


Section 6 deals with works associated with excavation within certain distances of the adjoining structure in which those excavations will go deeper than the foundations of the adjoining structures and requires a notice period of one month. ​

WORKS THAT TRIGGER THE ACT
  • cutting into a wall to take the bearing of a beam, for example for a loft conversion

  • inserting a damp proof course, even if only to your own side of a party wall

  • raising a party wall and, if necessary, cutting off any objects preventing this from happening

  • demolishing and rebuilding a party wall

  • underpinning a party wall or part of a party wall

  • weathering the junction of adjoining walls or buildings by cutting a flashing into an adjoining building

  • excavating foundations within three metres of a neighbour’s structure and lower than its foundations

  • excavating foundations within six metres of a neighbour’s structure and below a line drawn down at 45° from the bottom of its foundations.

  • building a new wall on the line of junction (boundary) between two properties.

WHAT IS A PARTY WALL NOTICE?

The Act says that it is the responsibility of the Building Owner to serve these Notices.
 
It is important that the details contained in the Notice is correct otherwise it could be deemed to be invalid and therefore it is quite usual that a Party Wall Surveyor will be requested to serve such Notices on behalf of the Building Owner.

WHAT IS A PARTY WALL SURVEYOR?

The appointment of a Party Wall Surveyor is a Statutory Appointment which means he is not employed and does not have any contract with the Owner.

It is a personal appointment, i.e. the Owner  is appointing a person and not the company he may work for.

The Act gives the right for anyone to be a Party Wall Surveyor providing that they are not a party to the matter.  This means that the Party Wall Surveyor does not need to have any formal qualifications or be a member of any professional body. They do not need to be a chartered surveyor, architect or structural engineer for instance.
 
However anyone undertaking party wall work is required to have a sound knowledge of construction as they would likely fail in their duty when attempting to deal with the matter. They need to be able to read and assess the drawings presented and possibly to comment on them.
 
They need insurance for their work in the manner of Professional Indemnity (it is highly unlikely that a ‘lay’ person would have such protection). 
 
The main duty of the Party Wall Surveyor is to resolve any disputes between the Owners, not to be an advocate for their Appointing Owner. They are not there to receive instructions or to hinder the work in any way.
 
Where a dispute arises the surveyors are appointed to resolve the dispute and to draw up a document of agreement called an Award and to serve it on both parties.  This Award will detail the work that is to be undertaken, when and how it should be done and usually records the condition of the Adjoining Owners property before the work begins.

What is a Party Wall Award

An Award is a legal document and is prepared with great care.

It will set out clearly the details of the proposed works and how these will be undertaken.
  
The Award may also address  other matters such as access to undertake the works and who should pay for the works and the surveyor’s costs.
 
As an Award is a legal document either Owner can appeal it if they disagree with its content. They have 14 days in which to do this from the date that it was served upon them.