Party Wall

Party Walls are defined as a wall which forms part of a building and stands on lands of different owners i.e. usually the common wall separating two buildings.

A Party Fence Wall is a wall which straddles a boundary, but is not part of a building. A Party Structure means a Party Wall, but also a floor, partition, or other structure separating buildings or parts of a building approached solely by separate staircases or entrances.

Party wall legislation came about from the damaged caused during the Great Fire of London, where fire spread unchecked from building to building. The London Building Acts were introduced to control the standards and procedures for building, but only within London. The latest version of this, The London Building Acts (Amendment) Act 1939, still controls the building in London, and part of this act deals with the procedures to be adopted for extending or building into party walls. New legislation, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, is virtually an exact copy and extended these procedures to the remainder of the country.

In principal, if you own a building and you want to do works to the Party Wall, or build close to it, you are entitled to do certain things (like build up or build into the party wall, or build foundations within a certain distance/depth), but you are required by law to serve notice on the adjoining owner and follow strict procedures. They then have the right to appoint their own surveyor.

If you are the building owner intending to do works to a Party Wall, you must serve notice ( a Party Structure Notice) on the adjoining owner, at least 2 months before the date on which the proposed work will begin. They then have the right to dissent and appoint their own surveyor, probably at your cost. Costs are borne by the building owner unless they are done to repair the wall, in which case they are shared.

If you are the building owner intending to excavate within 3 metres of an adjoining building AND the excavation or structure extends below the level of their foundations; or you are intending to excavate within 6 metres AND any part of the excavation or structure falls with a plane drawn at 45º; you must serve notice (a 3m/6m Notice) on the adjoining owner, at least 1 month before beginning to excavate. They then have the right to dissent and appoint their own surveyor, probably at your cost.

Excavations within 3m or 6m – A 3m/6m Notice must be served. The two appointed surveyors (or one agreed surveyor) then agree what and how the works will be carried out, formalised in a Party Wall Award.

The work governed by the act (eg foundations) is often critical to completion of the project and failure to comply with the legislation can cause delay and expense. The courts will readily grant an injunction to restrain building work carried out in disregard of the Party Wall procedures.

Note that Section 20 of the act requires that the surveyor must be a person “….not being a party to the matter appointed…..” He should therefore be independent and not an employee or consultant engaged for other duties, such as an architect. If an appointing officer for a local authority were to appoint someone employed by the LA, it would be difficult to show that they were truly impartial, which may breach the rules of natural justice or under the European Convention. We will advise on the law and the implications it has on your proposals. We can serve notices and deal with the other surveyors involved.

Since the Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force, homeowners in England and Wales have had a procedure to follow when building work involves a party wall or party fence wall.

The Act is designed to minimise disputes by making sure property owners use a surveyor to determine the time and way in which work is carried out. You can use an ‘agreed surveyor’ to act for both property owners should problems arise.

The Act allows you to carry out work on – or next to – a shared wall. At the same time protecting the interests of anyone else who might be affected by that work.

What doesn’t the Act cover?

The Act doesn’t cover everyday minor jobs that don’t affect the neighbours’ half of a party wall including:

  • Fixing Plugs
  • Screwing In Wall Units Or Shelving
  • Adding Or Replacing Some Recessed Electrical Wiring Or Sockets
  • Replastering Your Walls.
  • Elcock Associates Can Guide You Through This Act And Issue Notices And Awards On Your Behalf.