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Party Wall

Are you or your neighbour(s) undertaking a rear and/or side extension, loft conversion, reconfiguring internal layouts, planning works to your party wall or excavating a basement? All of this and more may fall under the provisions of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

This Act is a crucial piece of legislation in England and Wales, aimed at preventing construction-related disputes between neighbours before building work commences. It provides a clear legal framework for resolving any disputes that may arise regarding party walls and other party structures.

The Act broadly covers three distinct types of ‘notifiable’ work (more detail below):

  • Alterations to party structures, such as walls separating terraced or semi-detached houses, which can in turn be divided into flats

  • Excavation work within 3m that is lower than existing neighbouring foundations

  • New walls constructed on boundary lines

The Party Wall Procedure

1. The Service of Notices: To comply with Sections 1, 2, and 6 of the Act, Building Owners must notify all affected Adjoining Owners of their proposed work. Although homeowners may choose to serve notice themselves, it's typically carried out by an appointed surveyor due to the procedure's complexity. The notice periods are one month for Sections 1 and 6 and two months for Section 2.

2. Response: Upon receipt of a notice, Adjoining Owners can either consent or dissent. It's important to note that Owners aren't consenting or dissenting to the work itself but merely confirming whether they wish to appoint surveyor(s) to represent their property interests. Adjoining Owners can consent, dissent and concur in the appointment of an agreed surveyor, or dissent and appoint their surveyor.

3. Schedule of Condition: Before work begins, the surveyor(s) take a photographic and written record of the Adjoining Owner's property, known as the Schedule of Condition. It enables them to assess whether damage has or hasn't been caused.

4. Agreement of the Party Wall Award: The Party Wall Award, commonly referred to as a Party Wall Agreement, outlines the parties involved and the notifiable work. It also determines how the work is to be carried out and its timing. For instance, surveyor(s) may require the use of hand tools only when cutting into the party wall for steel beams or that excavations close to the Adjoining Owner's extension be dug in 1m sections instead of one go.

5. Service: Once the content of the Award, including any relevant drawings, is finalised, it's served on both owners. The Building Owner may commence the work legally, subject to the passing or waiving of any notice periods.

6. Final Inspection Upon Completion of Works: Upon the work's completion, the surveyor(s) examine the Schedule of Condition. If everything is in order, they close the file. If there's any damage, the Adjoining Owner can have the Building Owner's contractor make the repairs or receive a payment in lieu and instruct their own contractor.

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