What Is The Party Wall Act 1996?
The Act itself was formed in 1996, as a way to legislate work carried out on shared walls between properties or where it will be undertaken close to adjoining or adjacent properties.
The main aim of the Act is to provide protection for each party, and ensure that building work is suitably carried out to avoid the risk of damage to the neighbouring property whilst minimising inconvenience and disturbance to the occupants. It covers shared walls and structures that may be affected by work and also covers excavations within 3 to 6 metres of adjacent and adjoining buildings that could potentially undermine existing foundation arrangements.
A Party Wall Is Considered To Be:
- A wall that stands on the lands of 2 (or more) owners and forms part of a building
- A wall that stands on the lands of 2 owners but does not form part of a building, such as a garden wall
- A wall that is on one owner’s land but is used by 2 (or more) owners to separate their buildings
- A ‘party structure’ that could be a wall or floor partition or other structure separating buildings or parts of buildings in different ownership, such as in flats.
Source: Party Wall Act 1996 Guidance, Gov.UK Website
Serving Party Wall Notices
If it is deemed the Party Wall Act applies to works being proposed, then the Building Owner is required to submit notices to the neighbours affected. This will detail the works required and should be submitted with suitable drawing information so the neighbour can consider the extent and potential impact on them and their property.
The neighbour has a right to consent to the works which will allow the building owner to commence the works without condition. They also have the right to dissent (object) to the works albeit appoint the building owner's surveyor to act on both parties behalf. Alternatively, they can dissent but choose to appoint their own surveyor to act for them and negotiate with the building owner's surveyor. It should be qualified that the Act does not have the right to override planning consent or permission and allow neighbours to object, halt or hinder the works.
What Can Be Done If a Neighbour Ignores The Party Wall Notice?
If a Party Wall Notice has been issued and no response is received from the neighbouring party/parties within 14 days, the Act has provision to ensure the progress of the project works are not unduly delayed.
In this circumstance, the Act dictates that a further notice should be sent, giving neighbours a further 10 days to confirm whether they consent or dissent to the works. If no reply is received then the building owner's surveyor has the power to appoint a suitable surveyor to act on behalf of the neighbour and to represent them. This allows both surveyors to negotiate an Award agreement detailing the terms and conditions in which the works can be undertaken.
The Party Wall Act is a complicated piece of legislation and it is strongly advised that any party involved or affected by works that invoke it, should seek professional guidance to guide and advise. Sillence Hurn offers expert advice based on years' experience around party wall matters. We act for both Building Owners and Adjoining Owners and look to guide either party through the complexities and formalities of the Party Wall etc Act 1996, to ensure their best interests are met.
Disclaimer: This article is only an introduction to the Party Wall Act and does not give legal advice. For more information on how to handle the Party Wall Act, and deal with a non-compliant neighbour, get in touch.