What exactly is the Party Wall etc. Act 1996?

Are you looking to undertake a home extension in London, but are struggling to find a dependable, experienced design team to help you through the process? At Home Tales, we value all our clients and ensure their ideas and concerns are listened to. We pride ourselves on having a strong line of communication with our clients, keeping them up to date on the status of their drawings, planning applications, and structural pack, whether they’re carrying out internal refurbishments or a loft conversion in London.

We have noticed that some homeowners are not aware of the Party Wall Act, and we would not blame them as it can be a tedious part of the renovation process. In today’s post, we cover what exactly this Act is, how the act affects homeowners, and who is involved in the Party Wall surveying process.

What is the Act?

The Party Wall Act works to prevent/resolve disputes that relate to party walls, structures, boundary walls, and excavation close to neighbouring buildings. The Act was initiated in 1996 and actively enforced from July 1997, applying to England and Wale, but not Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is relevant to all properties including government, Crown, and local authority owned buildings.  

The Act require a Party Wall Notice to be dealt to any adjoining neighbours that may be affected by works to a party wall. Therefore, the notice is often required when dealing with projects in terrace houses, semi-detached properties, and flats. When this notice is validated, works must be completed within a year as this is when it expires.

Types of Party Wall

There are two types of Party Wall: Type A, and Type B. Type A includes a party wall that stands on both sides of neighbouring boundaries involving 2 or more different owners. It can also be a wall that is part of only one of the buildings (neighbour building to attach onto their party wall), a wall that separates 2 buildings, or a Party Fence Wall. A Party Fence Wall is similar to a Party Wall, but it is a structure that is not attached to a building (not including wooden fences and hedges). Type B simply means the Party Wall stands solely within one owner’s boundary but is used by both neighbours. There is also the Party Structure, which refers to wall and floor partitions that are found in flats.

How does it affect me?

The Party Wall Act can have very little affect on your home project or cause a huge inconvenience. It is completely dependent on the scope of works and the relationship you have with the relevant adjoining neighbour. The Act overrules normal common law rights, so all parties must be actively involved in the matter.

If you are the homeowner looking to carry out works that will alter the party wall, we would recommend you speak with your adjoining neighbours before serving party wall notice. Of course, this is only possible if you have a relationship with them, be it civil or friendly. The Party Wall Notice is a pack of documents that state your intended works, along with other details, and your neighbour must agree to them in writing. The documents must be valid, as invalid papers could prolong the whole process and delay your building works altogether. This must be served at least 2 months prior to beginning any works. If you start work without notifying the relevant parties, your neighbours can stop the build through taking legal action.

In contrast, if you are the neighbour of someone wishing to carry out works to the Party Wall, there are a few things to keep in mind. Once your neighbour has served you a Party Wall notice, you must respond within 14 days, or a dispute will be raised against you. This response can be an agreement or a counter-notice. The counter-notice is your opportunity to outline modifications that you’d like done to benefit your side of the party wall. You can’t prevent any of the works from happening, but you can dictate how and when work can be done.

Ultimately, if both parties are unable to come to an agreement, a Party Wall Surveyor must be appointed. A surveyor will help deal with any back-and-forth communication, making your life as the owner or neighbour a whole lot easier. A Party Wall Surveyor is not always required, but in certain cases, and especially in flats, they may be needed.

What is the job of the Party Wall Surveyor?

The Surveyor is defined as someone who is not party to the proposed works and is legally required to take an impartial stance, ensuring there is no bias towards either the owner or neighbours. For this reason, homeowners cannot represent themselves. The person you appoint will be in charge of producing a Party Wall Award, which includes paperwork that outlines the homeowners’ rights and responsibilities in terms of when/how the work will be done.

You may not require a Party Wall Surveyor if you already have a good relationship with your neighbours and are able to come to an agreement amongst yourselves. However, we will always recommend appointing one if you have a bad/no relationship with your adjoining neighbour. Their job is to make sure your neighbours agree to the proposed works, although the agreement may come with conditions. Hiring an independent, specialist entity helps to streamline the whole process, preventing any delays and additional costs that may arise from disagreements.

When is notice not required?

A Party Wall Notice is usually not required for minor alterations such as installing shelves/plug sockets or replastering the party wall. As long as the works do not affect the structural integrity of the shared wall or causes any damage to your neighbour’s side of the wall, they should be permissible. If you are unsure, or if the works are complex but superficial, an Architect or builder will be able to help you determine whether you will need to give notice.

Looking to improve your home and not sure where to start? Why not give our friendly team a call on 02070432378? We’d love to hear from you! You can also contact us via email at hello@hometales.co.uk or book a telephone consultation with a senior member of our team by clicking here. Our live diary shows all available time slots for both Standard consultations and Consultation Plus.

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