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Party Wall Act - Wall

What is the Party Wall Act?

The Party Wall Act is something you should be aware of if you plan on building an extension to your house or making any other changes or home improvements to your property that might have an impact on your neighbours.

The Party Wall Act of 1996, like many other aspects of the law, might appear overwhelming at first glance but is actually quite simple if you have a grasp of the basics and the proper procedures are followed. In addition to the cost involved, building delays caused by your failure to follow the boundary wall laws can last for months. In addition to this, failure on your part will likely end up causing bad blood between you and your affected neighbours.

We’ve compiled an introductory guide to the Act to give you a basic understanding of what it is and what is involved. So, without further ado, let’s have a closer look at the Party Wall Act.

The Party Wall Act of 1966

When building work is planned that might affect neighbouring properties, the Neighbours’ Protection Act of 1996 was enacted to reduce the likelihood of legal conflict and help resolve any that do arise.

Basically put, a party wall notice is needed if work is planned that might affect or compromise the stability or support of a neighbouring property. With some building work, it’s not so clear if the intended work will have such an effect on the neighbour’s property, so if this is the case, it’s best to talk to a party wall surveyor if you’re unclear whether or not your project needs an agreement.

Party Wall Act - Wall

While the Party Wall Act may appear burdensome at first, keep in mind that its purpose is to ensure the protection of all those involved, not just your neighbours. If your work strictly follows the provided notice, you will be protected should any unanticipated things happen with the work being carried out.

Party wall

There is sometimes misunderstanding about what constitutes a “party wall” because it appears to be merely an adjoining wall between two semi-detached residences. However, one or more of the following are examples of party walls:

  • A wall that is shared by at least two properties. This is not limited to the walls that were originally part of the building’s framework but also includes any walls that were constructed by one party and then adjoined by a neighbour.
  • A freestanding wall that is located on the property line between two or more properties.
  • The Party Wall Act covers not only walls but also floors and ceilings in flats and apartments.
  • Walls in the garden that run along the property line but are not attached to any structure. Even garden walls that touch the property line are included.
  • All types of building work that has an effect on the neighbour’s property, such as excavation work.

When is a notification under the Party Wall Act necessary?

Due to the diverse nature of construction projects, the scope of activities for which a Party Wall Act notice must be issued is also broad. A party wall notice is typically required in the following situations:

  • Changes to a party wall. This covers things like altering its width, depth, height, or length.
  • Construction of a new wall on or near the property boundary line.
  • Party wall demolition and replacement.
  • Chimney breast removal from a party wall.
  • Making cuts in the shared wall.
  • Digging, especially if it involves digging below the foundation of a neighbouring property.

It is best to err on the side of caution and hire a professional Party Wall Act surveyor, but keep in mind that some tasks will be easy to spot if you follow this basic rule of thumb:

Any work that might compromise the stability of an adjacent structure needs a Party Wall Act agreement.

Note the word “might,” as this is significant. At least two months prior to beginning work, all potential damage must be addressed, and notice given. However, excavation work can often be streamlined down to a single month’s notice.

The party wall agreement

It is quite self-evident what a party wall agreement is. In essence, by giving your neighbour advance warning, you are requesting their permission to proceed with the work. Following the date of the party wall notice’s issuance, they will have 14 days to respond to you.

If all of your affected neighbours provide their written consent, you can start the building without any further delay. It is necessary to write a second letter if they contest the notification or don’t get back to you after the first one. This is to let them know they have 10 days to hire a party wall surveyor. If they fail to do this, then you can hire one instead on their behalf.

You will be responsible for paying the cost of a party wall surveyor, so it’s in your best interest to work together to hire only one for the task. Even if your neighbour hasn’t made up their mind about whether or not they want to employ a party wall surveyor, you have the right to do so. But in this case, you can’t hire the surveyor you have hired, so if you can, attempt to work out an agreement with your neighbour to share one.

As soon as you hire a party wall surveyor, there’s not a lot more you can do but let them get to work. They will do a thorough inspection of your neighbour’s property to establish a baseline for comparison in case any damage is done during construction.

Part of this process involves receiving a party wall award. Your builder is compelled to stick to the party wall agreement, which also involves the award. The award also entails recording any restrictions and providing additional protection to secure the neighbour’s property from damage.

The Party Wall Act is complex, and while we have tried to cover the essentials here, no two cases are the same.

Check out the government’s official instructions here or the RICS advice paper on party wall law and procedure for a thorough explanation of the Party Wall Act and its many nuances.


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