Party Wall Notice

Being unaware of a duty to serve Party Wall Notice under The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is not a defence. Some people do not factor in the costs of compliance with The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 before they commence works. Some choose to ignore the legislation, in the belief they are saving themselves time and money. This incorrect course of action leads to delays to their project, neighbourly dispute, possible court action and associated costs.

Party Wall Notice will prevent court action

The Requirement For Party Wall Notice

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 requires Building Owners to serve relevant party wall notice to Adjoining Owners up to 2 months before notifiable works commence. When party wall notice is not served and it can cause friction between neighbours. In the worst case scenario where works have begun Adjoining Owners can apply to the Court and gain an injunction against the works. There are upfront costs for doing this, which are usually recoverable from a Building Owner. What Building Owners can also overlook by neglecting to serve notice is that certain rights granted by the Act are also not invoked (such as access in their neighbour’s land, to undertake notifiable works).

In many cases serving party wall notice is simple. By notifying a neighbour that works are going ahead there is less likelihood of a dispute occurring. Issuing notice/s with a polite letter explaining what the works are is far cheaper and easier than a court injunction and costs, then living with the resulting bad feeling.

Ignorance Is No Defence

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is now well established legislation. There is no good reason to ignore it. The courts will invariably find against anyone who does, either wilfully or through genuine ignorance. The cost of not serving a valid party wall notice may prove to be the costliest oversight of the whole project. The adage of Ignorantia iuris nocet applies. Not knowing the law is harmful.

We Can Help

If you are having works undertaken to your property that is likely to affect your neighbour’s property contact RMA Surveyors Ltd and we will be pleased to assist you serving the correct notice to avoid future and costly disputes. RMA Surveyors Ltd are members of The Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors Please contact us and we will be happy to help.

Understanding a Party Wall Award

A picture of a wallWhat is a Party Wall?
In short, it is a wall or structure that separates buildings belonging to two or more different owners.

This could be a wall in your property attached to your neighbour (e.g. semi-detached house or flat), a garage wall linked to another property, or a garden wall built astride a boundary (known as a Party Fence Wall). Separating floors in flats and shared chimneys are also party structures.

What is the Party Wall etc. Act 1996?
The Act is designed to avoid and minimise disputes between the two owners of a party structure.

It ensures that the Building Owner carrying out the work notifies the Adjoining Owner in advance of the proposed works that are likely to affect the Party Wall.

TOP TIP: It is a good idea to talk to your neighbours about your plans before serving the notice as that will greatly increase the chances of them agreeing, or at least concurring in the appointment of an ‘Agreed Surveyor’.

How does the Act work?
Certain works are deemed to be ‘notifiable’ under the Act. Typical examples include cutting into a party wall to take the bearing of a beam (e.g. in a loft conversion); inserting a damp proof course (even if only to your own side of a party wall); demolition and rebuilding of a party wall or structure; raising a party wall; underpinning a party wall or part of a party wall; and excavating within three or six metres of a party structure.
The Act details the requisite notice periods applicable in each situation.

In the event of a ‘dispute’ in response to any notice served, the parties (the Building Owner and the Adjoining Owner) must either each appoint their own Surveyor, or decide to appoint a single ‘Agreed Surveyor’. The Surveyor must act impartially. They are not appointed to win the argument for either side.

The purpose of this appointment is the resolution of the dispute by way of a Party Wall Award.

What is a Party Wall Award?
A Party Wall Award is a legally binding document drafted and served by the appointed Surveyors, or Agreed Surveyor, to agree how works should be executed.

It sets out the nature of the proposed works, together with details as to who is responsible for the cost of the works and any associated fees.

The Award will contain a Schedule of Condition to record the condition of the Adjoining Owner’s property prior to commencement of any works; this may be needed for later referral in determining the extent of any damage as a direct result of the awarded works.

The Award will usually also state which party is responsible for implementing any remedial works in the event of resultant damage.

Does the Party Wall Act apply to you?
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 applies to all ‘notifiable’ works in both residential and commercial property and includes:
• The building of a new wall on the line of junction (boundary) between two properties
• Works to a Party Wall
• Works to a Party Fence Wall
• Excavations – excavating foundations within three metres of a neighbour’s structure and lower than its foundations OR excavating foundations within six metres of a neighbour’s structure and below a line drawn down at 45° from the bottom of its foundation

Call RMA Surveyors Ltd on 01635 579208 for guidance on the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 or to enlist our services as a Party Wall Surveyor.

For further information, read the RMA Party Wall information page or download the RICS Information Guide

Six Steps to a Party Wall Award

Party wallRecently we have had a number of requests for information regarding party wall procedure. With the aim of providing guidance the following is an overview of the basic procedure of serving Party Wall notices:

1. Firstly, do you need to issue a party wall notice? For the sake of argument let’s say you do. Do you know what type of notice needs to be served? A line of junction notice? A party structure notice? Or a notice of adjacent excavation? In some cases it may be just one in some cases it may be all three. This can easily be determined by any good Party Wall Surveyor who knows the Party Wall Act.

2. Secondly, on whom are you serving notice? Who is the freeholder? Are there any leaseholders? Does the proposed work affect more than one structure? If so, there are likely to be a number of parties to whom notice must be served.

3. With the aforementioned identified notice can be served. RMA Surveyors Ltd are often asked to become involved in Party Wall matters after notice has been served. Clients sometimes see an early saving being made by not appointing a Party Wall Surveyor, as the process seems simple at the outset. However, as the process develops it can become more complex and Building Owners seek to appoint Party Wall Surveyors to untangle the knots. We would say two things at this juncture. Firstly, fees for initial notice are usually minimal. Secondly, issue of the correct, properly drafted notices at the outset will save time. If a notice is not correct, it is invalid and another valid notice must be served. It can take two months before works can start from date of issue of a valid notice.

4. Valid notice is served to the Adjoining Owner. They now have fourteen days to respond. The adjoining owner can assent or dissent to the proposed works. If the adjoining owner does not respond in this period, works are deemed to be in dispute. If the Adjoining Owner agrees to works, the Building Owner may, by written agreement, proceed with works. We strongly recommend a condition survey of the Adjoining Owner’s property be undertaken prior to works commencing, to provide a benchmark and avoid later dispute.

5. If no response is received or the Adjoining Owner dissents to works the building owner will need to write to the adjoining owner to request they appoint a Party Wall Surveyor. The Adjoining Owner may opt to use the Surveyor appointed by the Building Owner. They may prefer to appoint their own Surveyor. In most cases the fee for the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor will be borne by the Building Owner.

6. Once appointed the Agreed Surveyor or Surveyors should then work to draw up a Party Wall Award. A Party Wall Award is the framework whereby works affecting the party structure are to be executed. A condition survey of the Adjoining Owner’s property will be undertaken. Once the Party Wall Award is agreed and published works can commence from the date stated within the Award.

Please also see our Party Wall Pitfalls blog with more useful guidance about the Party Wall process.