Building Work to a Party Wall

Are you Planning Building Work to a Party Wall?

Are you planning building work to a party wall or structure that you share with your neighbour? Is your neighbour undertaking building work that will affect your property?

Building Work to a Party Wall Can Be a Matter For the Courts

If you are planning building work or your neighbour is proposing work that affects a party wall or party structure then there is a legal requirement to meet the provisions of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.  If your property is in England or Wales, this legislation must be followed. The law does not apply in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

What Is a Party Wall?

A Party Wall can be defined many ways. Principally it is a wall that sits across the boundary between two or more properties, such as the dividing wall between adjoining houses. It could also be the dividing floor between flats.

The Act also protects structures that stands completely on one owner’s land. Sometimes this can be astride the line of junction and can be used by both owners. i.e. Where one owner has built a wall and the adjoining owner has built up against it enclosing the structure. In that particular example only part of that wall might be considered a ‘party wall’.

Properties that are completely independent of one another can also be subject to the Act. If a building owner is planning to undertake excavations up to 6 metres from an adjoining owners structure there may also be a requirement to adhere to the Act.

A ‘party fence wall’ is a wall that does not form part of a building and stands on land belonging to different owners. This could be a garden wall, but does not include a timber fence.

There are many instances where the Party Wall Act may or may not be relevant. For this reason we always recommend it is assessed by a professional to assist, who both knows the workings of the Act and has technical construction expertise.

Does the Party Wall Act Apply To Me?

Providing the structure or structures in question meets the definitions within the Party Wall Act there is ikely to be a requirement that works need to be agreed with the adjoining owner. Simple works, such as installing shelves, replacing electrical sockets or wiring, does not require an agreement. But you should only do certain building work to a party wall or party structure once the adjoining owner or owners have been formally notified in writing and agreed the works in advance of works proceeding. Examples of notifiable party wall work might include ork includes:

  • Cutting into a wall to take the weight of a beam or insert a flashing.
  • Inserting a damp proof course.
  • Demolition, reconstruction or underpinning a party wall.

If you’re planning to undertake excavations there are some comprehensive requirements defined within the Party Wall Act, that need to be properly understood to determine whether the Act applies.

When Does Party Wall Notice Need To Be Served?

If you are planning to undertake building work to a Party Wall then we suggest you inform your neighbour in good time. This is the most critical step and can often prevent unnecessary and costly dispute later on. The purpose of the Act is to avoid disputes arising by making sure owners are aware and agree the Party Wall works.

Where applicable you must notify your neighbour in writing before building work to a party wall begins. There is a minimum period for this notice to be served before building works affecting the party wall or structure can commence. If there is more than one person with an interest in the property (i.e. Leaseholders and Freeholders. Again these are clearly defined in the Act) you must notify all of them. If there are multiple properties affected they must all be notified.

The Act is specific about the requirements of issuing notice/s. It is very important that valid notice or notices are served. If notices are not valid they will need to be served again correctly and this will reset the minimum period.

What Happens If An Adjoining Owner Does Not Agree to Party Wall Works?

If an adjoining owner does not agree to works then a dispute is deemed to have arisen. Parties in dispute are not able to act as a surveyor for themselves . They need to appoint someone who can act independently. Owners may agree to appoint a single ‘agreed surveyor’, or they can each appoint their own surveyor to act upon their behalves. The expert or experts will agree the parameters of how the works should be carried out and will serve a ‘party wall award’ which will stipulate how works affecting the party structure will be completed.

The award usually contains a schedule of condition of the affected elements of the adjoining owner’s property before work begin. This provides an accurate record of the condition of the building prior to works so damage (if any) can be properly defined after works have been completed.

RMA Surveyors are Chartered Building Surveyors, Members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Members of The Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors. We are experts in party wall matters. If you need advice in relation to the Party Wall Act contact us for clear and reliable advise.

Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors Members

RMA Surveyors Ltd are proud to announce they have been accepted for membership of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors. RMA Surveyors Ltd have always acted as competent party wall surveyors, and are pleased to reinforce this by accreditation from this prestigious organisation. RMA Surveyors Ltd will assist the Faculty in maintaining the highest standards of professional practice in the field of Party Wall Surveying.

Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors Logo


RMA Surveyors Ltd will be continue to act professionally in accordance with the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 on all party wall matters. Whether they be acting for an adjoining owner, building owner, or for both as an agreed surveyor.

RMA Surveyors Ltd are pleased to be part of an organisation whose membership includes the most eminent practitioners in Party Wall matters.

Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors

The Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors have enjoyed steady and continual growth since its inception. Their members benefit from legal support and counsel when required. By obtaining membership RMA Surveyors Ltd belong to the principle organisation dedicated to Party Wall matters. Effectively anyone can call themselves a party wall surveyor, membership of this organisation ensures that a minimum standard of competence is required. The Faculty provide telephone advice to surveyors and the public, provide a list of party wall surveyors

Richard Mountain MRICS MFPWS, RMA Surveyors Ltd managing director, said “Becoming a member of the Faculty demonstrates to appointing owners, that we will deliver a high level of professional competence. The Faculty provides us with additional resources and support when dealing with the technicalities of interpreting the Party Wall Act, it also gives those we act for a method of redress. These two factors are critical, when there are unfortunately some unscrupulous companies trading as party wall surveyors, who do not act properly.”

If you have a Party Wall matter you need to discuss contact RMA Surveyors Ltd, who will be happy to assist.

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