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.

Need a Party Wall Award?

party wallHaving recently undertaken Party Wall Award Notices in Windsor, Newbury and Leckhampstead. RMA Surveyors Ltd are experienced in providing advice in compliance with The Party Wall Act 1996, throughout Berkshire and the South-East.

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.

The Act is separate from obtaining planning permission or building regulations approval. It provides a mechanism for preventing and resolving disputes relating to building work near or on a shared property boundary, or ‘party wall’.

If you require advice on a Party Wall, contact us on 01635 579 208.

For further reading on Party Walls visit the RICS information page.

Multiple Party Wall Awards

party wallWe undertook an instruction as Party Wall Surveyor to act on behalf of a building owner who was developing a site in Newbury.

The site itself was bounded by some residential properties at the front and a commercial property to the rear. The residential property at the front also had a retail unit on the ground floor.

To properly undertake the instruction notice was required to be served to all adjoining owners with an interest in the property. This included the freeholder of the residential units, the leaseholder of the retail unit and the freeholder of the commercial unit to the rear. Fortunately, the leaseholder and the freeholder of the commercial unit were the same party.

All parties dissented to works and required the appointment of their own surveyor to act on their behalf. In actuality, one of the adjoining owner’s surveyors acted on behalf of two parties, with a second adjoining owner acting on behalf of the other party.

Three separate Party Wall Awards were required to be issued. In order to minimise the cost to our appointing owner who would be responsible for all fees, we made assessment of adjoining owner’s fees and agreed a reasonable rate. We also organised to meet all surveyors out on site on the same day, to minimise time on site while discussing the critical issues that needed to form the basis of the Party Wall Award.

Without our professional input, the developer may have found difficulty in identifying the correct parties to serve the notice on, issue applicable notices, liaise with adjoining owner’s surveyors and form a Party Wall Agreement.

It is often thought by building owners that the Party Wall process is easily managed by themselves but we have often found that parties that have issued notice have issued invalid notice, which can delay works or can become confounded by the detail surrounding the Party Wall Act and can quickly find themselves out of their depth when matters become more complex.

If you have any Party Wall issues, please contact us for advice on 01635 579208 or complete the form below and we’ll get in touch.

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Clear Party Wall Explanation

Party WallWe recently were instructed to act as a building owner’s Party Wall surveyor near Reading. On receiving the plans from the building owner’s architect, we were able to make a full assessment of the types of notices required and duly issued them to the adjoining owners.

On issuing the notices we also provided a cover letter explaining, in less formal terms, the implications of the works required, how these would affect the adjoining owners, as well as providing a full and clear description of the Party Wall process. In doing so we demonstrated to the adjoining owners exactly what was involved and what their options were. The adjoining owners were content with the explanation.

The clear and concise way in which we dealt with issuing notices meant that the adjoining owners were satisfied that they understood what was involved. As a result, they consented to the works without a Party Wall Award needing to be in place prior to commencement. This in turn saved our client (the building owner) money in terms of Party Wall Surveyor fees.

We strongly believe that Party Wall issues should be dealt with in a professional and transparent manner and in accordance with spirit of the Party Wall Award Etc. Act 1986.

It is our duty as Party Wall surveyors to provide clear and concise advice and to minimise accruing costs to the owners responsible for paying the fees.

If you require advice on a Party Wall issue, please contact us to discuss it further or complete the form below and we’ll get in touch.

Contact Us

Fill in the below form to contact us today.
  • If you are requesting a survey quotation please provide the address and postcode of the property.
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Issuing Party Wall Notification

Terraced housingWe were recently instructed to act as Party Wall Surveyors in Pangbourne. We were acting on behalf of the building owner to issue party wall notices to two adjoining owners on a Victorian Terrace.

Our client had already approached their neighbours and explained to them the works to be undertaken, then requested we issue formal notification of works to them.

Sometimes, as in this case where there is more than one adjoining owner, party wall notification can be more complicated. It is our role to determine who has an interest in the adjoining properties and which are the correct notices to serve under the Party Wall Etc Act 1996.

Our client had quite a tight deadline in which they wanted the Party Wall Agreements to be in place, as their appointed building contractor had an extremely busy schedule. So we acted efficiently and effectively to ensure everything was in place.

If you would like any advice regarding the Party Wall Etc Act 1996, please contact us on 01635 579 208, or complete the form below with your enquiry.

For further reading on Party Walls read our Understanding a Party Wall page.

Contact Us

Fill in the below form to contact us today.
  • If you are requesting a survey quotation please provide the address and postcode of the property.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Case of the Missing Party Wall

No Party WallWhile conducting a recent Homebuyers Survey in Reading, we noticed something missing from the main roof space – a party wall.
It was common in Victorian terraces for there to be no separating wall at the party line in the roof space. In some cases, one could walk all the way through the roof space straight down the terrace.
Nowadays we are a little more security and fire conscious and walls have been installed.
It is rare in Reading to find a property where this has not been done. We advised our client that a party wall should be installed. In doing so we saved the client considerable additional cost.
Installing an adequate wall may require a party wall agreement before remedial works are undertaken.
If you need Party Wall advice in Reading or Newbury call us for a quote.

It is rare that property purchasers look in the roof space they are often dirty and detract from the glamour of buying a new property. Why not let us look for you?
If you need a property survey in West Berkshire, call us for a quote. Get in touch on 01635 579 208.

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

How do you know if the Party Wall Act etc 1996 applies to works?

New structure adjoining older structureIf you are planning on undertaking building works the Party Wall etc Act 1996 may apply. If you do not know of a requirement to serve or respond to notices you are not alone and we can help.

Many people are unaware of their obligations and rights that the Party Wall Act provides. Building works that proceed without complying with the Act can lead to significant difficulties, legal action, and a breakdown in neighbourly relations. Iit is not just building works directly affecting a party wall or boundary wall that may require action under the Act.

A Building Owner may decide to build a permanent structure on his own land within 6 meters of a neighboring party structure, build near or on a boundary or cut into or otherwise alter an existing party wall. In all these cases the Party Wall Act can apply. The Act allows for a Building owner to progress with works whilst protecting the an Adjoining Owners’ interests.

Where an Adjoining owner has concerns regarding a neighbors’ proposals they can appoint an independent party wall surveyor to provide help and explain the implications and procedures of the Act.

The requirements of the act stipulate that where there is a disagreement, a Party wall surveyor can step in to guide the process according to a defined protocol. Anyone can act as a Party Wall Surveyor. However a surveyor should ideally be experienced in construction,  have read, understood and be able to operate within the Act, interpret technical details, drawings and ultimately work diplomatically to provide swift resolution.

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.

New JCT Contracts now available

JCT Minor works building contract front pageThe Joint Contracts Tribunal published a new 2011 suite of contracts and sub-contracts which are designed to comply with the provisions of Part 8 of the new Construction Act which came into force as of 1st October 2011.

The JCT Contracts 2011 edition reflects new legislation in regard to payment and makes other changes which include:
•    A revised definition of insolvency
•    Integration of the revisions appended to the 2005 form of contract
•    The provision for appointment of the principal contractor under CDM Regulations is extended to cover that function under the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008
•    Reference to the Bribery Act 2010
•    Entries in relation to PI insurance and asbestos and fungal mould are omitted
•    Revised retention provisions in the sub-contracts

RMA Surveyors Ltd will be using the new form of JCT contracts where appropriate.