A Brief Introduction to the Party Wall etc Act 1996
• The Party Wall etc. Act, 1996 came into force in the summer of 1997 and introduced pre-existing older party wall procedures which had existed withinCentral London, the old Greater London County Council areas, to the rest of England and Wales.
• The Act ‘permits’ property owners to carry out extensive and wide ranging works to party walls and to carry out certain foundation works to adjoining buildings as well as to build new walls along the line of the boundary/junction, subject to following the statutory procedures, which commence with the service notice/s.
Works to a party wall may include:-
• Raising a party wall over its full thickness, usually up but also downwards, or demolishing and rebuilding it,
• Underpinning a party wall or the foundations of an adjoining building,
• Constructing new building or an extension on the boundary/line of junction where none exist at present,
1. What is a Party Wall
There are two ‘types’ of party wall and the definitions of a party wall are:-
Section 20 (a) — A Wall which forms part of a building and stands on land of different owners to a greater extent than the projection of any artificially formed support on which the wall rests.
Section 20 (b) — So much of a wall not being a wall referred to in paragraph (a) above as separates buildings belonging to different owners.
One may also come across a ‘party structure’ which is:-
Section 20 — A party wall and also a floor partition or other structure separating buildings or part of buildings approached solely by separate staircases or separate entrances.
— A party fence wall is a garden wall standing astride the boundary without any buildings enclosing upon it.
2. What can you do to a Party Wall?
Some of the main works one can carry out to a party wall are:-
• Cutting in
Some of the main works one cannot do as a right are:-
• Permanently reduce the height of a party wall below the level of the Adjoining Owner's roof leaving them exposed.
• Permanent demolition which would leave a wall of less than 2 metres in height.
• Create openings for windows, flues etc.
3. Types of Notice
There are three main types of Notice to be served :-
• Party Structure Notice — the Building Owner must serve on any Adjoining Owner a Notice which will describe the intended works and is issued at least 2 months before works are due to start.
• Foundation Notice — There are two types of Foundation Notice to be served:-
• 3 Metre Notice — where a Building Owner proposes to excavate or excavate for and erect a building or structure within 3 metres of any part of an adjoining building or structure and to a greater depth than the foundations of that adjoining building or structure.
• 6 Metre Notice — Where a Building Owner proposes to excavate or excavate for and erect a building or structure within a distance of 6 metres from an adjoining building and to a depth which would intersect a 45° line drawn downwards from the foundations of an adjoining building or structure.
• Line of Junction Notice
This relates to where there is no existing party structure or building along the boundary line and a new wall or building is to be constructed.
• A Building Owner can project foundations onto the neighbour’s land as long as they necessary and if they are to be reinforced then a special consent is required.
• A Building Owner will have a right of access onto the neighbour’s land to carry out certain works.
• The Line of Junction Notice must be served at least one month before the works are due to commence.
4. The Role of Surveyors
The Surveyors once formally appointed in writing act in a quasi-judicial capacity and must be impartial. They have a duty to be fair to both owners and should not take sides, thus Party Wall Surveyors will refer to Appointing Owners and not clients.
When advising on the implications of development proposals, it is important for the Party Wall Surveyor to be part of the consultation and design process, in terms of information required, programme implications, statutory period and likely costs in terms of fees etc.
5. The Award
This is a legal document agreed by the Surveyors which settles the dispute and will cover such things as:-
• Times of noisy working along the boundary, to Party Walls etc.
• The scope of the works in terms of Act granted rights.
• Protection to the adjoining property i.e. scaffolding, fans etc.
• Rights of access and inspections.
• The Schedule of Condition
• Costs of the award.
• Matters under section 12(1)
• Matters under Section 11(11)
The format used may be fairly standard but every matter requires a specific Award.
The Award is signed by the Surveyors appointed by the Adjoining Owner and Building Owner.
Once the Award has been published and served upon the respective owners, they have fourteen days in which to appeal to the County Court if they feel the Award has been made improperly or incorrectly.
• It is very often for the Building Owner to pay the fees of the Surveyor representing the Adjoining Owner as these are a cost incurred by the Adjoining Owner. Often the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor can seek independent advice from a Structural Engineer if the matters are of structural significance. The Engineer’s fees may also fall to be paid by the Building Owner.
7. The Third Surveyor
• The Third Surveyor adjudicates on matters in dispute between the appointed Surveyors and the Owners.
• The Third Surveyor may also decide, if the parties and their Surveyors cannot agree, the amount of Security for Expenses to be made available by the Building Owner.
• The Third Surveyor’s decision is final and binding upon the Surveyors, but the Owners have a right of appeal.
• The Third Surveyor must be agreed by the Building Owner’s Surveyor and the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor at the outset of their negotiations.
8. Damage and Remedial Works
• The Building Owner is responsible for making good any damage caused to the adjoining property by virtue of the works carried out under the Act. However, if the Adjoining Owner so chooses, he can elect to receive a financial payment in lieu of the damage being made good.
• The extent of damage is established by the appointed Surveyors from checking the Schedule of Condition upon completion, if one was produced and agreed prior to commencement.
9. Temporary Works
Enabling and temporary works can be a problem.
Final design of temporary works is nearly always left to the contractor rather than Building Owner’s structural engineer and often the necessary details are not available early on. This can delay the surveyors which may delay the project.
The two main areas of difficulty are as follows:-
• The contractor is only appointed shortly before the intended commencement of the works and therefore starts the design of his temporary works too late. The contractor cannot be expected to spend time and money preparing a detailed temporary works scheme until his appointment is confirmed, unless the costs are underwritten by the Developer.
• Many contractors do not have the in-house expertise to provide detailed temporary works proposals, and try to avoid the expenditure involved in employing a specialist to carry out the design work for them at tender stage.
10. Other Relevant Legislation
Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992
This Act does give a Building Owner the right of access over an Adjoining Owner’s land for the purpose of carrying out works of maintenance and preservation to his property which cannot be carried out from his own land. This Act does not cover new building work and the process can be time consuming and quite costly.
An application for a Court order has to be made and it may be necessary to go to Court in person in order to secure access, and sometimes compensation may be payable to the Adjoining Owner in certain circumstances.
For more information call Bruce Forrester on 020 8350 4141 for a free initial consultation.