An explanatory guide to the Party Wall etc. Act 1996
PART THREE : ADJOINING OWNERS / OCCUPIERS
Adjoining Owners should note that the primary purpose of the Act is to facilitate development. In return for rights to carry out certain works, the Building Owner (the person having the work done) must notify you in advance. He is made legally responsible for putting right any damage caused by carrying out the works, even if the damage is caused by his contractor.
You cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given to them by the Act, but you may be able to influence how and at what times the work is done.
If you refuse to respond to a notice from a Building Owner, he will be able to appoint a second surveyor on your behalf so that the dispute resolution procedure can proceed without your co-operation.
It is preferable that the owners reach agreement between themselves wherever possible without the need to activate the dispute resolution procedure. You do not lose subsequent rights by agreeing to the intended works described in the Building Owner’s notice. Agreement to the intended works simply signifies that, at this point in time, there is nothing in dispute. If a dispute arises at a later date, say in respect of damage caused, you can activate the dispute resolution procedure.
30. What does the Act say if my neighbour wants to carry out building work?
If your neighbour intends to carry out building work which involves one of the following categories:
• work on an existing wall or structure shared with another property (section 2 of the Act) — see paragraph 4 through to paragraph 18
• building a free standing wall or a wall of a building up to or astride the boundary with a neighbouring property (section 1 of the Act) — see paragraph 19 through to paragraph 24; or
• excavating near a neighbouring building (section 6 of the Act) — see paragraph 25 through to paragraph 28;
they must notify you in writing before they start work see paragraph 8, paragraph 20 and paragraph 26.
31. What do I do if I receive a Party Wall Act notice from my neighbour?
If you receive a notice from your neighbour you should reply to it in writing within 14 days of receiving it. You do not need to appoint a professional adviser to respond to the notice on your behalf.
You can agree or disagree with what is proposed. You may want to base your reply on Example Letter 2 or 3 in Part 5 of this booklet, which you may have received with the notice.
If you do not respond to a notice about an intended new wall built up to (but not astride) the line of junction, the work can commence after the one month notice period. The Building Owner may place any necessary footings and foundations under your land (but not reinforced concrete foundations without your prior written consent).
If you do not respond, in writing, within 14 days to a notice about an intended new wall built astride the line of junction, the Building Owner must build the wall entirely on his own land. The work can commence after the one month notice period. The Building Owner may place any necessary footings and foundations under your land (but not reinforced concrete foundations without your prior written consent).
If you receive a notice about work to an existing party structure, or a notice about excavations within 3 or 6 metres of your foundations, and you have not responded, in writing, within a period of 14 days from receipt of the notice, a dispute is regarded as having arisen. The procedure explained in paragraphs 11 to 15 then formally comes into play. If you disagree with the work described in a notice under the Act you should explain why. The Building Owner can then consider your objection and perhaps amend his proposal. Agreement might then be reached, without the need to use the formal dispute resolution procedure.
32. What do I do if I believe my neighbour is about to start work and I have not received a Party Wall Act notice?
You should let your neighbour know (in writing) about the Act. You may wish to send him a copy of this booklet.
33. What do I do if my neighbour starts work and I have not received a Party Wall Act notice?
The Act contains no enforcement procedures for failure to serve a notice. However, if your neighbour starts work without having first given notice in the proper way, you may seek to stop the work through a court injunction or seek other legal redress. You may wish to take professional legal advice before commencing such action.
34. What if I cannot reach agreement with my neighbour? — See paragraph 11 through to paragraph 17.
Where the proposed works are minor and/or not intrusive on your building or land, you may have only minor objections that you cannot agree or perhaps simply want some assurance that the correct procedures are followed.
In these circumstances, and particularly in residential circumstances where surveyors fees would significantly increase the project costs, the appointment of an agreed surveyor to resolve the dispute is preferable, especially so if the proposed surveyor is not otherwise involved in your neighbour’s project.
35. What about access to my property? — See paragraph 18.
Even where you object to what your neighbour is building on his land, it is often to your benefit to allow access, for example for scaffolding or to allow pointing of the wall, as the wall will probably be visually more acceptable if access is given.
36. As a neighbouring owner, what can I do to guard against the risk that the Building Owner may leave work unfinished?
If there is a risk that you will be left in difficulties if the Building Owner stops work at an inconvenient stage, you can ask him, before he starts work, to make available an amount of money that would allow you to restore the status quo if he fails to do so.
The money remains his throughout, but if, for example, you need to have a wall rebuilt, you, or more commonly the surveyors, can draw on that security to pay for the rebuilding.
This provision is usually reserved for particularly intrusive or complex works.