An explanatory guide to the Party Wall etc. Act 1996
PART TWO : BUILDING OWNERS
Work on existing party walls (section 2 of the Act)
4. What are my rights under the Act if I want to do work on an existing party wall?
The Act provides a Building Owner, who wishes to carry out various sorts of work to an existing party wall, with additional rights going beyond ordinary common law rights.
Section 2 of the Act lists what work can be done. The most commonly used rights are:
• to cut into a wall to take the bearing of a beam (for example for a loft conversion), or to insert a damp proof course all the way through the wall
• to raise the height of the wall and/or increase the thickness of the party wall and, if necessary, cut off any projections which prevent you from doing so
• to demolish and rebuild the party wall
• to underpin the whole thickness of a party wall
• to protect two adjoining walls by putting a flashing from the higher over the lower, even where this requires cutting into an Adjoining Owner’s independent building.
5. What are my duties under the Act?
If you intend to carry out any of the works mentioned in paragraph 4, you must inform all Adjoining Owners — see paragraphs 7 and 8. You must not even cut into your own side of the wall without telling the Adjoining Owners of your intentions — but see paragraph 6.
The Act contains no enforcement procedures for failure to serve a notice. However, if you start work without having first given notice in the proper way, Adjoining Owners may seek to stop your work through a court injunction or seek other legal redress.
An Adjoining Owner cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given to them by the Act, but may be able to influence how and at what times the work is done — see paragraph 10.
The Act also says that a Building Owner must not cause unnecessary inconvenience. This is taken to mean inconvenience over and above that which will inevitably occur when such works are properly undertaken.
The Building Owner must provide temporary protection for adjacent buildings and property where necessary. The Building Owner is responsible for making good any damage caused by the works or must make payment in lieu of making good if the Adjoining Owner requests it.
In specific circumstances where party walls are demolished and rebuilt (s.2(2)(b) of the Act) section 11(5) provides that the cost of the work shall be shared. Where use is made of party walls previously built at the cost of the Adjoining Owner, the Act makes provision for a fair payment to be made to the Adjoining Owner.