Five Commonly-Asked Questions about Party Wall Issues

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London’s high-density housing means that party wall issues are commonplace in the capital. Our team at Squarepoint Chartered Surveyors has a lot of experience working with clients to provide advice, carry out schedules of condition and draw up party wall awards so that any alterations to a shared wall can be conducted amicably. At the very least, we ensure that an agreement to undertake works between two properties protects the interests of both parties should any issues arise.

Here are some of the questions we are most commonly asked before, during and after notice has been served, in relation to the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. If you have a question that you can’t see listed, please feel free to get in touch.

What does the Party Wall Act cover?

Three types of work are covered by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. These are:

  • Altering a party structure (such as a shared wall or fence);
  • Conducting building work along the boundary line between two properties; and
  • Excavating within a certain distance of shared walls or structures on the adjoining property.

Common examples of this would include excavating too close to a neighbouring structure to place foundations for a conservatory, building an extension too close to the boundary or cutting into terraced walls to install roof support for an attic conversion.

Why do I need a surveyor?

As the building owner, there are several stages at which you will need the help of a professional. Firstly, a surveyor will help you ensure that your Party Wall Notice is written and served correctly.

Your surveyor will also carry out a Schedule of Condition on any areas of the adjoining property that are likely to be affected by your works. This is to ensure that any damage is appropriately attributed and that neither party is wrongly held responsible for damages.

Finally, a surveyor will be required to negotiate the agreement between you and your adjoining owner(s), known as a Party Wall Award. This outlines the details of your work, including the working hours, access arrangements and any required safeguards to protect property or people over the course of the project.

What can I do if my neighbour is building but hasn’t informed me about any work?

If your neighbour’s construction affects the party wall between you – whether it’s the wall of your home, an outbuilding on the boundary or just your garden fence – they must have your consent. This needs to be obtained formally, by serving you with a Party Wall Notice. You can read more about how to respond to a notice here.

In instances where they have not served you with a Notice, they are acting outside of the law and you have the right to stop them. To do so, you will need to apply for an injunction from the County Court. However, if you make a wrongful claim (knowingly or unknowingly), you will be liable for any costs incurred. For this reason, it’s always recommended that you seek professional advice from a surveyor before applying for an injunction.

I have already started work before realising that I needed to serve notice – what do I do?

If your work falls under the party wall act and you have not sought consent from your adjoining neighbour(s), you are acting outside of the law and must stop work.

Hire a surveyor if you have not already and follow their advice to serve notice as soon as possible, following the proper procedure from that point.

Do I have to give my neighbours access via my property?

As the adjoining owner, you are required to provide access to your neighbour, their contractors or their surveyor if the work cannot be reasonably completed via any other entrance. If access is required, an appropriate amount of notice must be given – 14 days is usually considered acceptable, but it can be proportionately reduced to deal with an emergency.

At Squarepoint Chartered Surveyors, we are specialists in party wall matters and would be happy to answer any questions you may have. If you or your neighbour are planning alterations that will affect a party wall or boundary, please give us a call on 0207 651 0000 to see how we can help.

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