If you wish to carry out any alterations to your home that affect a shared wall or boundary, you will need to follow the legislation set down in The Party Wall etc Act 1996. The process is fairly straightforward, but failure to comply can cause significant financial repercussions and delays to your project.
When does the Party Wall Act apply?
A party wall is considered to be any wall shared by two properties, such as the separating wall between two semi-detached or terraced homes. It can also refer to an outdoor wall built on the boundary line between gardens and, for the purposes of the act, the ground within a certain distance and depth of neighbouring buildings, even if they are physically separate.
The Act covers three types of work; building a new structure close to a boundary line, modifying an existing wall or fence and excavating within a certain distance of a neighbouring property. As such, projects commonly covered in the Act include loft conversions, the installation of damp-proof courses and digging foundations for home extensions.
What are the responsibilities of the Building Owner?
To ensure that your work stays within the law, as the Building Owner, you should:
1. Check whether the Party Wall etc Act 1996 applies to your project. Consult a professional surveyor if you aren’t sure – it’s better to be cautious.
2. Talk to your neighbours early, before serving Notice about your work. Keeping your Adjoining Owners informed and addressing their concerns will make it more likely that they will consent to your works once you do serve Notice.
3. Make sure your Notice is served properly, or else it will be invalid. Consider using a surveyor to ensure it is written and served according to the law, avoiding the risk of having to re-serve and delay your project.
4. Serve Notice with plenty of time. Putting pressure on neighbours to provide their consent quickly usually backfires, resulting in them hiring their own surveyor to help them understand the plans and raising a dispute if they are not happy. If this happens then your project is going to be delayed by several weeks, and you will have to foot the bill for their surveyor and yours.
5. Don’t be tempted to start work until you have an agreement (known as a Party Wall Award) in place. If you do, your neighbour can file an injunction against you that forces you to stop work – again, causing delays and escalating your costs.
Serving a Party Wall Notice to the Leasehold and Freehold Owner
According to the Party Wall etc Act 1996, Notice must be served on ‘any owner and any occupier of land, buildings, storeys or rooms adjoining those of the building owner’. When it comes to leasehold property, this can leave some homeowners confused as to whether they must serve Notice on the neighbouring freeholder as well as the leaseholder.
The Act goes on to describe an “owner” as any person or tenant with an interest of at least a year in the property. This means that yes, Notice will need to be served on the property’s leaseholder and freeholder, as well as any tenants with an agreement for longer than twelve months.
In cases where the adjoining property consists of multiple dwellings (such as a block of flats or a converted townhouse), it’s recommended that you hire a surveyor to help you determine your legal responsibility. At Squarepoint, our experienced Party Wall surveyors can often liaise with multiple property owners and come to an agreement that protects the interests of the Building Owner and all Adjoining Owners.
If you have any questions about Party Wall issues or would like professional advice before serving Notice on your Adjoining Owners, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0208 360 5488 or send an enquiry via our contact page.