One of the things that is important to remember when you are planning on making changes to your property is whether the work will affect any adjoining properties. This is especially important if in the case of a Party Wall. As outlined on our service page, a Party Wall is any wall that links two or more properties in such a way that it is impossible to state that any one property has sole ownership of the wall. If you live in a semi-detached or terraced house you will have at least one Party Wall, while flats and maisonettes will probably have a few.
All work carried out that will specifically impact a Party Wall is dealt with in law under the Party Wall Act (1996). In this blog, we want to examine what work is and is not covered by the act as well as what you need to do to undertake the kind of work that will affect a Party Wall.
What sort of work is covered by the Party Wall Act (1996)?
Simply stated, most significant work affecting a party wall is covered by the Act. Obviously demolishing or rebuilding the wall is covered, as are common improvements such as inserting a damp proof course, cutting into a wall to insert a beam, as well as underpinning or raising the wall. In addition though, building a new wall on the line of junction between two properties or excavating foundations close to an adjoining building (within three or six metres depending on the depth) is also covered by the Act.
That said, certain types of common work are specifically not covered by the Act as they are superficial and only affect one side of the wall. This includes inserting rawlplugs, fixing shelving or wall units with screws, adding or changing electrical sockets and plastering walls. These kinds of changes can simply be carried out without any further action being required.
Any wall that does not link two properties simply belongs to the owner of the land on which the wall stands and is therefore not covered by the Act. The same applies to a part of a wall which is not shared, even if another part of the same wall is, as would be the case when a smaller property adjoins a larger one.
What do I have to do if I want to make changes to a party wall?
The Act is intended to make it possible for individuals or developers to carry out work on or near party walls, while also protecting the rights of those whose properties may be affected by the work.
Therefore, if you wish to carry out the kind of work covered by the act, you will have to serve notice on the neighbour with whom the wall is shared and obtain their consent.
The notice must usually be served in writing to all the owners of all affected properties at least two months before starting work and, in the case of let properties, must be served on both the landlord and the occupant. In many cases, it is best to discuss any proposed works with neighbours before serving the written notice, as this can reduce disputes and wasted time and effort later on.
If all affected neighbours provide written consent to the work within 14 days of receiving the notice, then you can proceed with the work. If, however, they explicitly disagree or simply do not respond within 14 days then they must be treated as dissenting to the work, and you will have to carry out additional steps before beginning work.
What do I do if my neighbours don’t agree to the work?
When there is a dispute about proposed work, the Act requires the appointment of a surveyor or surveyors. This can be a single surveyor who is appointed by both parties and acts impartially, or it may be that each party appoints their own surveyor.
Either way, the surveyor or surveyors will prepare an ‘award’. The award details not only the work that is and is not permitted, but also when it can be carried out and by what methods. The surveyor(s) will also record the condition of the neighbouring property before work starts, to minimise the possibility of any dispute later arising about whether damage is caused by the work or was pre-existing. The award may also specify that the surveyor or surveyors will have access to both properties for the purposes of inspecting the work in progress. Finally, the award will specify who should pay for the work; usually this is the owner of the property that benefits from the construction.
Essentially, the award aims to reduce the probability that work is carried out that was not expected by one party, or that work is done at a time or in a manner that causes damage or disruption to the neighbouring property. It also gives the surveyors oversight of the properties before and during the work so that they can act as impartial mediators in any dispute.
If damage does occur, the surveyors will prepare a further award which may order that repairs are carried out, or that the person whose property was damaged is compensated for the cost of the repair.
Unsure? Speak to our Experts
As an impartial party and mediator, a professional and experienced surveyor fills a vital role in the process of making changes to a party wall.
Our team of Chartered Surveyors has vast experience acting in this area and have worked on projects of all sizes including some of the largest developments including taking cases through court proceedings when absolutely necessary.
To find out more about our work, or to discuss your requirements with us, contact our experts on 0800 071 5517 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.