18 Jan 2019

Are you considering building works that fall within the scope of the Party Wall Act 1996? Or have you received a Party Wall Notice to inform you of proposed works that may be affecting your property? Unsure about what to do next?

As experienced party wall surveyors, Foundation Surveyors should be your first port of call to discuss your particular situation. You can reach us by phone on 020 8133 9517 or by email at info@foundationsurveyors.com.

In the meantime, here are 5 frequently asked questions regarding party walls and procedures that may be helpful to you.

1 – What’s the purpose of the Party Wall Act?

The Party Wall Act 1996 provides a legal framework for preventing and resolving disputes relating to shared ‘party walls’, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings. Its purpose is to protect the interests of adjoining property owners and grant rights to the building owner to enable him to develop his land to its full potential.

Many types of home improvement work including building extensions, loft conversions and basement excavations may fall within the scope of the Act. If so, there are strict procedures that must be followed.

2 – Under what circumstances does the Act apply?

The Party Wall Act 1996 broadly covers 3 types of ‘notifiable’ work:

  • Building works affecting the boundary between adjoining properties
  • Excavation works within a prescribed distance of shared, adjoining building structures
  • Altering any shared party structures

Examples of notifiable works include inserting beams into party walls between terraced houses for the purpose of a loft conversion, removing a chimney breast attached to a party wall, excavating for foundations to form a building extension within 3 metres of next door’s property, building a flank wall along the boundary for an extension, and underpinning a party wall for a basement extension.

3 – Why do I need to appoint a Surveyor?

Your party wall surveyor should prepare a schedule of conditions for the ‘at risk’ parts of the neighbouring property prior to the start of any building works. If damage occurs as a result of the works, both parties will be protected from unfair or misleading claims made by the other party thanks to the schedule of condition, which provides documentary evidence of the property’s prior condition so that any damage can be remedied. Your party wall surveyor will prepare a Party Wall Award which sets out the time and manner of works covered by the Act.

At Foundation Surveyors, we advise building owners to speak to their neighbours before serving a formal Notice in the interests of maintaining good relations. Adjoining owners can consent or dissent the Notice. Any major work that affects a party wall or adjoining structure must have the neighbours’ consent before building work can begin. Where a dispute arises, each owner must appoint a surveyor so that a Party Wall Award can be agreed upon and formally served.

4 – Do my neighbour’s builders have access rights to my property?

The Party Wall Act does allow the adjoining neighbour and their contractors access to your land if the building work cannot be carried out in any other way, and notice (typically 14 days) has been given.

The important thing to note is that access must be deemed ‘necessary’, not just ‘convenient’. In other words, if there is another way for them to undertake work without entering your land or property, even if it will cost your neighbour more, that is how they should be proceeding.

5 – Do I need a lawyer to serve a Party Wall Notice?

No, you don’t, but it’s a perfectly understandable question to ask. Interestingly, this is one area of the law that is left to surveyors who are more knowledgeable about this very specific and technical area of law than solicitors who are familiar with the ins and outs of the building and construction process.

A full understanding of both the intricacies of the law and its application to the building process is required to be able to make fair and prompt determinations. At Foundation Surveyors, we pride ourselves on our excellent knowledge of party wall issues and welcome all enquiries.

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