The Party Wall Act 1996 serves as a framework for preventing and resolving party wall disputes. Building owners who are considering starting work on or near a party wall must give adjoining owners notice of their intention. For their part, adjoining owners get a say in what works are carried out, the opportunity to agree or disagree with the proposed works, and assurances that works are carried out correctly and without any damage to property.
Foundation Surveyors are experienced party wall surveyors and can help you navigate through this important yet complex piece of legislation safely and professionally. If you are a property owner planning a construction project that falls within the remit of the Party Wall Act, why not contact us at 020 8133 9517 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your concerns?
Which Party Wall Notice?
Depending on your exact building works proposals, there are in fact 3 different Party Wall Notices that you may need to serve:
Section 1 Notice – applies if you wish to build on the boundary line
Section 3 Notice – applies if you wish to build on an existing party wall or structure
Section 6 Notice – applies if you wish to excavate within 3 metres of the party wall and go below your neighbour’s existing foundations
Each Notice must give specific detail and description for your adjoining neighbour to fully understand how your proposals are likely to affect his building. General descriptions such as ‘building extension’ may be considered invalid if challenged as it is not specific enough.
Drawings are a mandatory element of Section 6 Notices but may also be included in Section 1 or Section 3 Notices as part of explaining the proposed works in detail.
All Party Wall Notices must be either signed and served by the building owners themselves or by their authorised Party Wall Surveyor. Without authorisation, a surveyor may use his professional expertise to prepare the Notice and then pass it to the client to sign and serve.
A Party Wall Notice must:
- Be prepared as a full written document
- State the name and address of all building owners
- Be signed by the building owners or their authorised representative, such as a Party Wall Surveyor
- Carry the date on which the Notice is delivered (or posted)
- Be served on all adjoining owners (freehold and leasehold, where applicable) according to the provisions of the Act.
- Provide enough detail/description of the proposed works and start date
- Include drawings showing details of special foundations and/or footings for Section 3 Notices
- Include detailed plans and drawings showing the size and depth of excavation and any foundation strengthening work or underpinning for Section 6 Notices
4 ways to serve a Party Wall Notice
Being legal documents, there is a specific way that Party Wall Notices must be served. It is important to point out that the Notice will only be valid if it is served correctly, i.e. if you are using one of the acceptable methods of service as set out in Section 15 of the Act.
1 – Service by Hand
Serving a Party Wall Notice by hand means physically handing the Notice to the adjoining owner. In the case where the name of the adjoining owner is not known, the Notice must be handed to the occupant. The Act specifies that delivery must be ‘in person’, so if the adjoining owners or occupants are out, the Notice must not be simply pushed through the letter box. Assuming relations between neighbours are harmonious, serving the Notice in this way may be a less formal way to inform them of your plans, and adds a personal touch to the legal process.
2 – Service by Post
The Party Wall Act states that documents must be sent to the adjoining owner’s “usual or last known residence or place of business in the UK”, which is generally the correspondence address on the title register. However, if the official correspondence address is no longer in use, you must choose an alternative method of service. If you do decide to serve Party Wall Notice on adjoining owners by post, do make sure that you obtain proof of postage from the Post Office or send the documents by recorded/registered delivery.
3 – Service by Email
In 2016, the Party Wall Act was amended by the Electronic Communications Order to allow the service of documents including Party Wall Notices by email. However, for this to be acceptable, the building owner will not only have to know the adjoining owner’s email address, but crucially the adjoining owners will first have to confirm their “willingness to receive the notice or document by means of electronic communication”. Service by email is perhaps more useful when serving documents in the later stages of the process.
4 – Fixing to a conspicuous part of the property
In cases where the adjoining owner is unknown, there is no answer at the property or the building is unoccupied, Section 15 (2) of the Party Wall Act still allows for a valid Notice to be served. Address the Notice to ‘The Owner’ and affix it to “a conspicuous part of the property”, such as the front door or other door or window ensuring that the Notice is clearly visible. It’s a good idea to take 2 photos – a close-up to show the text of the Notice, and another one showing the Notice in context – by way of evidence.