The Party Wall Act 1996, And How It Affects You

The Party Wall Act came into effect on July 1st, 1997, and is a form of legislation that was set up to prevent, and failing that, resolve disputes that arise between 2 or more parties concerning either a party wall, a boundary wall, and also excavations that are near neighbouring buildings.

When it comes to the party wall act, most people panic as like all legislation, it can be difficult to actually find out what you need to do. The good news thought, is that the party wall act is fairly easy to understand once you have some basic information, and people are often surprised on how simple the process is.

Firstly, what is a party wall? A party wall is a wall that is:

Either part of one building or

Separates two or more buildings or

Consists of a ‘party fence wall’ (which is basically a garden wall) or

A wall that stands wholly on one owners land, but is used by one (or more) owners to separate there buildings.

So what do you need to do if you want to do work on a party wall? Simple, you must inform your neighbours about the work you are going to do on it, and that, in a nutshell, is the Party Wall Act 1996.

Some facts:

There are no actual formal notices or ‘special forms’ you need to give your neighbours. All you need do is write them a letter.

In the letter, you must include your name (s) and address, the address of the building to be worked on, a full description of the work you propose to do (you can include plans, but these are not compulsory), and your proposed start date. You must also date your letter, and make a clear statement that the letter you are writing is a notice under the provision of the act (Party Wall Act 1996)

You can either deliver the letter in person (sometimes the more personal approach is best, as any questions can be answered there and then) or by post. If you don’t know who lives next door, address the notice to the owner, and fix it to a conspicuous part of the premises.

You do not need to tell the local authority that you have issued a notice

Ok, you’ve wrote your letter, and delivered it to your neighbour, now what?

Some more facts:

Before you start works, you must have issued your notice 2 months beforehand to your neighbour

Your neighbour must give written consent for your work to be able to start.

The adjoining owner may allow works to start earlier, but is not obliged to. If you do want works to start earlier, please get it in writing from your neighbour that they consent.

The notice is valid for 1 year, so don’t serve the notice to long before you wish to start.

Some timeframes to note:

The notice must be served 2 months from work commencing

Your neighbour has 14 days to respond from the point of you issuing them with your notice, failure for them to respond in 14 days means you are in dispute

A person who receives notice about intended work has 1 month to issue a counter notice detailing what additional work he would like carrying out for their own benefit.

If all goes well, and you have a good relationship with your neighbours, 9 times out of 10 you will get consent from them to start work (possibly earlier if you’re lucky). However if they do dispute the notice you have issued, this is where things get complicated, and you both need to appoint a Surveyor, which if then not resolved, could lead to the case going to County Court.

For more detailed information, please click on the link below, which will take you to the communities and local government explanation booklet on the Party Wall Act 1996. This will give you all the advice you will need, and also gives you some sample letters that can be adapted for your use when writing a notice to your neighbours, as well as discussing notifications for building on boundary lines and digging excavations near adjoining building.