The Party Wall Act 1996 - A reminder of the basics

29/11/2019

Earlier this year, the RICS issued new guidance (the 7th edition) on the Party Wall Act 1996, where it is relevant and the procedures to be followed when it is.

The guidance, which includes appendices including draft notices and a revised and updated draft award, can be found here.

This prompted us to issue this note as a reminder of what kind of works are covered by the Party Wall Act and the basic points to be in mind are.

The Party Wall Act is concerned with properties that share a boundary where proposed works involve building or demolishing a party wall or structure, carrying out repairs to a party structure or excavating a site up to 6 meters from neighbouring buildings. The Party Wall Act came about because of the potential for works carried out by one owner to affect or damage a neighbour's building or structure and anyone carrying out works within its scope is required to give any adjoining owner notice of the intended works.

The neighbouring owner has rights, under the Party Wall Act, to affect the way in which the work is carried out in order to protect their interests and it is the job of a party wall surveyor to make an "award" that will set out the way in which the works can be carried out and records the condition of the neighbouring owner's property in case the works to be carried out cause any damage to it.

The first step in this process is the issuing of notices to any affected neighbours informing them if the intended works to, or near to, their property or structure and advice from a party wall surveyor may be acquired initially to be certain whether the building or structure in question is caught by the Party Wall Act in the first place. It is important to remember that this process is entirely separate to planning and building regulations requirements that may also apply to the works in question.

The Party Wall Act requires that the adjoining owner's consent is given in writing. In practice, neighbours often discuss proposed works orally and it is important to record any agreement reached in writing for future reference. An adjoining owner who consents to works but later suffers damage as a result of those works can still pursue its rights under the Party Wall Act. The parties can jointly appoint a party wall surveyor to advise them, or appoint separate surveyors, who will then appoint a third party wall surveyor to make an "award" as required. The surveyors' costs are payable according to the terms of the award made by the surveyor.

Obviously there is a lot of detail contained in the Party Wall Act and the area is a complex and specialised one in which good advice should be sought from a party wall surveyor early-on in the works planning stage.

Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this article is accurate and correct, the information provided does not constitute any form of advice. Please note: this article only applies to England and Wales as property in Scotland and Northern Ireland is subject to different rules.