The Party Wall etc. Act 1996

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Anyone who is contemplating building an extension or carrying out building works needs to consider their obligations to their neighbour under The Party Wall etc. Act 1996.  Failure to follow the correct procedures could delay the build and make the project more costly. 

The role of the neighbour is important and it is advisable to keep them informed and on-side.  After all they will experience the pain of the work but not the benefits.  

The Party Wall Act provides a statutory framework to enable neighbours to carry out building works along, or close to, a boundary between their properties.   It provides a method whereby those who wish to carry out certain building works can do so without fear of being sued at common law for actions such as trespass, nuisance and negligence.   

The Party Wall Act provides adjoining owner(s) with certain rights and procedures to protect their property from damage and/or unnecessary inconvenience and nuisance.

Before any works governed by the Party Wall Act are carried out, the building owner must give notice to all adjoining owners, both freeholders and leaseholders.   The notice requirements will depend on the type of works that are to be undertaken.   This will include most extensions and basement and loft conversions.

Once notice has been served, the adjoining owner has 14 days to respond.  If the adjoining owner gives written consent to the work then the owners are not required to do anything further and the building works can start.  

If the adjoining owner dissents or fails to reply to the notice, the matter becomes disputed.  If there is a dispute, a party wall surveyor will need to be appointed to make an “award”.  The owners may agree to jointly appoint a single party wall surveyor.  Alternatively,   each can appoint their own party wall surveyor who will then select a third party wall surveyor to determine disputes between them.    

The award will deal with all matters relating to the proposed works.  This may include issues such as what works can be carried out, when and how the works will be carried out, a record of the condition of the adjoining owner’s property before the works begin and who will pay for the costs of the award.

Any award made is final and binding on the owners and can only be overturned on appeal to the county court.  Any appeal must be filed with the court within 14 days of the award being served on the parties. 

Failure to comply with the Party Wall Act could result in your neighbour taking you to court and obtaining an injunction to prevent you from continuing with the work.  If you have caused damage to your neighbour’s property then you may have to pay for any loss or damage resulting from the works.  You may also have to pay your neighbour’s legal costs of the court action.    

For more information and advice on your own particular case please contact our Litigation and Dispute Resolution department.

This article should not be taken as a full statement of the law. It should be regarded purely as guidance and is no substitute for professional advice. No responsibility for loss occasioned as a result of any person acting or refraining from acting can be accepted by Wiseman Lee LLP. © Wiseman Lee LLP 2013

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