Party Walls

Self build and the Party Wall Act.
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Self Building & the Party Wall etc. Act 1996

You may ask why The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is relevant to self-builders as by their nature new buildings do not share a wall with anyone else. Well, study the name of the Act carefully and you will notice the 'etc.'. It's in there because the Act does not just apply to party walls but also to excavations adjacent to them. And 'adjacent' means within either 3 or 6 metres depending upon the type of foundations used.

The 3 metre rule is straightforward; if you intend to excavate within 3 metres of your neighbour's building and to a depth lower than the bottom of their foundations the work will fall within the scope of the Act. As the depth of strip foundations have increased over time it is likely that the foundations of a new property will be deeper than those of an older neighbouring building.

The 6 metre rule is more complex and is more likely to apply if you are using piled foundations. If any part of your planned excavation intersects with a plane drawn downwards at an angle of 45 degrees from the bottom of the adjoining building's foundations, taken at a line level with the face of their external wall then the work will be covered by the Act and you will be required to serve notice.

The notice period for adjacent excavations is 1 month although this can be shortened with the written permission of the Adjoining Owner. There is no prescribed format for the notice but it should contain the following information:

  • Name and address of the building owner
  • Nature and particulars of the proposed work
  • Date on which the work will begin

The notice must also be accompanied by plans and sections showing the proposed excavation and a block plan showing the location of the new building or structure.

On receiving your notice the Adjoining Owner has 3 options:

  • To consent to the work - no Party Wall Agreement will then be required
  • To dissent and concur in your choice of surveyor as 'Agreed'
  • To dissent and appoint their own choice of surveyor

Do not assume that just because you haven't had a reply from the adjoining owner by the end of the 1 month notice period you are free to continue without an award as the opposite is in fact true. No reply within 14 days means that they are deemed to have dissented under the Act and must appoint a surveyor. The Act appreciates that it is not easy to make an Adjoining Owner who has ignored your notice appoint a surveyor and makes provision for that scenario.

Following the Adjoining Owner's deemed dissent you, or your surveyor, must write to them stating that unless they appoint a surveyor within 10 days you will make that appointment on their behalf. If the adjoining owner remains silent then you should proceed to make that appointment exercising all the care and attention that you would have had you been the Adjoining Owner yourself. As mentioned above the Act allows for the parties to appoint a single 'Agreed' surveyor although if the building owner has to appoint for both sides that option is excluded.

Once the surveyors are in place they will prepare the Party Wall Agreement (known as an Award). The agreement is a legal document which sets out the rights and obligations of both owners. In addition it will contain a schedule of condition of the adjoining property to ensure that any existing defects are recorded and cannot be wrongly attributed to the building work.

There is a 14 day appeal period following publication of the award although by that stage the Building Owner is keen to get started and usually commences work immediately.

Article by Justin Burns of Peter Barry Party Wall Surveyors

Postscript -some this article was first written, Justin Burns has set up a blog, where he answers common questions on the subject of Party Walls -you can find it at www.partywalladvice.com . There is also a useful Party Wall Notice Generator at www.mypropertyguide.co.uk/partywall/notice/generator.

Party Walls -further information:

  • Boundary Problems -find out more about property boundaries in order either to resolve a dispute with the neighbours or, better still, to prevent a situation escalating into a costly and time-consuming dispute.
  • Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors -non for profit organisation dealing with party wall matters -they can provide a list of accredited surveyors in your area, as well as useful background information and frther reading.
  • Party Wall Act -the Party Wall Act in full from HSMO
  • Party Wall Guidance -from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
  • Peter Barry -Party Wall Surveyors in London.
 

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