The Party Wall Act Explained

“What is a Party Wall? What is a Party Wall Notice? Company Director, Jon Clayton, answers your questions in a simple guide explaining the basics about Party Walls”.

What is a Party Wall?

A wall is considered to be a Party Wall when it stands astride a boundary of land that belongs to two or more owners. This type of wall can be part of one building, separate two buildings apart or could stand astride the boundary line between land of different owners, such as a garden wall.

What is the Party Wall Act?

The Party Wall Act provides a system that attempts to prevent and resolve possible boundary disputes in relation to boundary walls, party walls and excavations dug close to neighbouring buildings. The Act applies throughout England and Wales and came into use in July 1997.

What work can be done to my party wall without the Party Wall Act applying?

Certain minor works do not require you to serve a Party Wall Notice to your adjoining neighbour. These include work such as:-

•Re-plastering

•Cutting the wall to add or replace electrical wiring or sockets

•Drilling the wall to take plugs and screws for wall mounted units or shelving

What sort of work requires notification under the Party Wall Act?

You must give any adjoining owners notice of your intentions if you are intending to carry out work (anywhere in England and Wales) of the type described in the Act.

These include work that may be carried out directly to an existing party wall or structure, new buildings at or astride the boundary or excavations within 3 or 6 metres of neighbouring buildings or structures, the distance depending on the depth of hole or proposed foundation.

In these instances a Party Wall Notice must be issued to the Adjoining Owner even if the work will not extend beyond the centre of the wall.

What is a Party Wall Notice?

A party wall notice is a written notice letter to inform any adjoining owners of any intended work that requires you to notify your neighbours under the act.

When must a Party Wall Notice be served?

This notice must be served a minimum of two months before you wish to begin the work, unless you’re Adjoining Owners agree otherwise. The notice is only valid for one year so do not issue it too far in advance of your anticipated start date.

What happens after a Party Wall Notice is issued?

After your neighbours receive the Party Wall Notice they can give their consent in written to the proposed work, reject your proposals, or do nothing at all. If you have not received a written response within 14 days after issuing the notice a dispute is considered to have arisen. You may need to negotiate with your adjoining owners to reach an agreement on what changes can be made to make the proposals acceptable to all parties. This may include agreeing exactly when and how the work will be carried out. Where no written agreement can be reached, the Act provides a system for the resolution of ‘disputes’.

What if no agreement can be reached between my neighbour and me?

Please note that if an agreement cannot be reached between you and your adjoining owner or you receive no written response within 14 days you will enter into ‘dispute’. A party wall dispute will require a Party Wall Surveyor to resolve. The following organisations hold lists of members who may be willing to act as a “surveyor” under the act.

The Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors (FPWS)

The Pyramus & Thisbe Club

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE)

Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT)

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

Where can I find further information about the Party Wall Act?

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996: explanatory booklet provides detailed information about the act and is available for free download.

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