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Residential Party Wall Advice

If you are thinking of extending your home you could be under a legal obligation to serve notice of your intentions on the adjoining owner and then follow the procedure set down in the Act.

This is a statutory requirement which, when followed, gives an owner the right to carry out building work close to and sometimes on the boundary line but also protects the interests of the adjoining owner by endeavouring to safeguard the integrity of his or her property.

The legislation dealing with party walls and associated matters is the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. This governs the rights and obligations of those intending to do work to party walls/structures, and/or, underpinning thereof, adjacent excavations and/or foundations (including piled foundations).

The wall dividing terraced houses or the two halves of semi detached houses is known as a “Party Wall” and without the benefit of the Act neither party could alter it in any way as neither of them owns it. The simplest scenario is when the owner of a house wants to convert his loft into living accommodation and needs to cut into the party wall to insert the ends of steel beams needed to support the new structure. Not until he has served the requisite Notice on his neighbour and followed the procedure set out in the Act can he cut into or alter the party wall.

The same Act confers all liability for repairing any damage or injury etc caused to the neighbour or the neighbouring property onto the owner of the house being worked on, known as the Building Owner. That liability continues after the building work has been completed and remains with the Building Owner even after he has sold the house.

Although the title suggests that the Act only applies where there is a wall on the boundary line it actually extends to situations where a Building Owner’s property is separate from his neighbour’s. This is logical as excavating, even some distance from a neighbouring structure, can result in damage such as subsidence. If a Building Owner intends laying footings or simply excavating within 3 metres, and sometimes as many as 6 metres, of any structure belonging to an Adjoining Owner then he may need to serve a notice on his neighbour and comply with the provisions of the Act.

The procedure starts with the service of a formal notice a set period before work commences, the appointment of one or more independent Party Wall Surveyors, the preparation of a record of the condition of the neighbour’s property before work commences and culminates with the service on both parties of a Party Wall Award formally recording the Building Owners liability. As is only fair, in most cases this liability extends to the payment of any costs incurred by the Adjoining Owner including Surveyor’s or Engineer’s fees.