What is a Party Wall Notice?
2019-09-269 on Thu 26 Sep
When does a Party Wall Notice need to be issued and would a Party Wall Award be required?
In this article, we will explain the main obligations under the Party Wall etc. Act (1996) for any Property Owner wishing to carry out works to either an existing party wall/structure, build at or astride a boundary line or excavate near a neighbouring building/structure and provide clarity on steps that need to be taken to mitigate any potential legal issues at a later stage.
The Party Wall etc. Act (1996) was initiated in order to mitigate any potential disputes and if necessary resolve existing disputes in relation to works affecting a wall or structure between two owners. The origins of this Act are rooted in the London Building Acts (Amendment) Act 1939 following a radical rethink and revolution change to the construction of party walls in terms of fire spread prevention following the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Until 1996, other than the London Building Act, there was no mechanism within England and Wales for resolving often quite modest issues without the need for expensive legal costs.
What is a Party Wall?
Essentially there are two types of Party Wall (as seen in Figure 1 below):
- A wall part of another building;
- A wall that separates two or more buildings; or,
- A wall that is considered as a 'Party Fence Wall' that is to say it does not form part of a building but stands on a land boundary between two different owners such as a brick wall on the edge of a garden. That said, timber fences or hedges are not considered as Party Fence Walls.
- A wall that sits wholly within the demise of one owner but is used by two or more owners to separate their respective buildings; or,
- A structure (also known as a 'party structure') that is a wall, floor or other structure that separates building levels or parts of buildings approached by separate stairs or entries.
Anyone who wants to carry out works to an existing wall or structure that falls under the above categories, will need to issue a 'Notice' (also known as a Party Structure Notice) in writing to the adjoining owner to seek consent for the proposed works. Prior to issuing such a notice it would be advisable to have a chat with the adjoining owner just to iron out any potential issues.
The Notice needs to be issued a minimum of 2 months before the planning start date for the works just to allow enough time for any disputes (if any) to be resolved. Once issued the adjoining owner has up to 14 days to respond to the Notice either with consent to proceed with the works or objection (dissent) to any works thus disputing the same.
If there is no response within this timescale then the Notice will be considered as disputed. If following a further discussion with the adjoining owner, the Notice is still disputed and resolution cannot be found between the Owners with regards to initial objections to the work, a Party Wall Surveyor (also known as an 'Agreed Surveyor') will need to be appointed to compile and issue a Party Wall or Party Structure Award.
If the selection of a Surveyor cannot be agreed between the owners then each owner can appoint separate surveyors who will draw up the Award together. However if the appointed Surveyors cannot agree on the Award then a third Surveyor will need to be appointed to consider the interests and rights of both Owners.
Anyone who wants to build a 'new' party wall or party fence wall astride a boundary between two separate Owners then the Owner wishing to carry out the new works will need to issue a Notice known as a Line of Junction Notice at least 1 month prior to the start of the those works. The Notice will be valid for 1 year. Like a Party Structure Notice, the Adjoining will have 14 days to respond the Notice.
Anyone who wants to excavate for the purpose of constructing foundations for a new building or structure either within 3 metres of any part of an Adjoining Owner's building or structure, or within 6 metres of any part of an Adjoining Owner's building or structure where any part of the excavation works meet a line drawn at 45° from the Adjoining Owner's foundations then the Owner wishing to carry out such works will need to issue a Notice known as a 3/6 Metre Notice at least 1 month prior to the start of the those works. The Notice will be valid for 1 year. Like a Party Structure Notice, the Adjoining will have 14 days to respond the Notice.
Letter templates for such Notices as noted above can be found via this link:
Should you need any further advice regarding Party Wall Notices or require a Party Wall Surveyor please do not hesitate to get in touch.